CLR James Now Symposium
Presented by NYMASA (New York Metro American Studies Association) and IRADAC
CLR James's life spanned almost the entire 20th century. He was part of Trotsky's circle in Mexico in the 1930s and Stuart Hall's in the 1970s. A fulcrum of leftist thought for the past fifty years, James was an influential advocate of social change from below. James was a product of the colonial process and an early resister of it, and he recognized that the Global South as a generator of political innovation rather than a container for received ideas. As a theorist of British imperialism and what has come to be called the Black Atlantic, James helps us reorient the geographic perspective of American Studies towards the Caribbean and expands what blackness can mean in the United States.
A novelist, playwright, theorist, sports writer, literary critic voracious reader, and polymath intellectual, James forces us to challenge the narrow boundaries of academic life on the one hand and resist the lure of sectarianism in political organizing on the other. In his embrace of cricket, he claims the cultural capital of the colonizer for the post-colonial subject. His critique of Soviet communism as "state capitalism" anticipated the emergence of China as a state-run free market, just as his fascination with the Haitian revolution theorized the inextricable connections between racialization and divide-and-conquer class politics that is a focus of the Black Lives Matter campaign.
SAYAN BHATTACHARYA is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Price Lab for Digital Humanities, University of Pennsylvania. Before that, he was Postdoctoral Research Associate at the School of Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where his PhD dissertation was titled 'Reading Dialectically: The Political Play of Form, Contingency, and Subjectivity in Rabindranath Tagore and C.L.R. James'. He also earned additional graduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and in Information Science from the same university (the University of Michigan)."
ASSELIN CHARLES has taught French, English, and comparative literature at universities in the U. S., Canada, Taiwan, and Nigeria, and Haiti. While he has a broad interest in post-colonial literatures in general, he is a specialist of the novel in Africa, African America, the Caribbean, and Latin America. His research focuses on the parallels and intersections in Black Atlantic literatures, particularly in Harlem Renaissance writings and in the Francophone, Creolophone, and Anglophone literatures of the Caribbean. Dr. Charles is also a literary translator who has translated in English the works of Haitian authors Anténor Firmin, René Depestre, and Frankétienne.
RAJ CHETTY is an assistant professor of English at St. John's University in Queens, NY, who specializes in Caribbean literature across English, Spanish, and French, with a focus on black and African diaspora. His current project studies the articulations between Dominican literary and expressive arts in the post- Trujillo period and conceptualizations of black and African diaspora. He is the co-editor of a recent special issue of The Black Scholar on "Dominican Black Studies" (2015). He has published on C. L. R. James's Haitian Revolution plays, Una Marson's play Pocomania, and Reynaldo Disla's street theater in Callaloo, Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, and Afro-Hispanic Review.
SARAH CHINN is an Associate Professor in and Chair of the English department at Hunter College, CUNY. She's the author of Technology and the Logic of American Racism: A Cultural History of the Body as Evidence (2000), The Invention of Modern Adolescence (2009), and Spectacular Men: Race Gender and Nation on the Early American Stage (forthcoming, 2017). She's currently working on a new book on amputation as a trope for loss and change in the years after the US Civil War. Her research and teaching deal with questions of gender, race, class, and nation in the long nineteenth century in the United States.
RAPHAEL DALLEO is associate professor of English at Bucknell University. He is author of Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere (2011), coauthor of The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature (2007), editor of Bourdieu and Postcolonial Studies (2016), and coeditor of Haiti and the Americas (2013). His book about pan-Caribbean responses to the U.S. occupation of Haiti, American Imperialism's Undead: The Occupation of Haiti and the Rise of Caribbean Anticolonialism, will be published by University of Virginia Press in fall 2016.
STEVEN DALMAGORI is a third-year PhD student at the University at Albany, SUNY in English literature. He is currently drafting his prospectus for a project on neoliberalism and whiteness studies. He is the current president of SUNY Albany's English Graduate Student Organization and serves as a member of the department's Undergraduate Advisory Committee. He studies Marxism, race theory - with an emphasis on whiteness studies - and primarily African-American literature, with a further interest in ethnic- American literature. Originally from Chicago, he completed his MA degree in English Literature spring of 2012 at Wayne State University in Detroit. He teaches freshman and sophomore-level English classes at UAlbany and taught at Joliet Junior College outside Chicago for two years prior to enrolling at U-Albany.
