Kal Raustiala 0:05
Good afternoon, everyone. It's my pleasure to welcome you to our first event of of this quarter of the of the winter quarter here at UCLA. And I'm very pleased to have as our guest to talk about W.E.B. Du Bois and the rise and fall of American Empire, Zachariah Mampilly, who is currently the Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs at CUNY at the City University of New York, and also a member of the department of political science at the Graduate Center at CUNY. But perhaps just as interesting, for our purposes, he is a product of UCLA. He did his PhD here many years ago. And so it's a pleasure to welcome him back virtually to UCLA to talk about his work on DuBois and, and some additional things that have grown out of that work. So what we'll do is our sort of usual format. I'm going to turn things over to Zachariah in just a moment. He will present for 15 to 20 minutes or so, really, whatever he desires. I will come back on then we'll have a brief conversation. And then we'll open it up to questions from all of you. So I encourage you to think about questions to post them to the Q&A feature, which is what we use for these webinars. And then in sort of the final third of the session of the one hour session, I will take those questions and pose them to Zachariah. So without further ado, Zachariah, I'm going to step out and I'm going to welcome you on - Welcome to UCLA.
Zachariah Mampilly 1:48
Thank you so much, Kal, and thank you for organizing this opportunity to come back to UCLA. Albeit from my apartment here in the Bronx. It's really wonderful to be back at Los Angeles for this talk. I want to just start off by providing a little bit of an overview of how I got interested in the question of W.E.B. Du Bois and his role as an international relations theorist, this is a long standing interest of mine, but one that I've only recently started to really develop as part of a larger project that I've been working on. So I'll say a few words about what that project is, I think to help try to orient you know, the discussion for today, especially in terms of thinking about how Du Bois can help us understand some of the current global dynamics that we're all observing and living through in this current moment. And then I want to say a few words about Du Bois as well before we open it up to questions. So why the interest in Du Bois today, I think, you know, one of the starting places for this project, is my ongoing work on protests around the world. For the past few years, almost five or six years now, I've been thinking about the upsurge in popular protests that we have observed over the past decade, really starting with what we now refer to as the Arab Spring or the Arab Awakening. I had a book come out in 2015, called Africa Uprising. I tried to make sense of this upsurge in protests, particularly in the African context. One of the key things that I tried to do in that book with my co author, Adam Branch, was to really situate what's happening on the African continent, within a global conversation. I think many people know that historically, Africa has often been left out of some of these global phenomenon. And I thought it was very important for us to try to connect what's unfolding on the continent, what's happening in many parts of the world. In fact, in every parts of the world, if we look at some of the data that is collected by institutions like ACLED, we can see that this ongoing wave of global protests, which really got its start in late 2000s, has been increasing steadily, it occurred under many different contexts, sometimes around economic inequality, sometimes around voter suppression, sometimes around democratic decline, more recently around the question of COVID, but what we are seeing is that around the world, that people are taking to the streets, to challenge governments, both democratic and autocratic, across a wide variety of issues. And I think, you know, for me, the goal that we had, beginning with the book, Africa Uprising, was trying to understand, you know, what are what is driving these protests globally? And so I think, you know, we are clearly living as the title of this talk makes clear, in disruptive times, and I think that's been the sort of common thread that I've been exploring with this project is to try to understand how some of these changes that are unfolding at the global level, are really driving protests at the national level around the world. Now if we think about how social scientists generally approach the question of waves of protests, the most prominent model is what we often refer to as protest contagion. This is the idea that protests that start in one country can quickly spread to another country through some sort of demonstration effect, wherein people in Country B, are observing the protests unfolding in country A, and then decide that they too will take to the streets. I am skeptical of this model of protest. It's the core of the book project that I'm working on now. Because I think sort of misplaces the locus for from where political action emerges. And what I mean by that, is, if we think about the contagion idea, it starts from the assumption and I know most of you have probably heard this story about, you know, protests in Tunisia, the actions of a single individual, a fruit seller in the case of Tunisia, who set himself on fire, in protest of increasing prices. That then led to a series of protests throughout North Africa and then increasingly around the world. And I think that this model tends to really center dynamics that are unfolding at the national level, often in favor of things that are unfolding at the international level. And I have started to question whether that's an adequate way to think about these sorts of waves of protests. And so what I've been doing is looking back historically, for other periods of global disruption, and to try to understand if we could compare what we've been living through over the past decade or so, with other periods in, in, in, in recent times over the past a century, where we similarly saw these global waves of protests emerging. And I think what I have taken from this is that there is in fact, a whole level of analysis that we often miss. And that is these how economic shifts, at the global level really can transform national