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Abolitionist and Emancipatory Futures: Anti-Racist Struggles and Climate Justice

Black Lives Matter: Global Perspectives Series



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Vishwas Satgar, “Southern Africa is Burning – Strategic Disruption and The South African Climate Justice Charter

Vishwas Satgar is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Witwatersrand South Africa. He edits the Democratic Marxism series and is the principal investigator for Emancipatory Futures Studies in the Anthropocene. He has been an activist for four decades. He was involved in national liberation struggles and more recently he co-founded the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Climate Justice Charter process.


Malini Ranganathan, “Abolition and Climate Justice in Transnational Perspective”

Malini Ranganathan is an Associate Professor in the School of International Service and Interim Faculty Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC. An urban geographer by training, her scholarship focuses on radical approaches to, and contrapuntal readings of, environmental justice in India and the U.S. She is the recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon-American Council of Learned Societies fellowship which enabled her to complete a coauthored book, Corruption Plots: Stories, Ethics, and Publics of the Late Capitalist City, and is currently working on a second monograph on property law, urban ecologies, and anticaste struggles in Bangalore, India.


Kian Goh is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. She researches urban ecological design, spatial politics and social mobilization in the context of climate change and global urbanization. Her forthcoming book, Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice (MIT Press in 2021) investigates the contested power relationships and conflicts around plans proposed by cities to respond to climate change impacts in New York, Jakarta, and Rotterdam.


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Duration: 01:31:36




Fri, 1/22 2:53PM � 1:31:06


Vishwas Satgar, Malini Ranganathan, Kian Goh, Jennifer Jihye Chun

Jennifer Jihye Chun 00:00

Hello and welcome. My name is Jennifer Jihye Chun and on behalf of the International Institute at UCLA, it is my great pleasure to kick off today's events, abolitionist and emancipatory futures, anti racist struggles and climate justice with our distinguished guests, Professor Vishwas Satgar and Professor Malini Ranganathan. Today's event is part of a year-long series inspired by the groundbreaking Black Lives Matter movement, and the political urgency of ending police brutality and racial and justice both in the U.S. and around the world. When our planning for this series first began last summer, we were in the midst of an historic uprising, as tens of millions of people took to the streets against the backdrop of a raging pandemic. Over six months later, we are still battling the deadly coronavirus, while also contending with the toxic connections between systemic racism and white supremacy, albeit with some hopeful new directions in the sphere of formal politics.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 01:10

Today, we turn our attention squarely to the question of climate justice and its intersections with the global movement for black lives and ongoing struggles against racial capitalism. Before we get to the main event, I wanted to offer some brief words of acknowledgement and gratitude. First and foremost, the International Institute at UCLA acknowledges our presence on the traditional ancestral and unceded territory of the Gabrielino Tongva peoples, the traditional land takers of the Tovaangar (the Los Angeles Basin and South Channel Islands).

Jennifer Jihye Chun 01:48

I want to thank our wonderful team at the International Institute for their vision and dedication in putting together this collaborative series which is really the first of its kind. Special thanks to Senior Associate Vice Provost Chris Erickson, and Vice Provost for international studies and Global Engagement Cindy Phan, the fantastic organizing team that put together this series -- Laurie Hart, Jorge Marturano, Robin Derby, Shaina Potts. Ippolytos Kalofonos, Alvin Young and Erica Anjum -- and of course, the wonderful staff at the International Institute, without whom events like this would not be possible: Katherine Paul, Peg McInerny, Kaya Mentesoglu, Alex Zhu, Oliver Chen, Chloe Hiuga and Steven Acosta. Thanks also to our event cosponsors, the African Studies Center, the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability and the departments of geography, political science and urban planning.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 02:46

Our conversation today will be organized in two parts. First, we will hear presentations from our distinguished guests, followed by a round of curated conversations with our esteemed moderator, then we'll open up the discussion for a public Q&A. And many of the attendees today are from my course in International Development Studies, "Culture, Power and Development," and we've given them priority in the queue. So students out there, you know, hopefully you'll hear your questions asked and also we invite attendees to ask their questions -- to type them in the webinar's Q&A. And, you know, we'll do our very best to get to them in the time that we have.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 03:25

