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Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender, and Race in U.S. Culture

Joy James
Foreword by Angela Y. Davis
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Resisting State Violence
    Book Description:

    African American scholar-activist Joy James offers a stimulating and iconoclastic account of a world in which the United States functions as the political-police center. Resisting State Violence is a clear-sighted and uncompromising guidebook for those who want to understand the forces that hinder social change, and to effectively move beyond them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8745-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Angela Y. Davis

    Recent debates on the role of the public intellectual have not always explored the complex process of linking critical intellectual work with collective organizing practices and consequently do not always reflect an appreciation of the role of the political activist. In this provocative collection of essays on state violence, Joy James foregrounds the work of radical activists during the decade of the 1980s. As an actor herself in the movements she examines, her approach to political activism is one that demands incisive critical analyses, while her intellectual work is deeply informed by questions that insist on radical structural and personal...

  4. Preface Reading . . . Resistance . . .
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Part I. Rage and Resistance Lessons:: Political Life and Theory

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-23)

      In his work,In Theory, Aijaz Ahmad contends that “debates about culture and literature on the Left no longer presume a labour movement as the ground on which they arise; ‘theory’ is now seen . . . as a ‘conversation’ among academic professionals.”¹ Indeed, academic debates about culture and politics appear frequently to sever discussions of ethnicity and race, gender, class, and sexuality from the national, ethnic, women’s, workers’, and gay-liberation movements. Of course, in academe, where self/text preoccupation and individualism may marginalize or psychologize these political struggles, conversation deradicalizes as it inbreeds, while the intellectual-interrogator takes precedence over the...

    • 1 Erasing the Spectacle of Racialized State Violence
      (pp. 24-43)

      Michel Foucault’sDiscipline and Punishoffers a body politics of state punishment and prosecution that is considered by some postmodernists to be a master narrative competent to critique contemporary state policing. Yet this particular work contributes to the erasure of racist violence. In respect to U.S. policing and punishment, the metanarrative ofDiscipline and Punishvanquishes historical and contemporary racialized terror, punishments, and control in the United States; it therefore distorts and obscures violence in America in general. By examining erasure in body politics, lynching, and policing; penal executions and torture; and terror in U.S. foreign policy—issues that Foucault...

    • 2 Radicalizing Language and Law: Genocide, Discrimination, and Human Rights
      (pp. 44-60)

      Some civil-rights opponents argue that institutional racism is an anachronism in contemporary America. Others—such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who stated in 1995 that affirmative action was a sin against whites for which black Christians must atone—maintain that racism still exists but believe that programs to redress its manifestations are divisive and abusive to whites. Both groups in the post-civil-rights era contend that whether there is or is not racial discrimination, correcting for it constitutes white victimization.

      The 1970s’ definitions that distinguishedracismfromprejudicein race-relations workshops are obviously considered anachronistic in this anti-civil-rights discourse. A...

  7. Part II. Colonial Hangovers:: U.S. Policies at Home and Abroad

    • 3 Hunting Prey: The U.S. Invasion of Panama
      (pp. 63-83)

      Historically treated as a U.S. possession and private fiefdom, Panama has been invaded on no less than eleven occasions in the twentieth century—five times between 1908 and 1925.¹ Since Panama’s nominal independence in 1903, it has functioned as a neocolony of the United States and as a major military base, with the Canal Zone under U.S. jurisdiction.

      Panama is a black nation.Blackas a political rather than racial term denotes the physiognomy of its “colored” citizenry—indigenous, African, and mestizo Panamanians—and their construction as second-class citizens. Of its 2.2 million inhabitants, at the time of the 1989...

    • 4 The Color(s) of Eros: Cuba as American Obsession
      (pp. 84-105)

      Cuba, like Panama, has been the object of unwanted attention from U.S. interventionist policy makers. Unique to Cuba, however, is its historical role as an exotic locale for the U.S. imagination. Before 1959, as the site of American fantasy and fetish around a dark and sensuous culture, Cuba and its inhabitants were exploited and commodified in gambling, prostitution, and tourism, regulated by organized crime, that contributed to the gross national product. Today, films such as theMambo KingsandThe Maskencourage audiences to long for a nostalgic, romantic Cuba, where, as with the mythical, sexualized black, one finds and...

    • 5 Border-Crossing Alliances: Japanese and African American Women in the State’s Household
      (pp. 106-122)

      Ms. magazine’s 1993 profile of Yuri Kochiyama presents a model for interethnic alliances and coalition building.¹ Having survived a U.S. internment camp during World War II, Kochiyama moved to Harlem in 1963 where she organized as a civil-rights activist. Kochiyama, who states that she was politicized by Malcolm X and other black radicals, engages in grassroots activism and coalition building in New York City, organizing within the Japanese American redress movement and amnesty campaigns for political prisoners. Her work builds bridges between some of the most polarized ethnic populations in the United States—African and Asian Americans.