contexts around the world. So what are the kinds of changes that I'm interested in looking at this point, and I think most of us are quite aware of how the rise of Asia in particular has really led to fundamental economic transformations in both rich and poor countries. This has led to a number of phenomenon that economists have studied most robustly. We have seen a massive spike in economic inequality around the world. This is especially true in the Global South in the African context, in particular, generally, when we talk about economic inequality, we tend to assume we tend to focus on countries in the Global North. But in fact, seven of the ten most unequal countries in the world are now in Africa. And this includes very wealthy countries like South Africa, and Botswana, but also very poor countries like the Central African Republic. There has also been, I think, a lot of frustration around democracy globally, that we have seen a tremendous decline in democracy around the world has been documented over the past decade or so. You know, I think there's a corresponding loss of trust in government. Again, it's a fairly robust empirical phenomenon, wherein people have less and less faith that their governments are capable of handling the kinds of challenges that they are confronting. And then, of course, the question of climate change, which is having a massive, transformative impact on domestic economies around the world. And governments largely seem incapable of addressing any of these fundamental challenges, which is producing a major crisis in social trust. So what am I, how am I trying to make sense of all these changes, and I think it's interesting to point out the commonalities that we observed in many different national contexts and many different regions around the world. But I think that we need to have a better framework for how we think through some of these challenges that we are confronted. And luckily, you know, we are not the first generation to have to deal with such global transformations. We have seen, you know, these sorts of periods, for example, in the 1940s, to the 1960s, with the with the world wars, as well as the decolonization of Africa and Asia in particular. More recently, similar periods occurred in the 1980s and 90s, with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of the wrenching structural adjustment programs. And so I've been looking at writers and intellectuals and activists across these various time periods to try to get a sense of how they interpreted the sort of massive transformations that they themselves were living through and during those periods. And so this took me to the work of Du Bois who I've long admired. My undergraduate degree was in Africana Studies. I've always found a home within Black Studies, in addition to my training as a political scientist. And by and large, these two worlds have been treated as separate from each other. Black Studies is commonly understood in the US, at least as a purely domestic arena of analysis, contrary I think to much of the evidence that suggests that Black Studies is always had a very strong concern with the global. And so I've started to merge these two fields, Black Studies and International Relations, in order to try to understand what earlier generations of black thinkers, black radical thinkers in particular, were saying about the international. And of course, looming large, larger over over the field of Black Studies than any other single figure is the great W.E.B. Du Bois. And I think Du Bois is widely celebrated for much of his analyses of American race relations. I think most people are familiar with some of his key insights around the color line, the talented tenth, many of the concepts that he introduced, but it's only recently that we are starting to pay more attention to both to Du Bois' contributions to academic disciplines. And this is not surprising. Du Bois was somebody who made seminal contributions to the study of sociology to history. And I think, as I've been trying to argue, to the study of international relations and political science, as well. And in this, I think Du Bois was not unique, you know, I think he was, he was somebody who understood himself, not only as intellectual, but also as a political activist. He moved in and out of governments several times over the course of his career, and spent much of his time working with civil rights movements in the United States. But Du Bois also understood himself as a political journalist. He wrote frequently for newspapers around the world, contributing columns, to newspapers in places like India, for example. And he remained in close contact with a number of key figures within anti colonial movements in Africa and Asia, most prominently, of course, was his relationship with Kwame Nkrumah, in what was then known as the Cape Coast, and who went on to become the first president of Ghana. But he also communicated regularly with figures in the Indian anti colonial movement, including the great anti castes activist, B.R. Ambedkar, and many other figures from around the world. He was in regular contact with and I think many of these folks were are the type of people who I've been looking towards, to try to make sense of what's happening in our current moment. People like you know, Ho Chi Minh from Vietnam, Mahatma Gandhi from India, of course, people like Franz Fanon. More recently, in the 1970s figures like a Iqbal Ahmed, Angela Davis, all of them were part of what we might think of, as a third world international is, as it's commonly referred to, these were figures who really looked outside of their own national contexts in order to make sense, not only of the global order, but also in terms of domestic politics that are unfolding in their own home countries. And I think Du Bois was really a model for many of them. And a participant in many of these debates as well. DuBois, of course, had a very long life, he lived all the way to 1963. And so his lifetime is really a story of interactions with a wide variety of figures from really around the world. And Du Bois always thought of himself very much as somebody who was equally concerned with domestic politics in the United States, as well as politics unfolding at a global level. I think, you know, when I was asked to write this piece for Foreign