So now without further ado, I am really thrilled to introduce our panelists. And for time's sake, after my introduction, I will post their full bios in the group chat, and I will introduce them in the order in which they will speak. Professor Malini Ranganathan from American University will talk to us today about abolition and climate justice in transnational perspective. Her intersectional, decolonial and anti-racist lens provides indispensable insight to understanding really foundational questions about social and environmental injustice, both in the U.S. -- and she's, you know, in the belly of the beast in D.C., as well as what she calls the "other D.C.", about which will speak to us about today -- as well as India, where she's done extensive fieldwork.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 04:17

Professor Vishwas Satagar, from the University of Witwatersrand South Africa, this university, is a longtime activist in national liberation struggles, the editor of the acclaimed Democratic Marxism series, and one of the most important public intellectuals in leading the struggle for food sovereignty and climate justice. And he'll talk to us today about really the impressive work and movement gains around the South African Climate Justice Charter. His talk today is entitled "Southern Africa is Burning: Strategic Disruption and the South African Climate Justice Charter." Our moderator, Professor Kian Goh, right here from UCLA's the planning department, will bring her crucial expertise on the spatial politics of urban urban climate change responses across North America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 05:15

So please join me in welcoming them today. We're all from different time zones and it's just really wonderful. We struggle with the difficulties of Zoom, but we also have the opportunity to come together in spaces like this. So without further further ado, Professor Ranganathan will start us off.

Malini Ranganathan 05:33

Thank you so much, to recognize Jennifer Chun for organizing this really exciting and urgent conversation. And thank you to my friend, Professor Kian Goh, for moderating the session and really all your thought leadership on climate and urbanism and design and finally, thank you to Professor Vishwas Satgar, my fellow panelist. It's really terrific to meet you and I'm looking forward to hearing about your work and exploring our intersections.

Malini Ranganathan 06:02

So the flurry of executive actions over the past two days to begin to undo the damage of the last four years is, I think we can agree, a welcome start. But many of us are cautious about this moment. Abolitionists have long reminded us that change does not come primarily from the ballot box, nor does it come from the kind of status quo reformism that we just voted in. And most worryingly, we might have narrowly voted Trump out, but we certainly didn't vote Trumpism out.

Malini Ranganathan 06:37

I speak to you today from Washington, DC, where January 6, the siege of the Capitol, is ever present on our minds. It was a sobering reminder of the enduring logic of white violence, as well as the monopoly that the racial state has on notions of criminality and violence in the first place. As the world watched the spectacle of fascism unfolding amidst those hallowed edifices of American Empire, the Capitol dome, the Senate floor, the oil paintings glorifying the American Revolution, the "other D.C." was left in the shadows.

Malini Ranganathan 07:17

Indeed, you don't have to look far to understand the workings of American Empire. You just have to look east across the banks of the Anacostia River towards seven and eight across the Anacostia, which gets its name from the Nacotchtank Native Americans. The northeastern and southeastern shores signify what happens when a colony is ruled without statehood and without representation. About a decade ago, my colleague and comrade Eve Brockman wrote an article in the journal Third World Quarterly titled, "Development Paradox: D.C. as a Third World City," pointing out the starkly unequal outcomes between D.C.'s western and eastern halves. In i,t she also problematized constructs of and comparisons with the so-called third world.

Malini Ranganathan 08:10

Indeed, the severity of the racial equity gap in DC, an internal colony, is uniquely American. Third world metaphors only serve to obscure this fact. Now, in the wake of the U.S.'s singularly colossal failure in COVID governance, its systemic corruption of the highest order, and its ethno-nationalist violence, comparisons to the third world are trite at best. At worst, they're misguided and absolve accountability. So even I teamed up to investigate the conditions in East D.C. that give rise to climate change vulnerability. After Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Maria, and Harvey, we knew that it was those who are already disinvested in, those who are already experiencing the structural violence of racism and colonialism, who bore the greatest brunt of the disaster and its afterlives.