JEREMY MATTHEW GLICK is an Associate Professor of African Diaspora literature and modern drama. He is currently working on long-form essays on Frantz Fanon, Sam Greenlee's Black Power Detective Fiction, and Century-Methodological Approaches to African American Literature. He is author of The Black Radical Tragic: Performance and Aesthetics of the Unfinished Haitian Revolution (NYU Press, 2016). His next book projects include a volume entitled Coriolanus Against Liberalism/ Coriolanus & Pan-Africanist Loss and a long study of Labor Ontology and Afro American Literature.
DR. CYNTHIA HAMILTON is a political scientist and African American Studies scholar. She is currently retired after more than two decades at the University of Rhode Island as a professor of political science and chair of the Africana Studies Department. Dr. Hamilton's teaching, scholarship, and activism are rooted in her formative years growing up in 1960s Los Angeles in a politically conscious Black family originally from New Orleans. Her work and thought have been also considerably influenced by her experiences as a student and assistant of C. L. R. James in the late 1960s as well as by her grassroots radical activism in the era of the civil rights movement. Dr. Hamilton's published writings encompass such themes as Black liberation, ecofeminism, and social and political revolution.
Professor Hamilton could not be with us in person today. Professor Asselin Charles has kindly agreed to read her paper, "Culture as Political Expression in the Works of C. L. R. James," on her behalf.
ROBERT HIGNEY is an assistant professor of English at the City College of New York, CUNY, where he teaches courses on modern and contemporary British and Anglophone writing. He is currently completing a book manuscript titled The Ends of Empire, and is at work on an essay on CLR James and narrative form. His essay on Joseph Conrad's institutions appeared recently in NOVEL.
PETER HITCHCOCK is Professor of English at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY. He is also on the faculties of Women's Studies and Film Studies at the GC. He is also Associate Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. His books include The New Public Intellectual, The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form, Imaginary States: Studies in Cultural Transnationalism, Oscillate Wildly: Space, Body, and Spirit of Millennial Materialism, and Dialogics of the Oppressed. A new book, Labor in Culture, or Worker of the World(s), is due out by the end of the year. His latest essay is "The Leninist Hypothesis" for Poetics Today.
SCOTT MCLEMEE is the Intellectual Affairs columnist for Inside Higher Ed. In 2008, he began a three- year term on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle. From 1995 until 2001, he was contributing editor for Lingua Franca. Between 2001 and 2005, he covered scholarship in the humanities as senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2005, he helped start the online news journal Inside Higher Ed, where he serves as Essayist at Large, writing a weekly column called Intellectual Affairs. His reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Nation, Newsday, Bookforum, The Common Review, and numerous other publications. A selection of his work is available at his website.
JESSE OLSAVSKY is currently a Ph.D. student in the history department at the University of Pittsburgh, working on the antislavery movement. His dissertation is titled "Fire and sword will do more good": Vigilance Committees and the Rise of Revolutionary Abolitionism, 1835-1860.
LAROSE T. PARRIS was born in Jamaica, West Indies and raised in New York, and is Associate Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY where she teaches courses in African American Literature, Contemporary Black Fiction, and Composition. Her first book, Being Apart: Theoretical and Existential Resistance in Africana Literature (2015), published by the University of Virginia Press, was awarded the Nicolás Guillén Prize for Outstanding Book in Philosophical Literature by the Caribbean Philosophical Association in 2016. Her fiction and criticism has also appeared in Callaloo and the Journal of Pan African Studies. In addition to teaching at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, LaRose Parris has also taught courses in writing and literature at New School University, New York Institute of Technology, and City College/CUNY.
MATTHEW QUEST is an instructor in African American Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He has published many articles on C.L.R. James in journals such as New Historian, Insurgent Notes, Science & Society, Classical Receptions Journal, and The C.L.R. James Journal. He also has written scholarly introductions to Ida B. Wells's Lynch Law in Georgia & Other Writings, Eusi Kwayana's The Bauxite Strike and the Old Politics, and Joseph Edwards's Workers Self-Management in the Caribbean.