Affairs, one of the things that I was really struck by was how extensive his relationship was to Foreign Affairs as a magazine, as well as its predecessor, the Journal of Race and Development. Du Bois has contributed multiple times to both Foreign Affairs and its predecessor journals. He wrote a wide variety of articles on things like Ethiopia, the world wars, Liberia, other other topics, where he often linked together his analyses of global politics with domestic politics in the United States. And to me, you know, reading through many of these exchanges, as well as reading some of the personal notices that he had sent to the editor of Foreign Affairs at the time, I was really struck by the sophistication of its analysis, and especially so since I've been in the field of International Relations since my undergraduate days. My first major was international relations as an undergraduate, and I had never encountered Du Bois in that context, Du Bois was always a figure who had been relegated to Black Studies. And so I started to think about a way to write about DuBois' contribution to the field of International Relations as a kind of seminal figure who had been erased by the foreign policy establishment. And I use that word erased intentionally, because it's very important to understand that, you know, while Du Bois spend much of his early career as sort of a darling of the IR establishment in the United States, hence the the numerous publications in Foreign Affairs, which was the premier journal of International Relations in the United States, this largely changed in 1943, ahead of World War Two, as the question of Du Bois sympathies for the Communist Party became more prevalent. As early as 1940s, Du Bois began to be investigated by the FBI for his perceived ties to the Communist Party. He himself did not become a member of the Communist Party till 1963, after he left the United States. But he was thought to have sympathies due to his anti war activism. And, as a result, despite the fact that he had been a contributor to Foreign Affairs since the 1910s, by the early 1940s, he is increasingly ostracized and marginalized by the foreign policy establishment in the United States. And I was able to see some of his final pitches to Foreign Affairs, where he actually asked the editor at the time, if he could write about the founding of the United Nations, since he had been an attendee at the Dumbarton Oaks conference in San Francisco, where the UN was created. And the editor at the time rejected that pitch. And he was never published in Foreign Affairs again. And I think that this connection to the the political left in the United States is not a random outcome. Right. I think that it's important to situate Du Bois within the political left in the United States. He very much understood himself as participating in debates unfolding around the world amongst third world intellectuals in particular, many of whom similarly identified with political left. And I think one of the key insights that I've taken from reading through a lot of Du Bois', early writings, especially about the international order, is Du Bois' conception of the relationship between economics and politics. And that's something that I'm trying to, again, foreground into my current project. I'll end here by just sort of pointing to Du Bois' firm faith, in the idea that political processes were downstream from economic processes. This, I think, is somewhat of a contested idea today. I think Dubois' analyses of the relationships between economics and politics, where it's far more sophisticated than sort of vulgar Marxist approach, in that Du Bois was very attuned to how domestic level factors and other social dimensions could impact political processes. But fundamentally, Du Bois shared with most Marxist analysis, this idea that economics is driving political processes, and that's a concept that I think is particularly germane, especially in the cases that I'm interested in Africa and South Asia, where we see these massive economic transformations unfolding, as a result of the rise of China and other Asian countries, that is really producing a lot of the political dynamics that we are observing. And so what I'm trying to do here is really give credit to figures like Du Bois, who I think provide us with a way of making sense of what these economic shifts are likely to produce, not only here in the United States, but increasingly around the world as well. And I guess I'll leave it with that. And I very much look forward to our conversation.
Kal Raustiala 19:08
Great, thank you so much Zacahriah that's, it's such an interesting set of issues that you raised. And so maybe I'll just begin with with Du Bois. I'll just say my own reading over the last few years of of his work, which also struck me I had no idea how frequently he wrote in Foreign Affairs and, and to be honest, as someone trained in international relations and international law Du Bois really didn't come up at all in my graduate training, I think that's fair to say for almost anyone until maybe the most recent days. He wasn't someone that you would encounter or think about as a as a kind of visionary or even a contributor to Foreign Affairs debates. So it was very interesting to go back and look and see how you know how commonly he wrote and how influentially. He wrote on so many topics like World War I, kind of the interwar period, you know, etc, etc. And as you say it sort of comes to an end in World War Two. So I'll just underscore that point that Du Bois turns out to have many facets that I had no idea until recently about. So I really applaud what you're doing with this, and you raise a lot of a lot of really important questions. So I guess one, you know, one thing to start with is, is how Du Bois saw the kind of period before World War Two and the politics of that era. And so, you know, maybe if you could just elaborate a little bit about, you know, what you see as his key, I mean, I have some ideas, but I want to hear what you would you identify as his kind of key contributions, key insights about the whether the interwar period or even the world war one period, colonial era? And, and then how those might map onto the post war period where his voice is that, as you noted, so muted in, in these debates, but let's start with that.
