Emancipatory social inquiry: Democratic anarchism and the Robinsonian method

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11 Scopus citations


In Black Movements in America, Robinson observes that '[s]lavery gave the lie to its own conceit: one could not create a perfect system of oppression and exploitation' (1997, p. 11). This is especially so, in part, because oppression is after all, as Robinson argues in Black Marxism, only one condition of being, and racial regimes, however inventive and pernicious, are only the forgeries of actual lived experiences as illustrated in Forgeries of Memory & Meaning. He thus concludes, in Anthropology of Marxism, that 'domination and oppression inspire...an irrepressible response to social injustice' (2001, p. 157). Robinson's scholarship has trained several generations of radical scholars to recognize an epistemological advantage in insisting that 'men and women were divine agents' of history, instead of the 'fractious and weaker allegiances of class' or any other monolithic social positioning (2001, p. 139). Robinson thus peoples his theoretical terrains, potently mobilizing historical density as a guide for radical social inquiries. One of the main contributions of his most influential work, Black Marxism, for instance, is its claim that no matter how much we believe in the state (and the economy) as the only entities that organize modern life, the historical Black radical tradition, as it turned out, granted a previous ungoverned and ungovernable conception of life itself. Robinson's collective work provides a liberationist method for social research and theorizing-a necessary task for continuing feminist and ethnic studies as an emancipatory project. This paper explores the scholarship of Cedric J. Robinson and the ways in which he displaces state and capital forms of expression as epistemological a priori to render Black people and communities as liberationist subjects, and in so doing, he renders himself an intellectual anarchist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-132
Number of pages16
JournalAfrican Identities
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Black Studies
  • Black radical tradition
  • Cedric J. Robinson
  • anarchism
  • ethnic studies
  • liberationist subjectivity
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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