In Defense of Counterposed Strategic Orientations: Anarchism and Antiracism

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Jakub Burkowicz


Many antiracist theorists allege that antiracism suffers from a crisis of being unable to realize its goals and potential. The fact that we continue to experience racism in the 21st century and that contemporary antiracist movements are fragmented and dispersed is upheld as evidence of an antiracist failure. In light of such alleged shortcomings, Pierre-André Taguieff invites us to rebuild what he calls the “fragile ship” of antiracism, while Paul Gilroy urges us to abandon it altogether. Drawing on poststructuralism and the work of anarchists engaged in antiracist activism, I argue that the proclaimers of an antiracist crisis are unduly influenced by Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony. Gramscian influenced antiracism dismisses non-unified antiracist movements for being ineffectually engaged in, what Michael Omi and Howard Winant characterize as, “counterposed strategic orientations” (1986, 102). This paper will briefly consider Gramsci’s influence on antiracist theory, with a greater focus on Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory. I turn to two case studies of antiracist anarchist movements, anarchist antifascism and Anarchist People of Color, in order to show that rather than being in crisis, antiracism today continues to struggle against racism outside of the logic of hegemony. I demonstrate that without recourse to such Gramscian “solutions” as political unity and intellectual leadership, social movements continue to deal with questions of race and racism and to mount significant opposition to racial hierarchies. In doing so, they constitute not Taguieff’s fragile ship but what I identify as a strategically flexible antiracism.

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Author Biography

Jakub Burkowicz, Simon Fraser University

PhD student, department of sociology and anthropology, Simon Fraser University.