Zachariah Mampilly 21:00
Yeah, I think that's a great question. And I think it's important to understand, you know, the context in which Du Bois himself grew up. You know, Du Bois was born shortly after the Civil War. So his life overlaps almost exactly with the Jim Crow period in the United States. And this period of the late 19th century is, I think, extremely important for the United States, for a variety of reasons, obviously, the end of the Civil War, creates a massive transformation domestically. You know, I think most people don't connect the end of the Civil War with the wars in the Western part of the United States, the so called Indian wars. But I think that's an important starting point for understanding how these changes are shaping a young Du Bois. But this was a period in which, you know, the United States is really trying to figure out its role not only in the Western Hemisphere, but around the world. Right. And so by the late 19th century, you know, following the end of the Civil War, the, you know, the soldiers that were associated with the Confederacy were actually incorporated into the United States National Army. And then they were sent West to subdue aggressive Indian tribes, through a variety of wars that culminate in the Apache Wars of the 1880s. Right. And I mention this because I think it's a really important historical moment, not only in the United States, but around the world. The Indian National Congress is founded in 1885, the Berlin Conference takes place that divides Africa in 1885. And the Apache wars are literally unfolding exactly at the same time. Right. And so there is a debate unfolding during this period, what we might refer to as the high point of European colonialism around what is the United States' role in this emerging global order going to be, and much of this debate is unfolding within the pages of journalists like Foreign Affairs, and within this newly emerging field of International Relations. And it's also the moment in which Du Bois himself is starting to familiarize himself with the this newly emerging field of IR. And so of course, this question about whether the United States is an empire or whether the United States should be an empire has a huge impact, not only in terms of how Du Bois starts to think about what's happening domestically in the United States, but also in terms of how you start to think about the United States within this shifting global order. Right. I think the key thing here is that we have to remember that in the late 19th century, when we're talking about empire, it is impossible to separate the question of empire from the question of race, they were one in the same. The entire discourse around International Relations during this period, is fundamentally a discourse about race. And the US has many, many intellectuals during this period, that are actively participants leading intellectuals, right in the most prestigious institutions are having this debate around the question of the white race in particular, and the role that the white race should play in places like Africa and Asia, but also in places like the Western United States. And so for Du Bois, this connection between European imperialism, and American domestic expansionism is the same question. And the treatment of African Americans in the United States is no different than the question of how Europeans are treating Africans and Asians in the colonies. And so I think this is really formative for how Du Bois then starts to interpret what happens after World War One. By this point, he has already published some of his early studies, the Philadelphia Negro was published in the 1910s. And you can already see in that period, the Du Bois is starting to draw these connections between the condition of black Americans and the condition of colonized subjects, which as I already mentioned, are starting to agitate against their own situations in places like South Africa in places like India and elsewhere. And so I think it's almost inevitable for Du Bois to, to connect the question of American race relations to the question of European imperialism, and that the issue of the world wars then becomes a lens, through which Du Bois is not simply understanding what's happening at the global level, but also trying to make sense of the changes that he's observing here in the United States as well.
Kal Raustiala 25:32
Yeah, I completely agree. And it's striking how Du Bois, Locke, Ralph Bunche, who I've obviously, you know, focused on extensively, and many others saw that connection between both warfare in the early 20th century but of course, colonialism as a specific either manifestation of warfare or cause of warfare, especially as a cause, saw that, as you know, deeply embedded in a racial dynamic, that seems to have eluded a lot of the other thinkers of the day. But even more so seems to have been sort of expunged from the discipline of international relations in the post war period. And in some ways, that's what's most striking from the vantage point of today is how little just to go back to the point that we both made of studying these fields you certainly in in the last 20 years or so. And I doubt it was any different 40 years ago, you didn't get any sense that race was an important dynamic. In fact, race was non existent, as far as I think most people were concerned in the discipline. And only now are we starting to see a bit of connection being drawn. But people like Du Bois very deeply thought about that, and, and in fact, linked it very closely to the causes of war. So so I guess I'll just run with that for a second. How do you see Du Bois, tell us a little more about Du Bois' views about World War Two. So you spoke about the UN and his interest in the creation of the UN. But he obviously also had thoughts about, you know, how the war is unfolding. He had spent enormous amounts of time in Germany had deep respect for German culture and, and German work. And so I think it's fair to say had some, you know, internal conflicts about how to think about German aggression in the early years, but I'll let you sort of opine a little bit more about how he saw the war.
