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In his 1940 autobiography Dusk of Dawn, W.E.B. Du Bois writes of a “kinship [that] binds together not simply the children of Africa, but extends through yellow Asia and into the South Seas.” Chander argues that this political ideal and the revolutionary possibilities it introduces emerge from the failure of capital to consolidate the familial bonds among forcibly displaced peoples. Noting that Du Bois identifies this failure with a racialized position he describes as “brown,” Chander suggests that the alternative kin network Du Bois calls forth might productively be read in terms of what José Esteban Muñoz called “the brown commons,” where “Brownness…affiliates and intermeshes with blackness, Asianness, [and] indigenousness.” He then considers how this commons is imagined in the series of books that the revolutionary historian Walter Rodney was writing for the schoolchildren of Guyana at the time of his assassination in 1980. These works represent the promise of kinship among differently racialized working peoples who share a common history of vulnerability and violence.
Manu Samriti Chander is an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark. He is the author of Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century (Bucknell, 2017) and co-editor, with Tricia A. Matthew, of the Oxford University Press book series Race in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture.
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