Lecture Notes: Reading The Terms of Order in the Age of Trump – Pt. 1

We make the political–“an idea dominated by the positivity of the State” (1)— the logical conclusion of human liberation and we ask questions about why it failed. And we answer said questions by concluding that it was because we weren’t more effectively political. And then we fail again. We fail to create the societies we want, the societies where the demos and its interests are centered. And we keep concluding that we are not failing because of the political, we convince ourselves that the political can be improved. Our sense of authority affirms the political. Our sense of order affirms the political. The political enacts violence and power and suffering. We take moments of the political as failures; we read Trumpism as a mere moment, a mere instantiation of the political (which it is). We rarely claim that such a moment is reducible to the idea of the political. We rarely consider the political as normatively violent. Because we cannot order the political in other ways. Until we do. Until we recognize that political leadership is not a leadership that centers our lives, our understandings of the good. And even in that realization, we may fail again, but at least then it won’t be for failing to see that it was the political that produced the failures of yesterday, of modernity.


Spring 2017 Readings

This semester’s books (and music):

Honors Social Science Seminar

  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2000)
  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, Black Movements in America (New York: Routledge, 1997)
  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film before World War II (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2007)
  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, The Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2016)
  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, An Anthropology of Marxism (Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001)
  • DARRYL C. THOMAS, ed., “Cedric Robinson and the Philosophy of Black Resistance,” Special Issue of Race and Class 47 (October 2005)
  • H.L.T. QUAN AND TIFFANY WILLOUGHBY-HERARD, eds., “Cedric J. Robinson: Radical Historiography, Black Ontology, and Freedom,” Special Issue of African Identities 11 (October 2013)

Twentieth Century Black Social and Political Thought

  • W.E.B. DU BOIS, The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing my Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (New York: International Publishers, 1968)
  • CEDRIC JOHNSON, Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007)
  • ROBIN D.G. KELLEY, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002)
  • TONI MORRISON, Paradise (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
  • TONI MORRISON, Song of Solomon (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977)
  • NIKHIL PAL SINGH, Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004)
  • ROBIN D.G. KELLEY AND EARL LEWIS, eds. To Make Our World Anew: Volume Two: A History of African Americans since 1880 (London and New York: Routledge, 1997)
  • MANNING MARABLE AND LEITH MULLINGS, Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology, 2nd Edition (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009)
  • CEDRIC J. ROBINSON, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2000)



Introduction to Africana Studies I

  • ARMAH, AYI KWEI. Two Thousand Seasons. Popenguine, Senegal: Per Ankh Books, 2000.
  • BLACK, DANIEL. The Coming. New York: St. Martin’s, 2015.
  • GYASI, YAA. Homegoing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.=
  • ARMAH, AYI KWEI. The Eloquence of the Scribes: A Memoir on the Sources and Resources of African Literature. Popenguine, Senegal: Per Ankh Books, 2006.



Books Read in 2016: December

A few titles to end the year:

Sasha Abramsky, The House of Twenty Thousand Books. New York: NYRB, 2014.

About the life of  Chimen Abramsky and his library and a world of deep literacy that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore.

Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Race for Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Concise overview of anti-apartheid organizing among US Africans, beginning with Robeson’s Council on African Affairs.


Books Read in 2016: November

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Birth of a Dreamweaver. New York: New Press, 2016.

The third installment covers Ngugi’s time at Makerere covers the moment his writing takes off, a moment–the dawn of African independence movements– pregnant with possibility.

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

Everyone has already reviewed this, I can only add that it helps us see what modernity has meant for us and our families, the ones whose names we might never know.


Books Read in 2016: October

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir. London: Harvill and Secker, 2012.

Second volume of Ngugi’s memoir, focusing on his secondary (colonial) education.

Gloria Naylor, Bailey’s Cafe. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

The recently transitioned Gloria Naylor’s fourth novel is set in the early half of the 20th century and features an ensemble cast produced by its vagaries.

On The Black Radical Tradition, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, HBCUs and African Liberation Struggles

Some recent discussions of which I was fortunate to part on the various ways we can think differently about liberation and its cultural and international dimensions with the Africa World Now Project and RGB Live.

“Understanding the Black Radical Tradition,” RBG Live, May 11, 2016

“The Enduring Rhythm of Ngugi wa Thiong’o,” Africa Now, July 6, 2016


“Role of Black Universities in African World Resistance,” Africa World Now Project, September 21, 2016