W. E. B. Du Bois’ Ambiguous Politics of Liberation: Race, Marxism and Pan Africanism

Gearey, Adam

W. E. B. Du Bois summons the restless and provocative spirit of a Pan Africanism that, despite its association with the collapse of Kwamah Nkumah's Ghanaian revolution, has not failed as an idea. Commentators have realised, to some extent, the ambiguities of Du Bois' Pan Africanism. However, they have not shown how Du Bois' deployment of the concept opens up a more radical political thinking. This Essay will trace the various twists and turns of Du Bois' Pan Africanism as narrated in the text Dusk of Dawn. Pan Africanism demands a social, economic, and political revolution that goes beyond the civil liberties struggle and its focus on constitutional recognition. In leaving America for Ghana, Du Bois committed himself to a very specific understanding of the African revolution. Using the ideas of Etienne Balibar and Jacques Rancière, this Essay will argue that Du Bois' Pan Africanism evoked energies of revolution that point at an unfinished, rather than failed, radical project.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 20, 2012