Racial Capitalism and Decolonization: Books and Reviews

Introductory Readings

Black Skin, White Masks (1952) by Frantz Fanon

Description: “Few modern voices have had as profound an impact on the black identity and critical race theory as Frantz Fanon’s, and Black Skin, White Masks represents some of his most important work. Fanon’s masterwork is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers. A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements internationally, Black Skin, White Masks is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a vital force today from one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history.” by Grove Atlantic

Discourse on Colonialism (1950) by Aimé Césaire

Description: “Discourse on Colonialism is an essay by Aimé Césaire, a poet and politician from Martinique who helped found the négritude movement in Francophone literature. Césaire first published the essay in 1950 in Paris with Éditions Réclame, a small publisher associated with the French Communist Party.”

The Wretched of the Earth (1961) by Frantz Fanon

Description: “A distinguished psychiatrist from Martinique who took part in the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Frantz Fanon was one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. Fanon’s masterwork is a classic alongside Edward Said’s Orientalism or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it is now available in a new translation that updates its language for a new generation of readers.
The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa.
The Wretched of the Earth  has had a major impact on civil rights, anti-colonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.” by Grove Atlantic

The Colonizer and The Colonized (1957) by Albert Memmi

Description: “The Colonizer and the Colonized is a well-known nonfiction book of Albert Memmi, published in French in 1957 and first published in an English translation in 1965. The work explores and describes the psychological effects of colonialism on colonized and colonizers alike.”

A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2007) by David Harvey

Description: Neoliberalism–the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action–has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.

I Write What I Like (1978) by Steve Biko

Description: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Like all of Steve Biko’s writings, those words testify to the passion, courage, and keen insight that made him one of the most powerful figures in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. They also reflect his conviction that black people in South Africa could not be liberated until they united to break their chains of servitude, a key tenet of the Black Consciousness movement that he helped found. I Write What I Like contains a selection of Biko’s writings from 1969, when he became the president of the South African Students’ Organization, to 1972, when he was prohibited from publishing. The collection also includes a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an introduction by Malusi and Thoko Mpumlwana, who were both involved with Biko in the Black Consciousness movement; a memoir of Biko by Father Aelred Stubbs, his longtime pastor and friend; and a new foreword by Professor Lewis Gordon. Biko’s writings will inspire and educate anyone concerned with issues of racism, postcolonialism, and black nationalism.

The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007) by Vijay Prashad  

Description: “Here, from a brilliant young writer, is a paradigm-shifting history of both a utopian concept and global movement—the idea of the Third World. The Darker Nations traces the intellectual origins and the political history of the twentieth century attempt to knit together the world’s impoverished countries in opposition to the United States and Soviet spheres of influence in the decades following World War II. Spanning every continent of the global South, Vijay Prashad’s fascinating narrative takes us from the birth of postcolonial nations after World War II to the downfall and corruption of nationalist regimes. A breakthrough book of cutting-edge scholarship, it includes vivid portraits of Third World giants like India’s Nehru, Egypt’s Nasser, and Indonesia’s Sukarno—as well as scores of extraordinary but now–forgotten intellectuals, artists, and freedom fighters. The Darker Nations restores to memory the vibrant though flawed idea of the Third World, whose demise, Prashad ultimately argues, has produced a much impoverished international political arena.

The Groundings with my Brothers (1969) by Walter Rodney

Description: “In this classic work published in the heady days of anti-colonial revolution, Groundings with My Brothers follows the global circulation of emancipatory ideas, from the black students of North America to the Rasta counterculture of Jamaica and beyond. The book is striking in its simultaneous ability to survey the wide and heterogeneous international context while remaining anchored in grassroots politics, as Rodney offers us first-hand accounts of mass movement organizing. Having inspired a generation of revolutionaries, this new edition will re-introduce the book to a new political landscape that it helped shape, with reflections from leading scholar-activists.”
See also:
– The East is a Podcast; EPISODE 80 & 81: THE LIFE AND LEGACIES OF WALTER RODNEY W/ DEVYN SPRINGER
A tribute article titled: ‘Walter Rodney: A luminous beacon for racial, social and political change.’