ROBERT REID-PHARR is Distinguished and Presidential Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and an M.A. in African American Studies from Yale University and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to the Graduate Center he was an assistant and associate professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University. In addition, he has been the Jess and Sara Cloud Distinguished Visiting Professor of English at the College of William and Mary, the Edward Said Visiting Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, the Drue Heinz Visiting Professor of English at the University of Oxford, the Carlisle and Barbara Moore Distinguished Visiting Professor of English at the University of Oregon, and the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. A specialist in African American culture and a prominent scholar in the field of race and sexuality studies, he is the author of four books: Conjugal Union: The Body, the House, and the Black American, Oxford University Press, 1999; Black, Gay, Man: Essays, NYU Press, 2001; and Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual, NYU Press, 2007; and Archives of Flesh: African America, Spain, and Post Humanist Critique, NYU Press, 2016. His essays have appeared in, among other places, American Literature, American Literary History, Callaloo, Afterimage, Small Axe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Women and Performance, Social Text, Transition, Studies in the Novel, The African American Review, Feminist Formations, Art in America, and Radical America. He serves on the editorial boards of Studies in American Fiction and Social Text and he is a member of the editorial advisory committee of the journal, Callaloo. His research and writing have been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. In 2015 he was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars and he is the recipient of a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
TERISA E. TURNER is an energy political economist who worked with CLR James as his research assistant from 1968 until James's death in 1989. She is an independent scholar committed to facilitating a transition from fossil capitalism to solar commoning with a particular focus on ethnicized, gendered class analysis that foregrounds revolutionary eco-feminism.
KENT WORCESTER teaches political theory at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of ten books, including C.L.R. James: A Political Biography (1996), A Comics Studies Reader (2009), The Superhero Reader (2013), and, most recently, Silent Agitators: Cartoon Art from the Pages of New Politics (2016).
THIS IS WHAT CLR SAYS TO US TODAY
It is absolutely necessary first to make the point that CLR's political thought cannot be dealt with in piecemeal fashion. Every facet fits a coherent whole. CLR tells us today that the history of the world is the history of the mass of humanity struggling for a better life and for further democratic rights and to establish the broadest democratic institutions possible at any given stage. As he said in "Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity"... "man struggles to become complete." "The history of mankind is one coherent story" with certain areas of the world taking up the leading mantle at certain times. For CLR, "Democracy" with a capital "D", signifying a perfect system, does not exist. The world has only known tribalism and communalism, feudalism, capitalism, under which slavery and indentureship flourished, and State Capitalism, in various degrees and under varying disguises, but nevertheless, capitalism in its most modern, global, monopolistic and brutal form.
The eternal quest for democracy is the one true historic tradition of all humanity struggling for self- determination, empowerment and completeness, the single most coherent tendency of the masses throughout all the systems the world has known. However, modern Capitalism claims democracy with a capital "D" for itself, and as if synonymous with itself, as if to suggest we have attained the be-all and end- all of human endeavour for a more fulfilling existence within greater civilisations. Modern Capitalist society is not synonymous with Democracy; in fact, the reality is quite the opposite. Yet it is certainly not strange that after global capital brought the iron curtain down, when the USSR was dismantled and all the artificial subjective barriers were removed revealing to all and sundry what we always knew, that there was only ONE WORLD ECONOMY, American politicians and philosophers alike hustled to advance the view that "ideology" and "class struggle" had come to an end. CLR's analyses and political insights debunked such vacuous arguments.
If to him the events of 1917, the Russian Revolution, shaped the world of the 20th Century, shaped the democratic quests and tendencies of the 20th Century, then the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when workers, opposed to State Totalitarianism, actually took over the production process as well as political governance, albeit only temporarily, would likewise shape the tremendous, democratic possibilities for the 21st Century to come. The moment socialised workers emerged as a force on the world stage, they have demonstrated the capacity to shape the parameters of the future. That was abundantly clear from the very beginning.
BUKKA RENNIE (Trinidad & Tobago) was a leader of the Trinidad based New Beginning Movement (1971-1978) and was among the students arrested at the Computer Riot at St. George Williams University (now Concordia) in 1969. The Black Power revolt of 1970 in Trinidad was a spinoff of this event.
Co-sponsored with NYMASA (New York Metro American Studies Association)