Zachariah Mampilly 27:22
Yeah, I think the question of how Du Bois saw the war cannot be disentangled from his deep political commitments to the anti war struggle. So he was a committed pacifist, very much an anti nuclear activist as well. And so he saw the question of World War Two as as being a potential harbinger of the apocalypse, his actions around peace, around peace were quite prominent during this period. This is in fact why he was first investigated by the FBI in 1943, for disseminating anti war propaganda from from the perspective of the FBI. And so he really viewed what was unfolding during that period as an existential threat to the human race. And like many thinkers since then, people like Hannah Arendt and others, he understood it fundamentally as being driven by a logical racial hierarchy. So I think, you know, as we're talking about sort of the disciplinary questions that taking Du Bois seriously raises, I think one of the most important ones is the way in which International Relations has really sought to erase its origins in race studies, right? As I mentioned, you know, Foreign Affairs comes out of a predecessor journal called the Journal of Race Development, which Foreign Affairs eventually acquired. This was not a controversial position to take. Most of the writers in Foreign Affairs at the time understood the question of empire and international politics as fundamentally a racial question. And I think part of the reason that you and I and I think most people today who study the field of IR don't encounter Du Bois on the syllabus has to do with this explicit attempt to erase the origins of the field of International Relations. Away from its origins in race studies of course, now race studies is a discredited field, but at the time, and really, I think, through the 1940s, they were considered to be one in the same. And so I think for Du Bois to opine on on World War Two in particular, and to view it as an extension of this longer racial struggle between Europe and the really the rest of the world is unsurprising. Right? I think what is surprising is how little we encounter that perspective. In the in the in the mainstream discourse today, it was a taken for granted idea, right? And that, you know, as Hannah Arendt later sort of more explicitly draws a connection, trying to separate out what happens during World War Two, from the question of European colonies and anti colonial struggles in Africa and Asia, in particular, is a fool's errand. Many of the same tactics and techniques that Germany eventually deployed in the Holocaust during World War Two were first developed in Africa and South Western Africa. In particular, the use of the concentration camp, the attempts to exterminate entire peoples on the basis of their ethnic or racial identities, including some of the actual personnel who were involved in the extermination of the Herero in Southwest Africa in the 1900s, or in the early 20th century, were directly influential over the Nazi regime that emerged, right. And so I think, again, you know, an honest sort of telling the history of World War Two would have to start with the question of race, and how it unfolds not within Europe, but throughout the colonies, in particular, and in the United States, as well. And so what Du Bois was doing, was drawing these connections together in a way that this doesn't become sort of mainstream within IR until much later, right. So IR, as a field, starts with the assumption, at least in its origins, that you can cut off the domestic from the international, that you don't have to necessarily draw connections between what occurs in the domestic context, and what happens at the international level. And Du Bois never bought into that fantasy, right? He was always, I would say, relentlessly, drawing direct parallels between what was happening at the global level, and what was happening in the United States in particular, and I think that's a very important lesson that really shapes how he interpreted the events of World War Two, particularly its racial dimensions, and his analysis of what's unfolding in the United States at the same period.
Kal Raustiala 31:49
That's very well put. And, you know, I would just add, that I think, not only has race sort of been ignored for so long and really maybe deliberately suppressed, but also empires as a manifestation. So, you know, I recall Michael Doyle's book many decades ago on empires coming out and sort of making the claim of you know, we've forgotten about empires and where it let's think about empires, as a discipline. But certainly the received approach, as you note of states and sovereignty and so forth in sort of, you know, units interacting, and as quasi billiard ball kind of way, really ignores the fact that for most of human history, and certainly most of European history, empires are the dominant paradigm, not states. And so that's just, you know, something that that's, that's more likely to be encountered, but still not sufficiently, I think, and certainly Du Bois was wanting to point to that, and many, many moments. So let's toggle to more the present day where you began. So you talked about issues of contagion and dissent around the world and connections. So I just want to invite you to elaborate on how Du Bois were he here today might see some of these developments. So you've thought about him extensively, you've talked about these more current issues. And of course, there, there are many ways to approach the idea of, of kind of global movements, or connections, including through technology and so forth. But let's look at it through the lens of Du Bois for a moment. How might he see these how might he interpret these movements?
Zachariah Mampilly 33:22
Yeah, that's, that's a really interesting question. I think, for me, what I'm particularly interested in is this concept of racial capitalism, and how it's sort of been resurrected to explain, you know, politics in the United States in particular. I think Du Bois, you know, was obviously somebody who was theorizing the issue of racial capitalism, even if he wasn't necessarily using that precise terminology. I think one of the saddest aspects of how we talk about Du Bois is really to erase his very substantive analysis and emphasis on economic processes. We tend to relegate him to the domain of race studies, and leave out the broader question of economic economic processes, which I think were deeply important and influential in Du Bois' thinking. I mean, it's basically impossible to separate out the role of economics within Du Bois' analyses, but at the same point Du Bois was was was sophisticated in the sense that he could also take seriously the question of race. I think, most people are familiar with Du Bois' major works but you know, one of the recurring themes that Du Bois explores, is this question of why is it that poor whites in particular, don't make common cause with poor blacks? And for Du Bois, you know, the question of race is essential for understanding why it is that poor whites in particular, are operating against their perceived economic interests, in favor of what he refers to as the psychological wage of whites, right? The fact that wealthy whites were willing to offer poor whites, some sense of racial pride in exchange for denying them access to meaningful economic opportunity. And I think that's a hugely useful insight for understanding the world today, you know. My family is from from India, you can see this very clearly in the context of the rise of the Hindu, right in the Indian context, India is home to the largest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world. It is a country in which inequality has spiked massively, in which way too many people don't have access to even the most basic goods. And in exchange, you know, the ruling party, the BJP, has really relied on this strategy of offering poor Hindus, this idea that they are somehow special, that they are somehow indigenous native, that they are deserving of more than, say, the Muslim population or the other minority groups that share the country with the Hindus. And it is a remarkably effective strategy. I don't think it's unlike what Donald Trump attempted to do here in the United States. And I think we're seeing that increasingly strong men, dictators, authoritarians around the world, are reverting to this fusion of identity politics with economic issues as a very successful way for them to consolidate power. So I think Du Bois will be very dismayed. Because this was a puzzle for him, you know, he was both a scholar and an activist. And he really did try to forge these sorts of relationships across races, which he believed would be in the interest not only of the black population, but also in the interests of the vast majority of whites as well. And I think it's something that he was never able to reconcile with. And he'd be equally disappointed that it remains such a potent strategy for authoritarians, even today.