Advanced Material

Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (1983) by Cedric J. Robinson 

Description: “In this ambitious work, first published in 1983, Cedric Robinson demonstrates that efforts to understand black people’s history of resistance solely through the prism of Marxist theory are incomplete and inaccurate. Marxist analyses tend to presuppose European models of history and experience that downplay the significance of black people and black communities as agents of change and resistance. Black radicalism must be linked to the traditions of Africa and the unique experiences of blacks on western continents, Robinson argues, and any analyses of African American history need to acknowledge this. To illustrate his argument, Robinson traces the emergence of Marxist ideology in Europe, the resistance by blacks in historically oppressive environments, and the influence of both of these traditions on such important twentieth-century black radical thinkers as W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and Richard Wright.

Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007) by Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Description: “Since 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased by more than 450%. Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades, California has led the way in this explosion, with what a state analyst called “the biggest prison building project in the history of the world.” Golden Gulag provides the first detailed explanation for that buildup by looking at how political and economic forces, ranging from global to local, conjoined to produce the prison boom. 
In an informed and impassioned account, Ruth Wilson Gilmore examines this issue through statewide, rural, and urban perspectives to explain how the expansion developed from surpluses of finance capital, labor, land, and state capacity. Detailing crises that hit California’s economy with particular ferocity, she argues that defeats of radical struggles, weakening of labor, and shifting patterns of capital investment have been key conditions for prison growth. The results—a vast and expensive prison system, a huge number of incarcerated young people of color, and the increase in punitive justice such as the “three strikes” law—pose profound and troubling questions for the future of California, the United States, and the world. Golden Gulag provides a rich context for this complex dilemma, and at the same time challenges many cherished assumptions about who benefits and who suffers from the state’s commitment to prison expansion.”

Cedric J. Robinson On Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance (2019) by Cedric J. Robinson  

“For the first time, Robinson’s essays come together, spanning over four decades and reflective of his diverse interests in the interconnections between culture and politics, radical social theory and classic and modern political philosophy. Themes explored include Africa and Black internationalism, World politics, race and US Foreign Policy, representations of Blackness in popular culture, and reflections on popular resistance to racial capitalism, white supremacy, and more.” 

Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism (2011) by Jodi Melamed

Description: “A stinging critique of the link between global capitalism and U.S. multiculturalism’sIn the global convulsions in the aftermath of World War II, one dominant world racial order broke apart and a new one emerged. In Represent and Destroy, Jodi Melamed portrays the postwar racial break as a transition from white supremacist modernity to a formally antiracist liberal-capitalist modernity in which racial violence works normatively by policing representations of difference.” 

The New Imperialism (2003) by David Harvey 

“People around the world are confused and concerned. Is it a sign of strength or of weakness that the US has suddenly shifted from a politics of consensus to one of coercion on the world stage? What was really at stake in the war on Iraq? Was it all about oil and, if not, what else was involved? What role has a sagging economy played in pushing the US into foreign adventurism? What exactly is the relationship between US militarism abroad and domestic politics? These are the questions taken up in this compelling and original book. In this closely argued and clearly written book, David Harvey, one of the leading social theorists of his generation, builds a conceptual framework to expose the underlying forces at work behind these momentous shifts in US policies and politics. The compulsions behind the projection of US power on the world as a “new imperialism” are here, for the first time, laid bare for all to see.”

The End of Imagination (1989) by Arundathi Roy

“The End of Imagination brings together five of Arundhati Roy’s acclaimed books of essays into one comprehensive volume for the first time and features a new introduction by the author. This new collection begins with her pathbreaking book The Cost of Living published soon after she won the Booker Prize for her novel The God of Small Things in which she forcefully condemned India’s nuclear tests and its construction of enormous dam projects that continue to displace countless people from their homes and communities. The End of Imagination also includes her nonfiction works Power Politics, War Talk, Public Power in the Age of Empire, and An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, which include her widely circulated and inspiring writings on the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the need to confront corporate power, and the hollowing out of democratic institutions globally.”  

