Between Radicalism and Repression: W.E.B. Du Bois, Socialism, and Black Liberation

Between Radicalism and Repression: W.E.B. Du Bois, Socialism and Black Liberation
Conference by Charisse Burden-Stelly
Organized by Alice Beja, Grégory Bekhtari, Clément Petitjean and Hélène Quanquin
for the seminar Socialism in America.
Wednesday 13 October 2021 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Paris time)

Register to attend in person (University of Chicago Center in Paris, 6 rue Thomas Mann, Paris 13e)

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In the current context of the revival of the term "socialism" in American politics, several academics have sought to revisit the tradition of American socialism, particularly in its relationship with the racial issue, in their works. Beyond the recurring question raised by Werner Sombart at the dawn of the twentieth century, "Why is there no socialism in the United States?", these works aim to examine the links between race and class, the processes of inclusion or exclusion of African Americans in the struggles led by the left, and the reasons why the tradition of African American socialism remained invisible for so long. 

Charisse Burden-Stelly's work is in keeping with these objectives; in the biography of W.E.B. Du Bois based on new primary sources that she co-authored with Gerald Horne and which was published in 2019, she particularly highlights Du Bois's political radicalism and how his thought has contributed greatly to the history of socialism and communism in the United States. This conference will provide an opportunity to revisit a major figure in American intellectual and political history, and to examine more contemporary issues related to the fight against systemic racism and social inequality.

Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly is currently an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College.  She was the 2020-2021 Visiting Scholar in the Race and Capitalism Project at the University of Chicago. A scholar of political theory, political economy, and intellectual history, Dr. Burden-Stelly is the co-author, with Dr. Gerald Horne, of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life in American History. Her published work appears in journals including Small AxeSoulsDu Bois ReviewSocialism & DemocracyInternational Journal of Africana Studies, and the CLR James Journal. She also guest edited the “Claudia Jones: Foremother of World Revolution” special issue of The Journal of Intersectionality. She is a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society.  She is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Black Scare/Red Scare: Antiblackness, Anticommunism, and the Rise of Capitalism in the United States.

In her talk, she will present W.E.B. Du Bois's relationship to socialism as an activist and intellectual within the Black liberation movement in the light of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life in American History, the biography of Du Bois that she co-authored with Gerald Horne.

The respondent will be Grégory Bekhtari, a PhD student in American studies under the supervision of Caroline Rolland-Diamond at Paris-Nanterre University. His dissertation traces the intellectual and political genealogy of Black Feminism, a militant and theoretical current that emerged in the late 1960s in the United States, where it developed until the late 1980s.