      Portrayed as deviant...

  8. Part III. Cultural Politics:: Black Women and Sexual Violence

    • 6 Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and Gender Abstractions
      (pp. 125-132)

      The spotlight on the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas and the gender consciousness raised in the media coverage have made Thomas’s and Anita Hill’s names symbols for reverence, respect, and ridicule in feminist and masculinist writings.¹ In the wake of his anti-civil-rights votes from the Court and his September 11, 1995, public claim that affirmative action is a Christian sin against whites, Thomas is more uniformly lampooned in the black press. Some of the reverence and ridicule surrounding both Thomas and Hill appears to be disconnected from reality and based more on gender abstractions—that is, on...

    • 7 Symbolic Rage: Prosecutorial Performances and Racialized Representations of Sexual Violence
      (pp. 133-153)

      Postbellum lynching—in which the general rationale for mob and state terrorism was that it countered black male sexual violence against white females—exemplified the symbolic rage and prosecutorial performances of the state. Symbolic rage is connected to such performance in that the symbols associated with one’s fury supersede and determine responses to specific abuses that have allegedly sparked that fury. Violent anger is supposedly inspired by the myths and symbols that precede and take precedence over any specific criminal act.

      Antilynching campaigns, led in part by Ida B. Wells, demystified symbolic rage—the white “civilized” fury against black “savagery.”...

    • 8 Coalition Cross Fire: Antiviolence Organizing and Interracial Rape
      (pp. 154-168)

      Women’s efforts to end violence often come out of coalitions.¹ In turn-of-the-century antilynching campaigns, Ida B. Wells enlisted the assistance of English women and men. Later, white feminists such as Texan Jesse Ames Daniels publicly opposed racist violence that was justified as the protection of white women from black men. In coalitions Wells, Florida Riffen Ridley, and Mary Church Terrell noted that the prosecution of rape was determined by the social status of the woman assaulted as well as that of the accused. Contemporary antiracist feminisms are rooted in and build on historical coalitions and analyses of lynching and rape....

  9. Part IV. Teaching, Community, and Political Activism

    • 9 “Discredited Knowledge” in the Nonfiction of Toni Morrison
      (pp. 171-188)

      In her nonfiction essays, Toni Morrison’s dissection of racist paradigms is framed by a worldview that testifies to African American ancestral spirits, the centrality of transcendent community, and her faith in the abilities of African American intellectuals to critique and civilize a racist society.¹ Reading Morrison as a cultural observer and practitioner, I share a sensibility that privileges community and ancestors while confronting dehumanizing cultural representations and practices. I quote from Morrison’s nonfiction to sketch a frame for viewing her observations on racist stereotypes and black resistance. Even in its incompleteness, a sketch reveals clues for deciphering how Morrison uncovers...

    • 10 Teaching, Intersections, and the Integration of Multiculturalism
      (pp. 189-203)

      The phrasegender, race, and classhas become a litany in some educators’ attempts to democratize Eurocentric, male-focused studies with gender-progressive multiculturalism.¹ I first tried to put the litany into practice academically while team teaching as a visiting scholar at a white, Midwestern, so-called public ivy school. The first-year required class, Gender, Race, and Class: Perspectives on Oppression, Power, and Liberation, used multicultural and interdisciplinary approaches. Its four professors (three African American women and one European American man with degrees in social geography, political philosophy, art/architecture, and psychology) sought to teach one hundred students (in five seminars of twenty students...

    • 11 Gender, Race, and Radicalism: Reading the Autobiographies of Native and African American Women Activists
      (pp. 204-226)

      In American society where indigenous and African Americans signify the primitive and exotic (often dangerous) other, antiblack and anti-Indian racism coexists within a larger context of political opposition to radicalism.¹ Antiradicalism often appears in reactionary or conservative politics. At other times, radicalism is depoliticized and co-opted by rhetorical trends and fashion: for instance, television commercials explain that the soft drink Mountain Dew is “radical” and that Revlon makes “revolutionary cosmetics for revolutionary women.” Within academe, as in pop culture, radical and antiracist politics are usually distorted if not denigrated. Dominant trends in academic studies seem to either denounce radicalism and...

  10. Conclusion United Nations Conventions, Antiracist Feminisms, and Coalition Politics
    (pp. 227-244)

    The prognosis for international human rights was grim in 1988, although many felt that the United Nations’ covenants and goals for humanity posed an alternative vision and site for creating a just and peaceful society.¹ Understanding that the UN is not a panacea, the supportive critics gave voice to pressing concerns on its fortieth anniversary:

    The call for a new international economic order has not proved to be successful, the terms of trade are constantly deteriorating, the gap between rich and poor countries is growing, we are rapidly destroying our environment and the biologic foundations for our own survival, and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 245-258)
  12. Index
    (pp. 259-265)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)