Unintended consequences of cosmopolitanism: Malcolm X, Africa, and revolutionary theorizing in the black power movement in the US

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Abstract

During the black power movement (BPM) in the US and the contemporaneous anti-colonial movement in Africa, African-Americans sought to emulate the liberation struggles in Africa. BPM revolutionists, epitomized by Malcolm X, attempted to adopt the practices of the African liberation struggle to overthrow white supremacism in the US. Pursuant to that, Malcolm developed his thesis on black revolution in the US from a static, unidimensional, religious-based conception into a dynamic, multidimensional, secular framework; however, the cosmopolitan turn in Malcolm’s influential thesis inadvertently limited its applicability to the US. Specifically, it contributed to (1) Malcolm’s reverse civilizationism, which privileged developments in Africa over those in the US; (2) his conflation of the conditions facing Africans with those faced by African-Americans, suggesting the salience of a colonial framework in understanding both; (3) his adoption of a UN petition strategy to address the human rights issues of black America, following a failed strategy of previous activists. Each of these unintended consequences of Malcolm’s cosmopolitan turn contributed to the theoretical enervation of the BPM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-175
Number of pages15
JournalAfrican Identities
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018

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cosmopolitanism
liberation
petition
UNO
human rights
American

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology

Cite this

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abstract = "During the black power movement (BPM) in the US and the contemporaneous anti-colonial movement in Africa, African-Americans sought to emulate the liberation struggles in Africa. BPM revolutionists, epitomized by Malcolm X, attempted to adopt the practices of the African liberation struggle to overthrow white supremacism in the US. Pursuant to that, Malcolm developed his thesis on black revolution in the US from a static, unidimensional, religious-based conception into a dynamic, multidimensional, secular framework; however, the cosmopolitan turn in Malcolm’s influential thesis inadvertently limited its applicability to the US. Specifically, it contributed to (1) Malcolm’s reverse civilizationism, which privileged developments in Africa over those in the US; (2) his conflation of the conditions facing Africans with those faced by African-Americans, suggesting the salience of a colonial framework in understanding both; (3) his adoption of a UN petition strategy to address the human rights issues of black America, following a failed strategy of previous activists. Each of these unintended consequences of Malcolm’s cosmopolitan turn contributed to the theoretical enervation of the BPM.",
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