Malini Ranganathan 09:07

So we were interested in the question, what are those conditions in D.C., a historic black city, which was once the seat of anti-slavery activism? But we also knew that across the U.S. cities were investing in glossy climate resilience plans, which Joshua Long and Jennifer Rice have argued our neoliberal fixes to overlapping crises of accumulation and ecological danger. D.C. was no exception to this climate urbanism "fix," having published its first climate readiness plan in 2016. So our other questions were, what did these plans do? Whose knowledge and history were valued? Where was the money going?

Malini Ranganathan 09:49

And it was in the context of researching these questions that abolition emerged as a historically situated and pragmatic program for reimagining climate justice. Abolitionist climate justice as we define it seeks to dismantle infrastructures of racial violence that predispose certain groups to social environmental vulnerabilities while reinvesting in infrastructures of care, repair and life. In the rest of my comments, I will think climate and abolition together from D.C., and then sketch convergences between these two political imperatives beyond DC.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 10:31

Ruth Wilson Gilmore defines racism as, "the state- sanctioned, or extra-legal production and exploitation, of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death" in the 2020 Intercept podcast that you should all listen to, guest-hosted by Chenjerai Kumanyika []. Gilmore says that as an abolitionist, the question she returns to again and again is: What is it that makes people vulnerable? What is it that makes people vulnerable? She tells the story of ex-Black Panther activist Michael Zinzun who, have having spent his life dedicated to fighting police brutality in Los Angeles, turned to the puzzle of why so many in L.A.'s public housing, suffer and even die from asthma, an entirely preventable disease. The reasons: deferred maintenance, rodent and roach infestations, mold. In a word disinvestment.

Malini Ranganathan 11:31

Gilmore says, and I quote, "Zinzun became an environmental justice activist because the environment within the living spaces for these young people was literally killing them. And so he became, as it were, a model for what I imagined abolition to be today." So, Gilmore's framework of racism as state produced vulnerability maps really nicely onto critical analyses of climate and environmental injustice. The concept of climate vulnerability, for instance, developed most usefully by political ecologists, starts not from the place of extreme weather, causing harm and destruction per se, but rather from the place of a climate event, like a hurricane or heat wave or a flood, intersecting with historically forged relations of power manifest in place.

Malini Ranganathan 12:24

So we looked and studied those underlying conditions, those relations of power manifest in place, that predispose people to intersectional, environmental and social vulnerability, many of which are the very same conditions that predispose people to the worst effects of COVID-19. Over the last year, we've heard the medical community talk a lot about COVID so-called co-morbidities, i.e., those underlying conditions that hasten the virus' is most virulent effects. In many ways, by studying climate injustice, we were actually decentering climate change. And this is a really, really important methodological research and theoretical point. We sought to de-center climate change as the be all and end all of all causal drivers, and recenter the analytics of underlying vulnerabilities.

Malini Ranganathan 13:18

What we found will in part come as no surprise to a Los Angeles audience. Climate vulnerabilities east of the Anacostia, where life expectancy is 27 years lower than the richest ward [of D.C.], where black households have 81 times less net worth in white households and where the per capita death rate from COVID is the highest and the district, stems from the compounding effects of high rates of asthma, much like Michael Zinzun and found in LA, exposure to highway pollution, little green cover, food insecurity and diabetes, crumbling housing and medical services, poor public transit connectivity, the lack of personal vehicle ownership, unemployment and the looming threat of eviction, among other intersectional vulnerabilities. But it doesn't end there. And this is where we have to think carcerality and climate together.

