Resisting Anti-Black Racism: An American Anti-Fascist Tradition
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Famously, in his Discourse on Colonialism, Aimé Césaire declares the great crime of Hitler to be the unsanctioned substitution of the object of anti-black violence: “the fact that he applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the ‘coolies’ of India, and the ‘niggers’ of Africa.” While his insight has marked black studies, it has gone rather unacknowledged within the subfield of fascist studies, most often the province of history and comparative literature departments and prosecuted rather eurocentrically. This panel, building on Christopher Vials's Haunted by  Hitler (2014), attempts to strengthen the connection between American Studies and Fascist Studies by drawing on American Studies’ tradition of analysis and theorization of resistance to anti-black racism.  

The links between fascism and anti-black racism have already been underscored, by the work of Achilles Mbembe  (2003) and Alexander Weheliye (2014)—often employed within American Studies—which envision the fascist conception of the state (and concentration camp within it) as a framework first fleshed out with black bodies. Most recently, Vaughn Rasberry’s Race and the Totalitarian Century (2016) highlights how “African American and Third World writers, drawing on an imaginative and rhetorical repertoire of desegregation and decolonization, activated an alternative global dialogue on totalitarian governance.” This panel seeks to build on black studies’ tradition of acknowledging the interrelation of fascism and anti-black racism to consider how responses to anti-black racism and violence might offer insight into how to conceive anti-fascist resistance. It asks us to think through this “alternative global dialogue on totalitarian governance” to reconceive both what fascism might look like—and how we can respond to it.

So, this panel asks two primary questions: How do we describe fascism? And how do we respond to it? These questions are invariably linked, and the panel looks to illuminate them through engagement with historical and cultural situations from across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Where are the places of overlap and difference in anti-fascist and anti-racist resistance? What tropes and aesthetics are motivated—by fascists and anti-fascists? by racists and anti-racists?  Are there specific media and media epistemologies in play? In looking at how these responses to anti-black racism illuminate fascism, this panel also asks us to consider how fascism might illuminate troubling aspects of non-fascist regimes and orders too. How do so-called liberal regimes appear when we bring together anti-black racism and fascism?

Committed to interdisciplinary and intermedial approaches, this panel welcomes historical, sociological, and cultural studies. It is neither temporally nor geographically limited (transnational projects encouraged!), though it does encourage historically specific work. It is also very interested in work that utilizes feminist and queer approaches. Please send abstracts of up to 300 words and a short bio to sibernst@usc.edu by January 28.

Current contributors: 
Sanders I. Bernstein
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