Liliana Sanjurjo, Desirée Azevedo, and Larissa Nadai
This article analyses the management of bodies in Brazil within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its objective is to examine how the confluence of underreporting, inequality and alterations in the forms of classifying and managing bodies has produced a political practice that aims at the mass infection of the living and the quick disposal of the dead. We first present the factors involved in the process of underreporting of the disease and its effects on state registration and regulation of bodies. Our analysis then turns to the cemetery to problematise the dynamics through which inequality and racism are re-actualised and become central aspects of the management of the pandemic in Brazil. We will focus not only on the policies of managing bodies adopted during the pandemic but also on those associated with other historical periods, examining continuities and ruptures, as well as their relationship to long-term processes.
Presumed black immunity to yellow fever and the racial politics of burial labour in 1855 Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia
Michael D. Thompson
Epidemic disease regularly tore through nineteenth-century American cities, triggering public health crises and economic upheaval. These epidemic panics also provoked new racialised labour regimes, affecting the lives of innumerable working people. During yellow fever outbreaks, white authorities and employers preferred workers of colour over ‘unacclimated’ white immigrants, reflecting a common but mistaken belief in black invulnerability. This article chronicles enslaved burial labourers in antebellum Virginia, who leveraged this notion to seize various privileges – and nearly freedom. These episodes demonstrate that black labour, though not always black suffering or lives, mattered immensely to white officials managing these urban crises. Black workers were not mere tools for protecting white wealth and health, however, as they often risked torment and death to capitalise on employers’ desperation for their essential labour. This history exposes racial and socioeconomic divergence between those able to shelter or flee from infection, and those compelled to remain exposed and exploitable.
Anti-racist scholar-activism raises urgent questions about the role of contemporary universities and the academics who work within them. As profound socio-racial crises collide with mass anti-racist mobilisations, this book focuses on the praxes of academics working within, and against, their institutions in pursuit of anti-racist social justice. Amidst a searing critique of the university’s neoliberal and imperial character, Joseph-Salisbury and Connelly situate the university as a contested space, full of contradictions and tensions. Drawing upon original empirical data, the book considers how anti-racist scholar-activists navigate barriers and backlash in order to leverage the opportunities and resources of the university in service to communities of resistance. Showing praxes of anti-racist scholar-activism to be complex, diverse, and multifaceted, and paying particular attention to how scholar-activists grapple with their own complicities in the harms perpetrated and perpetuated by higher education institutions, this book is a call to arms for academics who are, or would like to be, committed to social justice.
Opposition to anti-racist scholar-activism within the academy
Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Laura Connelly
Chapter 4 explores the tension between the values of anti-racist scholar-activists and the dominant logics of the neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist academy. The chapter considers how anti-racist scholar-activist work comes to be devalued within the academy, and how this is entangled with the matrix of domination, which makes backlash particularly acute for some. Importantly, however, it also explores the strategies scholar-activists employ to navigate backlash within academia.
Anti-racist scholar-activism and the neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist university
Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Laura Connelly
The introductory chapter offers a theoretical and historical exploration of key themes that underpin the book: anti-racism, anti-racist scholar-activism, and the (neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist) university. The chapter also includes discussion of the research undertaken for the book and its participants, along with the structure of the book.
The concluding chapter offers a manifesto for scholar-activism that distils some of the key principles from the book into a ten-point manifesto for scholar-activism. Departing from a traditional academic conclusion, the manifesto format points to the explicitly political nature of anti-racist scholar-activism. Representing broad guiding principles, this manifesto is not intended to be prescriptive but to offer a primer for future conversation and action.
Chapter 1 considers ‘scholar-activist’ as a term, label, and identity. Through the accounts of participants, the chapter explores problems with the term, and with its constitutive elements (‘scholar’ and ‘activist’). Whilst recognising some value in scholar-activist identifications, the chapter argues that it is more useful to think of scholar-activism as a form of praxis – something that one does, rather than something that one is. Relatedly, the chapter considers the danger that scholar-activism, as a term, is susceptible to institutional co-optation, as well as overclaim by academics, both of which threaten to hollow out its radical potential.
Chapter 3 introduces the concept of ‘reparative theft’ in order to consider how scholar-activists can utilise their positions within the university to service communities of resistance. The chapter builds upon Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s seminal work on stealing from the university. Adopting a reparative justice frame, and recognising the vast wealth and resources of the university, the chapter argues that there is justice in stealing from the university.
Chapter 5 looks at the ways in which anti-racist scholar-activism can take place within the university, particularly through teaching and critical pedagogy. In this regard, the chapter introduces the concept of a classroom-to-activism pipeline. The chapter also considers wider acts of resistance in the university setting, particularly in relation to involvement with trade unionism. Throughout the chapter, consideration is also given to how the university, particularly through its neoliberal character, threatens to limit and curtail anti-racist scholar-activism.
Chapter 6 unpacks the concept of ‘constructive complicity’ in order to illustrate the complexities, contradictions, and complicities that arise from working within neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist universities. Arguing that reflexivity is of vital importance, the chapter suggests that anti-racist scholar-activism involves mitigating and manipulating complicities in service to communities of resistance and anti-racism.