Malini Ranganathan 14:15

One of the most startling statements I heard during the course of fieldwork was from a local Ward Seven organizer in D.C. who I interviewed in 2016, Angelee Doyne. Angelee said, "I don't know if you know this, but they hire more police in Ward Seven and Eight over the summer. They intentionally do more policing in the summer, because that's when the youth are out. So these issues run real deep." So you can play this out in your head just for a second. Imagine, for instance, a code orange day declared by the city. A code orange day is an excess heat event that increases surface ozone levels in all cities in America. Not only our youth living in Anacostia in Ward Eight more susceptible to be policed on typical summer day because more police are deputed, but of course, a Code Orange day could also be a death knell for someone living with asthma in dilapidated housing who can't get to their inhaler or health center in time. Because of austerity measures, there are no trauma centers to deal with medical emergencies east of the Anacostia River. Audrey Lord's oft-quoted sentiment "there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we did not live our lives in single-issue ways" is at the heart of how we can think of vulnerabilities to climate, COVID and carcerality together.

Malini Ranganathan 15:39

These are landscapes of, as Gilmore has termed it, "organized abandonment": where over-policing is presented as the solution to state disinvestment and historical trauma. For Lara Polito environmental racism is constituent of racial capitalism and operates through certain places and people being designated as "sinks" -- this is the word she uses -- sinks for pollution and toxicity so that others can be valued. I think we can think of abandonment and sinks as relational mechanisms. You have to have abandonment in order to have accumulation elsewhere. You have to have sinks in order to have valuation elsewhere.

Malini Ranganathan 16:17

And you can see and feel the presence of abandonment and sinks here. As you turn the corner on Benning Road in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Ward Seven, far from the grandeur of Northwest D.C., you can see a decommissioned Pepco coal-fired power plant and the illegal dumping of junk cars and furniture behind an aging middle-class Black neighborhood. You could also see a now kept open-burning incinerator, the notorious Kenilworth landfill, laced with dioxins and other carcinogens. The soil under the landfill has yet to be remediated and I'm now doing follow-up research with a student on the Kenilworth remediation in the context of a climate vulnerable landscape.

Malini Ranganathan 17:00

So what I want to stress is that organized abandonment, derived from abolition scholarship, on the one hand, and the notion of sinks, derived from environmental scholarship, on the other hand, often coexist in place and are relational with other geographies of accumulation. Across America and the world, those most gutted by austerity are also those places of incarceration, over-policing and toxicity. And if you're interested in this linkage between mass incarceration and environmental injustice, check out the Prison Ecology Project [], which lists these coexisting processes of mass incarceration and toxicity, not just in the U.S., but also in the world. And I think it's a real interesting frontier of research.

Malini Ranganathan 17:52

But as we know, from calls to shut down prisons, defund the police, stop caging children, and halt new prison construction, abolition is not simply about breaking down structures of oppression and disrupting the logics of racial violence. It is also about building anew, as Dubois put it, it is not just a negative project, is it is a positive one, too.

Malini Ranganathan 18:18

This past summer, as Jennifer opened with, of protest expressing outrage at police killings saw bold and fresh articulations of causes common to both abolition and environmental and climate justice, particularly by youth-led BLM and VUIP 100 activists, as well as local chapters of Sunrise, DSA, D.C. Protest and March for Our Lives. We saw o.expressions of these intersectional articulations in our research, too. Angelee, the activist whom I spoke about earlier, introduced me to Bruce Purnell, a trauma counselor and youth mentor. Purnell is a fifth-generation of abolitionists -- he literally comes from a family of abolitionists, whose ancestors on whom I wrote a news media article in 2019, titled, "A Legacy of Abolition and Love in the Work of a Washington, D.C. Organizer" [] were stationmasters in the Underground Railroad in the 1800s.

Malini Ranganathan 19:12

I visited him in his D.C. office in the summer of 2019. In his box of old family photos that he took out to show me, Bruce had carefully preserved portraits of his ancestors John and Mary Jones, the 19th-century Black abolitionists from Illinois, and Mary Anne Shadd, the Black Canadian abolitionist who harbored and channeled fugitive slaves into Canada as a stationmaster. Parnell's activism in D.C.'s Ward Seven insists on healing, de-escalation (this is the term he uses), and transformative justice as key abolitionist tenants for moving forward.