Kal Raustiala 37:01
Yeah, I think that's I think that's right. And it is unfortunate. And it's interesting, he did live an incredibly long time. And so he saw some of the early kind of aspects of some of the things that you're mentioning that, but only the very, very beginning. The other thing I'll just note is, of course, his his interest in economics, as a driver. His Marxist inclinations, were, of course, quite common in the 20s and 30s, he was not iconoclastic in that sense and were somewhat, you know, somewhat mainstream, certainly within many black intellectuals, but really across the board. And those take take on a very different valence once the Cold War begins, and Du Bois sort of ends up on the wrong side of that story. And as you mentioned, kind of ostracized, whereas others like Bunche, sort of, then dismiss their prior work and try to kind of pivot as best they can to argue that they never really thought those things or those were minimal contributions that they made. And, you know, that was Paul Robeson obviously, being the most extreme example of someone who is really ostracized. Okay, so let's go to audience questions. There's quite a few. And they look, they look very good. So let me let me begin with the first one. How can Du Bois' contributions to the study of oppression and power dynamics and sociology be applied in the field of International Relations? Good question.
Zachariah Mampilly 38:26
Yeah, I think that's a great question, you know, for me, and here, I'll speak you know, both as as a scholar but also somebody who's interested in political struggles more broadly. You know, I think that my interest in Du Bois and other figures from from from these earlier periods, is how much they believed that they had to bring in the international into domestic struggles. And I raise this because I think, you know, there's a way in which we live in a world that is perhaps more connected than the human population has ever been. But we are increasingly turning parochial in our politics, right. And I say this, you know, knowing that it's not something I can verify empirically. But when I read through DuBois' exchanges with someone like Ambedkar in India, it's really quite striking that, you know, as early as the 1910s, that these two figures who were existing, you know, in just extremely different contexts across vast distances, could maintain, you know, such a sustained interest in each other's struggles, right. And rather than it being exceptional, it was actually quite common. Dubois, as I mentioned, in my opening remarks, wrote regularly for newspapers around the world, including in the Middle East and Africa and South Asia. He carried on correspondences with with political activists in multiple regions around the world. And I think that that kind of politics, right, a kind of internationalist politics that was core to Du Bois who of course, died a citizen of Ghana, after the US State Department revoked his passport, you know, is increasingly less fashionable today. Right? Despite the fact that we are living in an era in which we know that these processes are unfolding at the global level can have a really determined impact over our lives, in whatever national context that we exist. And so, to me, I think that would be a key insight that we should all take from from Du Bois is this, this this real faith that he had, that in order to make, in order for progress to be made in the struggle for black freedom in the United States, it was essential to link it to these struggles in other parts of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Because without that kind of support, it was essentially stuck and meaningless.
Kal Raustiala 40:56
Great, thank you. Okay, next question relates to the Arab Awakening. So during the Arab Awakening, do you think it was a sense of nationalism that drove protests or specific socio economic conditions in each country? In addition, did a pan Arab or Pan African nationalism contribute in any way?
