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Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, And The Black Working Class

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Many black strategies of daily resistance have been obscured--until now. Race rebels, argues Kelley, have created strategies of resistance, movements, and entire subcultures. Here, for the first time, everyday race rebels are given the historiographical attention they deserve, from the Jim Crow era to the present.


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Many black strategies of daily resistance have been obscured--until now. Race rebels, argues Kelley, have created strategies of resistance, movements, and entire subcultures. Here, for the first time, everyday race rebels are given the historiographical attention they deserve, from the Jim Crow era to the present.

30 review for Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, And The Black Working Class

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    A great book, desperately needed in academia and left circles to articulate the obvious -- not all culture, resistance and politicisation comes out of work or worker's movements. It also emerges from the home, the community, daily life and its myriads of experiences. I also loved not so much the idea of infrapolitics, drawn from James C. Scott that oppressed groups develop a political culture and daily routine or small individual acts of resistance that pushes back to some extent against those i A great book, desperately needed in academia and left circles to articulate the obvious -- not all culture, resistance and politicisation comes out of work or worker's movements. It also emerges from the home, the community, daily life and its myriads of experiences. I also loved not so much the idea of infrapolitics, drawn from James C. Scott that oppressed groups develop a political culture and daily routine or small individual acts of resistance that pushes back to some extent against those in power (well known to anyone who has worked a crappy job for minimum wage or tried to draw benefits), but the ways in which he tries to look at how this exists alone and in combination with movement. I love the insight that movement is built out of this underlying and broadly shared set of lived experiences and reactions, this history of small resistances and push backs, but is not reduced to this as it is through collective action that consciousness is transformed. In terms of studying power and resistance, I also loved this: Daily acts of resistance and survival have had consequences for existing power relations, and the powerful have deployed immense resources in order to avoid those consequences or to punish transgressors. Knowing how those in power interpret, redefine, and respond to the thoughts and actions of the oppressed is just as important as identifying and analyzing resistance. The policies, strategies, or symbolic representations of those in power--what Scott calls the "official" or "public" transcript--cannot be understood without examining the infrapolitics.of oppressed groups. The approach I am proposing will help illuminate how power operates, and how seemingly innocuous, individualistic acts of survival and resistance shape politics, workplace struggles, and the social order generally. I take the lead from ethnographer Lila Abu-Lughod who argues that everyday forms of resistance ought to be "diagnostic" of power. Instead of seeing these practices merely as examples of the"dignity and heroism of resisters," she argues that they could "teach us about the complex interworkings of historically changing structures of power. I found these insights much more compelling than the histories he uses them to illustrate, but these histories were still fascinating. The range is broad: from accounts of people refusing to follow the rules on segregated buses (tremendous research!) to Black volunteers in the Spanish Civil War to South Central rap.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Neigh

    History. Published 25 years ago, this is an early book by a prominent historian of US social movements. Examines everyday resistance and/or cultural politics and their interface with more formal social movements in a number of African American contexts across the 20th century, from everyday struggles on public transit in Birmingham under Jim Crow, to African American participation in the Spanish Civil war, to the politics of early gangsta rap, and lots more. Definitely very useful for my own cur History. Published 25 years ago, this is an early book by a prominent historian of US social movements. Examines everyday resistance and/or cultural politics and their interface with more formal social movements in a number of African American contexts across the 20th century, from everyday struggles on public transit in Birmingham under Jim Crow, to African American participation in the Spanish Civil war, to the politics of early gangsta rap, and lots more. Definitely very useful for my own current task of thinking through how to write about everyday resistance and more deliberate and collective modes of resistance, and the ways those scales can be and are in relation to one another. I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago that really reminded me of the ways in which, today, a certain subset of progressive academics and left activists sometimes deploy a romanticized notion of everyday resistance that is abstracted and mostly read in a symbolic register, and detached at least to an extent from the lived urgency of actually winning changes in material conditions – a tendency that seems both very neoliberal in its individualization of resistance, and the product of an era where left victories are few and far between so there is an (understandable) emotional need to find hints of possibility wherever we can. This book is a good antidote to that tendency. Yes, it focuses on everyday resistance and cultural politics, and on the ways that these really can be part of forcing material changes both in conditions of oppression and in the ways that more formalized collective movements themselves not infrequently exist at a bit of a remove from the everyday lives of the most marginalized. But it stays grounded and does not romanticize...though interestingly, in an Afterword written a few years after the book first came out, Kelley was already complaining about how people were reading "naive optimism" about everyday resistance as "superior modes of resistance for all times and all places" into the book when it is so clearly "as much about losing battles as it is about winning very small victories," and it works so hard to illustrate how deeply and unavoidably contextual (and therefore not easily transferable) any particular approach to everyday resistance has to be. Anyway, very useful to me, and a pleasure to read – whenever I get a chance to pick up a book of well-written history, I always remember how much I enjoy reading it, and this was no exception.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Reginald Simms