Malini Ranganathan 19:14

He said to me, and I quote, "I don't think anybody's healed from these things," he said, specifically referring to the new Jim Crow and the war on drugs, "or healing. It's a process we're moving towards liberation and freedom." Purnell focuses on teens and senior residents,` two spectrums of what he deems to be the most vulnerable residents. Weekly he brings seniors together under his program called SOUL: Seniors Offering Unconditional Love. He does this to strengthen mutual aid and food networks, which are especially valuable during inclement weather events. He cultivates what he refers to as transformative justice spaces, and brave spaces for victims and perpetrators of violent harm in order to scale back the need for intervention by police and the criminal justice system.

Malini Ranganathan 20:32

He builds Know Your Rights literacy focusing on tenant protection and accessing core government services. His work of his organization has also brought attention by D.C. authorities to lead poisoning in the water because, according to him, lead his trauma. Angelee told me that one cannot overstate the importance of Bruce's work and building climate resilience. Bruce doesn't frame his work as climate, but it is climate work, she said. To me, that struck me as an important point about how we can locate this kind of work outside of the rubrics of liberal environmentalism. She went on, "Experts are always coming in from the outside with plans of making us resilient. But what are people actually doing actually doing? Shouldn't they start there?" That's when it struck me that the work of abolition IS the work of climate justice.

Malini Ranganathan 21:24

So in conclusion, I want to move to summarizing some key convergences between abolition and climate justice, both from the vantage of my research, but also beyond. And what I'm going to do here is I'm going to share my screen because I've been thinking through this table for a while now. And you can see my the table right the abolition climate justice table. OK, so this is this isn't necessarily experimental and it's quite, as Gilmore says, abolition itself is experimental and these things are emergent in some ways. But what I have is two columns abolition on one side and kind of justice on the others, and these are anchoring concepts and convergences. So each row represents particular convergences, right, by theme.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 22:10

So first, well, I think the analytics of racial capitalism has always been an anchoring concept for scholars of abolition. Critical environmental scholars have also started bringing the mechanics of racial capitalism to bear on environmental analyses. And in a parallel move, Indigenous scholars like Kyle White have pointed out the long history of settler colonialism and climate-induced harm. Abolitionists are also connecting their depth their demands to the history of stolen land.

Malini Ranganathan 22:40

In fact, there was an event at UCLA on connecting the notion of stolen land with the need for abolition, and also border imperialism. More globally, I think we're seeing concepts of eco-apartheid and I would love to hear you know what, what Vish thinks about these kinds of framings. Eco-apartheid is put forward by Daniel Cohen. The term climate apartheid has been advanced by Long and Rice. What these terms do is that they suggest that the geographies of carbon emissions, climate vulnerability and carbon governance are all deeply colonial and racial in nature. And so there's a kind of twinned [nature] and a pairing of the way analytics are being deployed.

Malini Ranganathan 23:18

Moving down the table, since I spoke about organizing abandonment and sinks as being twin concepts already, I really want to bring attention to the way the state has been conceptualized and, in a great piece called "Restating the Obvious" by Ruth Gilmore and Craig Gilmore, they talk about the anti-state state, right -- the neoliberal state that's basically gutted out in terms of welfare, in terms of care, in terms of social protection and advanced in terms of militarism -- carcerality, right?

Malini Ranganathan 23:44

And here we can think about the prison industrial complex and the fossil fuel industrial complex as sort of manifestations of this anti-state state, right. But I should stress that these are not simply parallel formations of state and corporate power. But more often than not, they're overlapping forms of state power. From Houston, to Detroit to New Orleans to Salt Lake City, fossil fuel industries like Chevron and publicly traded energy companies like Exelon also fund police foundations, right. They fund surveillance technologies, they fund the use of body cameras and other ways [that] surveillance state deploys. So you know, these forms of state power are actually mutually reinforcing.