Zachariah Mampilly 41:14
Yeah, that's a that's a great question. You know, I actually just returned from Morocco on Monday this week, and I was really struck by the transformation of Moroccan nationalist identity that I that I observed, and I'm no expert on Morocco at all. But it was my first trip back to Morocco in over 20 years. And it was really extraordinary, you know, how much the protests, the Arab Awakening protests, in particular, have led to these reconfiguring of nationalist identities across the Arab world. And I think across the African world as well. You know, there have always been these very strong strands of Pan Africanism and Pan-Arabism in that part of the world. Dubois, of course, was a committed pan Africanist. And part of the project and part of my interest in these for the pan regional projects in general, is how much of a threat they pose to nationalist politics. Right. So whether we're talking about Morocco, or we're talking about any country, in Africa, or increasingly in Asia as well, you know, I think there's a inherent way in which nationalism tends to favor more elites and more authoritarian politics, right it is a means through which very disparate groups, at least materially speaking, are able to forge a sense of common identity. Right. And so for the BJP in India, again, the Nationalist Party in India, it's a party that is bankrolled and supported by some very, very, very wealthy Indians. And they will raise the nationalist flag as a way to justify their complete expropriation of Indian national resources. This is very common in the African context, as well, as I mentioned, Africa, is increasingly the sight of some of the most unequal countries in the world, oftentimes, political elites in these countries will evoke nationalism, to justify, you know, cutting down the forests, the destructions of mountain ranges, as being somehow inherently in the interests of the nation. And I think so what we're starting to see is that these issues are becoming fused, right, as people start to understand the ways in which these elites are sort of pulling the wool over their eyes, and claiming to be operating in the national interest while lining their pockets as individuals. I think it's starting to create the necessary connections between the material poverty that too many people continue to face and in Africa and Asia in particular, and the ways in which elites manipulate these nationalist sentiments as a way to bolster the rule. I don't think we've reached a point in which enough people are questioning the power of nationalism to favor these kinds of elite politics. But I do think protests are an important sites in which these identities are starting to be contested, right. And so to come back to the Morocco example, you know, as a result of many protests that have unfolding in the reef region, the country you know, the country has moved away from claiming a purely Arab identity, the Amazigh language now has been elevated to national status. And so if you traveled around the country, all of the signage is in both Arabic and Amazigh, which is an extraordinary acknowledgement by the regime, that are kind of elite nationalist politics, rotating around a purely Arab identity for the country is no longer sufficient. And they have to make these sorts of concessions in order to prevent huge upsurge in protest.
Kal Raustiala 44:48
Do you think today just as an addendum to that question, if if Du Bois were here today to look at the misuses of nationalism that you just described, I assume that would reinforce his pre existing interest in things like Pan Africanism. But of course Pan Africanism has maybe run into other problems. So how might he looked at this challenge of nationalism today?
Zachariah Mampilly 45:11
Yeah, that's a that's a tough one. Um, Du Bois was clearly no nationalist. He identified very strongly as as a Pan Africanist. And I think as what you're hinting at is, is the ways in which Pan Africanism itself has evolved into more of a state driven project, right. Every African leader calls themselves a Pan Africanist. And the African Union is quite a robust entity, and often on the side of African authoritarians. It has lost its sort of mooring with amongst intellectuals and ordinary people in a way that I think Du Bois more clearly identified with those strands of the Pan Africanist project. But that being said, I think that you know, you know, authoritarians, elite, will always try to appropriate, any sort of identity projects to their own ends, right. And I think one thing that gives me hope with Pan Africanism is how much Pan Africanism remains a robust ideal amongst younger populations in particular, especially amongst the activist amongst musicians amongst artists. There is a kind of rekindling of a Pan Africanist spirit that you can, you can feel if you go to places like Accra, where Du Bois of course spent his final years. You know, the Nigerian music is very popular across the continent figures like Burna Boy, you know, are very much identifying as Pan Africanist. Some of the movements that I study, like Janmra in Senegal, Le Balai Citoyen in Burkina Faso were founded by rappers who identify very explicitly as Pan Africanist. So even as I think elites will always try to co-opt any sort of identity project to their own agendas, you know, Pan Africanism, as a project still has its kind of grassroots base. And I think that speaks to its power to push back against a kind of top down border centric nationalist division that has been imposed across the African continent in ways that don't gel with people's lived experiences and people are actively challenging through to articulating these alternate identities.
Kal Raustiala 47:26
That's really interesting. So next question a bit long. You've mentioned many figures who are connected to anti colonial and international affairs with Du Bois Gandhi, Franz Fanon, etc. But you never mentioned the man we just celebrated as a national icon, Martin Luther King. I don't know anything about King's involvement with anti colonial politics. But of course, he was deeply involved in foreign affairs in the form of the Vietnam War. His criticisms of the war were considered problematic from the point of view of his civil rights activism, but he insisted on making them anyway. Why don't we talk about him in these discussions?
Zachariah Mampilly 48:00
Yeah, I apologize for not mentioning Dr. King, of course, you know, this is the week in which we celebrate Dr. King's legacy, rightfully across the United States. And I think it's very important. There are a lot of wonderful historians doing a lot of work to recover the radical King, right? Because, of course, Martin Luther King was a radical, despite the best efforts by mainstream media and the right wing in particular, to try to position him as some sort of middle of the road centrist liberal figure. There's a there's a line from a song that I like by "Rage Against the Machine", where they say, you know, that the FBI went after King when he spoke out on Vietnam. Right. That, you know, I think King himself was very aware of the ways in which his increasing radicalism made him more of a figure of hate. King was not a beloved figure when he was assassinated, not within the mainstream society after the March on Washington, and after the Civil Rights victories of the mid 1960s King was very much I think, in line with the Du Boisian position that the struggle for racial justice must take on an economic pillar as well. And you know, he was killed, marching with sanitation workers, trying to demand increased wages. He spoke out increasingly against the Vietnam War, as you note, and he commented regularly on conditions around the world. So I think, you know, we need to recover our heroes, right? We need to be honest of who they were, and push back against trends to erase these legacies because, you know, the, these were very complex individuals who had very sophisticated analyses of not only national politics, but the international order as well. And I think that is very much what I'm calling for as well is increased connections between the struggles that we have I'm here in United States in what's going on around the world, in ways that might make us very critical of our own governments and our own societies, right? Because that I think was also an important connection between Du Bois and King, especially in their willingness to shed a light on the actions of their own governments, when our government is doing things that we should not be tolerating, as American citizens.