The Karma of Brown Folk (2001) by Vijay Prashad

“How does it feel to be a problem?” asked W. E. B. Du Bois of black Americans in his classic The Souls of Black Folk. A hundred years later, Vijay Prashad asks South Asians “How does it feel to be a solution?” In this kaleidoscopic critique, Prashad looks into the complexities faced by the members of a “model minority”-one, he claims, that is consistently deployed as “a weapon in the war against black America.” On a vast canvas, The Karma of Brown Folk attacks the two pillars of the “model minority” image, that South Asians are both inherently successful and pliant, and analyzes the ways in which U.S. immigration policy and American Orientalism have perpetuated these stereotypes. Prashad uses irony, humor, razor-sharp criticism, personal reflections, and historical research to challenge the arguments made by Dinesh D’Souza, who heralds South Asian success in the U.S., and to question the quiet accommodation to racism made by many South Asians. A look at Deepak Chopra and others whom Prashad terms “Godmen” shows us how some South Asians exploit the stereotype of inherent spirituality, much to the chagrin of other South Asians. Following the long engagement of American culture with South Asia, Prashad traces India’s effect on thinkers like Cotton Mather and Henry David Thoreau, Ravi Shankar’s influence on John Coltrane, and such essential issues as race versus caste and the connection between antiracism activism and anticolonial resistance. The Karma of Brown Folk locates the birth of the “model minority” myth, placing it firmly in the context of reaction to the struggle for Black Liberation. Prashad reclaims the long history of black and South Asian solidarity, discussing joint struggles in the U.S., the Caribbean, South Africa, and elsewhere, and exposes how these powerful moments of alliance faded from historical memory and were replaced by Indian support for antiblack racism. Ultimately, Prashad writes not just about South Asians in America but about America itself, in the tradition of Tocqueville, Du Bois, Richard Wright, and others. He explores the place of collective struggle and multiracial alliances in the transformation of self and community-in short, how Americans define themselves.
See also: ‘We Picked the Wrong Side,’ by Neel Patel for The Paris Review, June 23, 2020. 

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1999) by Adam Hochschild

“In the late nineteenth century, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium carried out a brutal plundering of the territory surrounding the Congo River. Ultimately slashing the area’s population by ten million, he still managed to shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. A tale far richer than any novelist could invent, King Leopold’s Ghost is the horrifying account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who defied Leopold: African rebel leaders who fought against hopeless odds and a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure but unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust and participants in the twentieth century’s first great human rights movement.” 
See Also: “Statue of Leopold II, Belgian King Who Brutalized Congo, Is Removed in Antwerp” (2020) by By Monika Pronczuk and Mihir Zaveri

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (2007) by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence INCITE!  

“A trillion-dollar industry, the US non-profit sector is one of the world’s largest economies. From art museums and university hospitals to think tanks and church charities, over 1.5 million organizations of staggering diversity share the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) designation if little else. Many social justice organizations have joined this world, often blunting political goals to satisfy government and foundation mandates. But even as funding shrinks, many activists often find it difficult to imagine movement-building outside the non-profit model. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded gathers essays by radical activists, educators, and non-profit staff from around the globe who critically rethink the long-term consequences of what they call the “non-profit industrial complex.” Drawing on their own experiences, the contributors track the history of non-profits and provide strategies to transform and work outside them. Urgent and visionary, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded presents a biting critique of the quietly devastating role the non-profit industrial complex plays in managing dissent.”  