Malini Ranganathan 24:25

And finally, because we're short on time, I want to emphasize one really key parallel that I'm really excited about, and that's the divest-invest call, right? I think in the ways in which these parallel, and also mutually reinforcing, movements seek to kind of break down and divest from infrastructures of racial violence, they also see to reinvest in infrastructures of life care, renewal and repair. And I think that it's interesting that both movements call this "just transition" right? The total notion of just transition is exactly exactly the same and echoed by both movements: healthy schools, healthy neighborhoods, healthy border regions that don't invest in carceral and fossil capital, that don't cage, that don't detain, that don't treat some humans as expendable, right, is what the goal is here.

Malini Ranganathan 25:19

And finally, both movements of shoe tinkering around the edges, demanding instead structural anti-capitalist change, or what the abolitionists love to call non-reformist reforms, which I really like as a concept. So to end, there is no climate justice, I think without abolition in the most capacious of senses. This is nothing short of converging programs for remaking and re-humanizing the world. Thank you.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 25:47

Why don't you go ahead and let Vish know that he's up next, Professor.

Kian Goh 25:52

So thank you again, Melanie? And Vish you're up.


Vishwas Satgar 26:00

Well, thank you to Jennifer Chun, for Kian Goh for this convening, together with your other institutional partners and thank you to Professor Melani Ranganathan for a very stimulating and thought-provoking input. And there's a lot to sort of talk about on this platform. I'm going to jump straight to my slides.

Vishwas Satgar 26:25

Okay, is that visible to everybody? All right. So, we were told to kind of reference in our kind of academic and intellectual work around how we engage race, racism and anti- racism, but also kind of bring in some of the kind of practical side to activism. But adding in a kind of dialogue with sort of Black Lives Matter. So thank you for that brief. So I'm situated, and I'm in South Africa. So I mean, I'm gonna come at this from where I'm located.

Vishwas Satgar 27:04

So in the South African context, as you all know, I mean, you know, apartheid has been one of these important points of reference, in the 20th-century imagination, emblematic of deep institutional and systemic racism and so on, sort of a pariah of the world in the 20th century. But we are now over 20 years into our post-apartheid democracy. And the South African case provides some very interesting insights around how to really grapple with the race, racism, anti-racism challenge.

Vishwas Satgar 27:42

The particular volume I have flashed up here as part of a collective intellectual project, "Racism after Apartheid," provocatively titled. And the point here is what we were trying to work out, and it's part of the Democratic Marxism series, and was trying to work out a kind of re-racializing of post-apartheid South Africa, but also the world. We are living through a period in history where we are seeing the second coming of fascism and we are seeing border complexes thrown up. We see well, with Trump, we have the wall project, and so on and so on. And Dubois kind of cautioned us about this color line in the early 20th century. But the thing about doing conjunctural analysis to understand, if you like, racial capitalism, helps us understand how this color line is, if you like, fractured, how it has specificities over time, okay.

Vishwas Satgar 28:41

And this is very, very important. And so using that analytic of conjuctural analysis helps us to have a much richer grasp of how racializing logics and relations are patterned, and so on. We cannot think in terms of the colonial form of racism, circa 1492, and use the dynamics of that time to understand what we are living through today. And I think this is this is very, very important in how we've been grappling with this challenge. At the same time, the category of primitive accumulation and ecocide has been very, very important even in our climate justice activism. Now, this idea of primitive accumulation relates to, you know, the originary moment of capitalism. But it hasn't stopped there, as David Harvey, he has has taught us, if you like, and it's been, it's been in our present together with possession. But I prefer to use the term ecocide to actually capture this historical process. Because ecocide is really about the destruction of human and non- human nature. And it's been in the making in the context of, if you like, periodized capitalism, from military mercantile capitalism to competitive Victorian capitalism to monopoly industrial capitalism and today, with globalizing monopoly capitalism, actually. So it's it's a very important concept to kind of locate this destructive logic of wiping out the conditions that sustain life.