Kal Raustiala 50:30
Yeah, I'll just add that King's famous speech at Riverside Church where he first really speaks out about the Vietnam War quote, quite critically, which in retrospect, when you when you read the speech, everything he says is seems almost I wouldn't say anodyne but it's it seems uncontroversial, by the lights of today. But of course, at the time, it was viewed as one as a huge strategic blunder. This was the view of that kind of establishment view. But even the view of people like Ralph Bunche. So Bunche was very critical of King but that they had a very strong relationship. He was he was publicly and privately critical of King for his efforts to talk about the war, even though in reality, Bunche agreed with King on almost every point, but that was seen as some kind of fatal misstep. But in fact, King was, I think, rightly recognizing a much broader canvas for the ideas that he had brought forward. And, and also recognizing the anti colonial dimensions of the Vietnam War, which were somehow lost to most people involved in foreign affairs, but were obvious to him. So yeah, I think that's a really, I think you make a lot of really important points in King. King has been sort of put into this narrow box as a thinker today, kind of a Hallmark card version of King when in fact, there was so much more going on. So we have time for maybe one or two more questions. So next question, how would Du Bois experience and explain the protests that unfolded here in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and their effect on politics nationwide? And I might add, of course, there were protests and effects globally, as well.
Zachariah Mampilly 52:07
Yeah, I think that, you know, for for me, and I'll be somewhat critical here, you know, I think that he would have been disappointed, right. And, obviously, I'm, I'm purely in the realm of speculation now so I don't take any great insight here. But I think that, you know, there was a missed opportunity. There was a way in which, you know, especially in its early days, the movement for black lives, had a pretty broad base constituency, that there was many different organizations that were pushing to draw connections between not only the struggle for racial justice here in the United States, but also the struggle for economic justice, struggle for immigrant justice, in the United States and beyond. You know, struggle against militarism. All of these issues were tossed around as potentially being within the domain of the original variant of Black Lives Matter that I was quite interested in. But that it quickly became much more parochial. Right, it quickly narrowed its scope, I have an analysis for why that happened, to really focus on the US context to really focus on specifically the question of police killings, which, of course, is a hugely important issue. But I think that that was a missed opportunity to use the tremendous surge of energy and support that the movement had to link it to many other issues, whether you know, the case of undocumented immigrants in the United States or the southern border, whether the question of us militarism abroad, obviously there were many, many figures within Black Lives Matter who were trying to draw these connections. But I think the mainstream movement was really co opted by foundations by American political parties, in ways that ultimately undermined its potential and reduced the scope of what I think they could have been done with if things had been had been different.
Kal Raustiala 54:03
Because I think we can squeeze in one last question and one last answer. So question is, how do you believe Du Bois would approach the theme of reparations in light of the degree to which the African diaspora is represented in the United States today?
Zachariah Mampilly 54:19
Yeah, I don't know if I can answer that quickly. But of course, the Du Bois was deeply concerned about economics, right? He believed very fundamentally, that the struggle for black freedom in the United States was not simply a political struggle, but an economic one as well. I want to be clear here that I don't know if he would have been a supporter of reparations, specifically as the best route to achieve that, because Du Bois was equally invested in the material welfare of the white population and other ethnic communities in the United States as well. And so you know, I think he would have been open to issues of reparations, but sometimes not always. The debate around reparations can be very exclusive. Right? There's a lot of questions around who would benefit from reparations whether we would include, for example, black immigrants in that in that in that pool, you know, what, how exactly would we go about determining who would be eligible. And it often leads to tremendous divisions within the black community itself pitting Afro Caribbeans, against African Americans against Africans in ways that I think go very much against Du Bois' fundamental faith in Pan Africanism and I would say third world internationalism. So I think he would have a lot of questions about how exactly reparations would be implemented, he would bemoan it's more divisive aspects.
Kal Raustiala 55:41
Well, great. Thank you guys so much for for all your your answers to those questions, for coming on today. And I hope that we're able to have you back to UCLA maybe even in person in the in the years to come. So thank you very much.
Zachariah Mampilly 55:56
Thank you so much for having me Kal. This was wonderful. Yeah,
Transcribed by https://otter.ai