An Anthropology of Marxism (2001) by Cedric J. Robinson  

An Anthropology of Marxism offers Cedric Robinson’s analysis of the history of communalism that has been claimed by Marx and Marxists. Suggesting that the socialist ideal was embedded both in Western and non-Western civilizations and cultures long before the opening of the modern era and did not begin with or depend on the existence of capitalism, Robinson interrogates the social, cultural, institutional, and historical materials that were the seedbeds for communal modes of living and reimagining society. Ultimately, it pushes back against Marx’s vision of a better society as rooted in a Eurocentric society, and cut off from its own precursors.” 

Voices of Liberation: Frantz Fanon (2016) by Leo Zeilig

“A leading light of the anti-colonial revolts of the 1960s and ’70s, Frantz Fanon also prophetically explored the dangers of post-colonial power. Voices of Liberation: Frantz Fanon is a rich exploration of Fanon’s life and times, combining interviews with those who fought alongside him with selections from his work. This book gives and giving new insight into the extraordinary life and ideas of one of the twentieth century’s most important revolutionaries. Leo Zeilig is a lecturer at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; Senior Visiting Fellow, South African Research Chair in Social Change; Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg; and editor of Class Struggle and Resistance in Africa.” 

C. L. R. James and Revolutionary Marxism: Selected Writings of C.L.R. James 1939-1949 Edited byPaul Le Blanc and Scott McLemee 

CLR James and Revolutionary Marxism collect some of the most important, but difficult to obtain, articles from the legendary Trinidadian-Marxist.C. L. R. James was one of the most influential Marxists of his generation. His important contributions ranged from the subjects of Black liberation to contemporary philosophy and even touched on the anticolonial potential of cricket. In this collection of hard-to-find articles and essays, his towering intellect and engaging style touch on a diverse array of topics. 
Scott McLemee writes the weekly column “Intellectual Affairs” for Inside Higher Ed. Paul Le Blanc is a professor of history at La Roche College, and he has written on and participated in the US labor, radical, and civil rights movements.” 

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972) by Walter Rodney  

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is an ambitious masterwork of political economy, detailing the impact of slavery and colonialism on the history of international capitalism. In this classic book, Rodney makes the unflinching case that African “mal-development” is not a natural feature of geography, but a direct product of imperial extraction from the continent, a practice that continues up into the present. Meticulously researched, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa remains a relevant study for understanding the so-called “great divergence” between Africa and Europe, just as it remains a prescient resource for grasping the multiplication of global inequality today.” 

The Black Jacobins (1938) by C.L.R. James

“This powerful, intensely dramatic book is the definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, a revolution that began in the wake of the Bastille but became the model for the Third World liberation movements from Africa to Cuba. It is the story of the French colony of San Domingo, a place where the brutality of master toward slave was commonplace and ingeniously refined. And it is the story of a barely literate slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces and in the process helped form the first independent nation in the Caribbean.” 

Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent (2019) by Priyamvada Gopal

Insurgent Empire shows how Britain’s enslaved and colonial subjects were active agents in their own liberation. What is more, they shaped British ideas of freedom and emancipation back in the United Kingdom. Priyamvada Gopal examines a century of dissent on the question of empire and shows how British critics of empire were influenced by rebellions and resistance in the colonies, from the West Indies and East Africa to Egypt and India. In addition, a pivotal role in fomenting resistance was played by anticolonial campaigners based in London, right at the heart of empire. Much has been written on how colonized peoples took up British and European ideas and turned them against empire when making claims to freedom and self-determination. Insurgent Empire sets the record straight in demonstrating that these people were much more than victims of imperialism or, subsequently, the passive beneficiaries of an enlightened British conscience—they were insurgents whose legacies shaped and benefited the nation that once oppressed them.” 

Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (2014) edited by Katherine McKittrick  

“The Jamaican writer and cultural theorist Sylvia Wynter is best known for her diverse writings that pull together insights from theories in history, literature, science, and black studies, to explore race, the legacy of colonialism, and representations of humanness. Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis is a critical genealogy of Wynter’s work, highlighting her insights on how race, location, and time together inform what it means to be human. The contributors explore Wynter’s stunning reconceptualization of the human in relation to concepts of blackness, modernity, urban space, the Caribbean, science studies, migratory politics, and the interconnectedness of creative and theoretical resistances. The collection includes an extensive conversation between Sylvia Wynter and Katherine McKittrick that delineates Wynter’s engagement with writers such as Frantz Fanon, W. E. B. DuBois, and Aimé Césaire, among others; the interview also reveals the ever-extending range and power of Wynter’s intellectual project, and elucidates her attempts to rehistoricize humanness as praxis.” 

The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (2011) by Jodi A. Byrd  

“In 1761 and again in 1769, European scientists raced around the world to observe the transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event in which the planet Venus passes in front of the sun. In The Transit of Empire, Jodi A. Byrd explores how indigeneity functions as transit, a trajectory of movement that serves as precedent within U.S. imperial history. Byrd argues that contemporary U.S. empire expands itself through a transferable “Indianness” that facilitates acquisitions of lands, territories, and resources. Examining an array of literary texts, historical moments, and pending legislations—from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s vote in 2007 to expel Cherokee Freedmen to the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill—Byrd demonstrates that inclusion into the multicultural cosmopole does not end colonialism as it is purported to do. Rather, that inclusion is the very site of the colonization that feeds U.S. empire. Byrd contends that the colonization of American Indian and indigenous nations is the necessary ground from which to reimagine a future where the losses of indigenous peoples are not only visible and, in turn, grieveable, but where indigenous peoples have agency to transform life on their own lands and on their own terms.” 

Confronting Empire by Eqbal Ahmed and David Barsamian

Description: Edward W. Said once urged the legendary Eqbal Ahmad not to leave your words scattered to the winds, or even recorded on tape, but collected and published in several volumes for everyone to read. Then those who don’t have the privilege of knowing you will know what a truly remarkable, gifted man you are.” In these intimate and wide-ranging conversations, Ahmad discusses nationalism, ethnic conflict, the politics of memory, and liberation struggles around the world.

Toward The African Revolution (1988) by Frantz Fanon

This powerful collection of articles, essays, and letters spans the period between Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961), Fanon’s landmark manifesto on the psychology of the colonized and the means of empowerment necessary for their liberation. These pieces display the genesis of some of Fanon’s greatest ideas.

Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) by Marx Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno

Description: “Dialectic of Enlightenment is undoubtedly the most influential publication of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. Written during the Second World War and circulated privately, it appeared in a printed edition in Amsterdam in 1947. “What we had set out to do,” the authors write in the Preface, “was nothing less than to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism.” Yet the work goes far beyond a mere critique of contemporary events. Historically remote developments, indeed, the birth of Western history and of subjectivity itself out of the struggle against natural forces, as represented in myths, are connected in a wide arch to the most threatening experiences of the present. The book consists in five chapters, at first glance unconnected, together with a number of shorter notes. The various analyses concern such phenomena as the detachment of science from practical life, formalized morality, the manipulative nature of entertainment culture, and a paranoid behavioral structure, expressed in aggressive anti-Semitism, that marks the limits of enlightenment. The authors perceive a common element in these phenomena, the tendency toward self-destruction of the guiding criteria inherent in enlightenment thought from the beginning. Using historical analyses to elucidate the present, they show, against the background of a prehistory of subjectivity, why the National Socialist terror was not an aberration of modern history but was rooted deeply in the fundamental characteristics of Western civilization. Adorno and Horkheimer see the self-destruction of Western reason as grounded in a historical and fateful dialectic between the domination of external nature and society. They trace enlightenment, which split these spheres apart, back to its mythical roots. Enlightenment and myth, therefore, are not irreconcilable opposites, but dialectically mediated qualities of both real and intellectual life. “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.” This paradox is the fundamental thesis of the book.”