    Coming off sometimes as apologetic Kelley does go into the depths of informal resistance in everyday life of African-Americans. From daily resistance at work to Malcolm X and zoot suits to communism and the Spanish Civil War and to Gangsta Rap Kelley describes the many informal ways African-Americans have had a somewhat organized form of political action without the official organization label. He notes how everyday resistance has been scrutinized and denigrated to become perceived as negative c Coming off sometimes as apologetic Kelley does go into the depths of informal resistance in everyday life of African-Americans. From daily resistance at work to Malcolm X and zoot suits to communism and the Spanish Civil War and to Gangsta Rap Kelley describes the many informal ways African-Americans have had a somewhat organized form of political action without the official organization label. He notes how everyday resistance has been scrutinized and denigrated to become perceived as negative characteristics and qualities of a group as a whole instead of a quasi-reactive resistance to power structures. These forms of resistance can be exemplified by the zoot suit as counter cultural garb of an era where there was a burgeoning black middle class developing and a domineering white classicist culture and opposition from the working and lower class to counter it by exhibiting pride in the appropriated and transformed status symbols they were denied.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    I fished this from a dollar bin the other day, having once seen it mentioned in regard to the '90s-era debate about "gangsta rap." I figured at the very least the price was right. It turned out to be a not half bad read. It's over 20 years old, and it's more academic than I require (I don't read good), but only the very last section, on the aforementioned gangsta rap, was contemporary at the time of its release. The rest of it is historical in nature, dealing with the various ways in which black I fished this from a dollar bin the other day, having once seen it mentioned in regard to the '90s-era debate about "gangsta rap." I figured at the very least the price was right. It turned out to be a not half bad read. It's over 20 years old, and it's more academic than I require (I don't read good), but only the very last section, on the aforementioned gangsta rap, was contemporary at the time of its release. The rest of it is historical in nature, dealing with the various ways in which black workers resisted the oppression of slavery and then low-paid work that might as well be slavery. I found many of those parts to be more interesting than I expected, while I found the stuff on rap music to be kinda dated and rudimentary, likely having been intended for people who haven't spent there entire adult lives sitting around in their underwear developing webs of conspiracy involving rap music.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Tracy

    Without a bunch of bells and whistles, Robin DG Kelley makes a really important contribution to political debate: establishing cultural politics and individual acts of defiance as something that is part of larger societal change. A lot of other books tend to polarize this discussion around poles of "serious-Marxist-who-sees only-grand-collective-action as important" versus "post modernist who fetishizes every little act of personal rebellion and assertion of identity". In a very gentle way, Kell Without a bunch of bells and whistles, Robin DG Kelley makes a really important contribution to political debate: establishing cultural politics and individual acts of defiance as something that is part of larger societal change. A lot of other books tend to polarize this discussion around poles of "serious-Marxist-who-sees only-grand-collective-action as important" versus "post modernist who fetishizes every little act of personal rebellion and assertion of identity". In a very gentle way, Kelley brings the reader to a much healthier place. Small acts can help folks "keep your head up," and the big acts might one day change the world. And anyone who had ever worked at a fast-food joint needs to read the beginning. Kelley writes practical, usable theory. Although his focus is on the Black Working Class, his observations and wisdom are relevant to the larger world as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ivan

    In "Race Rebels," Robin D.G. Kelley explores the social history of cultural and community "spaces" that allowed for identity and resistance in the black community to evolve in the postwar United States. Forms of resistance took place, in Kelley's view, in places which were not traditionally seen as organized -- not the workplace, not politics, not fraternal organizations. Claiming urban spaces, these actions created a contested terrain -- whites flee buses for automobiles; whites accuse black "z In "Race Rebels," Robin D.G. Kelley explores the social history of cultural and community "spaces" that allowed for identity and resistance in the black community to evolve in the postwar United States. Forms of resistance took place, in Kelley's view, in places which were not traditionally seen as organized -- not the workplace, not politics, not fraternal organizations. Claiming urban spaces, these actions created a contested terrain -- whites flee buses for automobiles; whites accuse black "zoot suiters" of laziness and un-Americanism. Kelley explores "hidden transcripts" of agency -- resistance in this era was not simply about the NAACP and unions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    When Kelley started by describing everyday acts of rebellion while working in a McDonald's in Pasadena, California, I knew this was a book for me. RACE REBELS draws attention to "ordinary" people and their acts of personal and everyday protest and resistance. This is history that you don't find much of in your history books. When Kelley started by describing everyday acts of rebellion while working in a McDonald's in Pasadena, California, I knew this was a book for me. RACE REBELS draws attention to "ordinary" people and their acts of personal and everyday protest and resistance. This is history that you don't find much of in your history books.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leonardo

    Robin Kelley provee un relato ejemplar de las dinámicas del rechazo proletario y las formas alternativas de vida en su maravillosa historia sobre la clase trabajadora negra de los Estados Unidos. Imperio Pág.203 Robin Kelley provee un relato ejemplar de las dinámicas del rechazo proletario y las formas alternativas de vida en su maravillosa historia sobre la clase trabajadora negra de los Estados Unidos. Imperio Pág.203

  9. 4 out of 5

    Callie

    I love anything by Robin Kelley. He has a really original and inspiring approach to crucial topics. This book looks at how working class Black folks rebelled in informal ways. It was amazing he was able to research the topic and insightful about the ways which we can all rebel to whatever predicament we find ourselves.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan Sharber

    very enjoyable book! i especially like the final section on rap.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shannon King

    Classic!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Soccermom174

    i imagine a lot after reading this story as spend all

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lacey

    So far, wonderful. I adore Kelley. He's my hero! So far, wonderful. I adore Kelley. He's my hero!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason Williams

    Probably one of the best books on U.S. history you'll ever read. Probably one of the best books on U.S. history you'll ever read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gianna Mosser

    A great example of a monograph written with the public discourse in mind. What a force then and now!

  16. 4 out of 5

    mimosa maoist

    Kelley is always a revelation. The chapter on the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War was amazing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Subaltern resistance!!! (is what I learned from this book.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tanji Gilliam

    I loved "Riddle of the Zoot" and the gangsta rap essay is an important one for the field as well. I loved "Riddle of the Zoot" and the gangsta rap essay is an important one for the field as well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Berry

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brianna Herndon-Sotelo

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Frank

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa de los Reyes

  23. 4 out of 5

    مينا رؤوف

  24. 4 out of 5

    Héctor Miramontes

  25. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  28. 5 out of 5

    VIRGINIE PETIT

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kate Scott

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mapache

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