Vishwas Satgar 30:16

So at one point in time, it was the other, it was women, and, of course, it was it was non-human nature that could be obliterated. And there's a long history to this. But I think the idea of ecocide is very, very important in how we thinking about contemporary conjunctural. dynamics. In South Africa, we have a long tradition of grappling with racism and anti-racism from within the Marxist tradition. Actually, you cannot understand the politics of anti-colonial struggles, particularly in the African context, without understanding the place of Marxism. It has marked, if you like, the liberation movements of the 20th century, including in South Africa. And the national question framing, has, if you like, been anchored in different analytics, historically, whether it's of racial capitalism, whether it's about colonial capitalism, or colonialism of a special type, or articulations of modes of production, etc.

Vishwas Satgar 31:23

So we have a very rich inheritance of theoretically and analytically trying to make sense of our society. And using the tools, if you like, of Marxism, and this is also guided, if you like politics in South Africa, the intervention we've made is to really kind of take us beyond the productivist understanding of the national question, because the Marxism of national liberation in South Africa has not had an ecological basis to it. Okay? It's very much a 20th-century Marxism that really kind of occludes, if you like, in its imagination, a conception of nature and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 32:04

So this intellectual intervention is, to say, let's rethink this national question. And let's actually displace it with the ecoside question, given the worsening climate crisis. In this context, there's an attempt to retrieve radical non-racialism. Now, on the face of it, the concept of non-racialism, in its most simplistic, refers to, you know, being colorblind and so on. But actually, in the context of the national liberation tradition prior to the democratic breakthrough of '94 in South Africa, radical non-racialism was, if you like, the deep philosophy of anti-racist politics, and it lived in the streams of struggle in South Africa in different ways. It was existential phenomenology, where activists recognized that they were born into racist societies, a racist society: we are all engineered to be racist, okay, black or white. But at the same time, we had to confront this in us, okay. And that was a very crucial starting point for the non-racial tradition, if you like, of overcoming that racist in all of us.

Vishwas Satgar 33:13

At the same time, it was also a basis for, if you like, solidarity of Angela Davis, your pain is my pain and vice versa, right. This was very, very crucial for the non-racial tradition, and it brought strategic convergences across race groups, etc. So the other point about radical non-racialism is that it was anchored in a critique of capitalism. Now, after 1994, the official non-racialism that we've seen in the Mandela era, what is liberal rainbow ism, and so on, has completely expunged, if you like, radical non-racialism. And so there's, there's a kind of liberal nationalism that has prevailed since '94 in South Africa. And we are trying to retrieve that in the context of climate justice politics, because we really do believe, and I think this is where, if you like, some of the abolitionist position is very important.

Vishwas Satgar 34:10

We've got to go to the roots of the problem. And if we don't do that, the systemic basis of the reproduction of ecocide, etc, we're not going to solve this problem. And then, of course, there's the second coming of fascism, which I've alluded to. You know, Malini has mentioned Trump and Trumpism, still living. But Trumpism in the White House, ironically, continued fracking, which was set up under your first African American. And Obama was a neoliberal and he essentially cranked up fracking.

Vishwas Satgar 34:46

And the point about the global climate crisis, is that everything is connected. It's a planetary problem. So as you had your fracking boom in the United States, it has had deleterious impacts for us in the rest of the world. Now, that's not to say South Africa is innocent. It's the 11th highest carbon emitter in the world. It actually owes a climate debt even to our own continent. But Trump, of course, continued that.

Vishwas Satgar 35:11

Now this slide I have in front of you comes from a collaboration in my Emancipatory Future Studies Project with some of the leading climate scientists in the country, some of them are at my university. And the challenge I put to them was: how do we translate climate science, which we hear about in the IPCC reports, and so on, to our specific context? And what was intriguing, once they rose to the challenge, was that we came to realize that Southern Africa, because of that, feeling south of the equator, nd so on, is heating at twice the global average. It is a climate hotspot, one of 10 on the planet. What that means is if we add 1.2 degrees Celsius globally, we are actually at 2.4 degrees. What this also means is that in this decade, as we move towards 1.5 degrees overshoot, we are going to be at three degrees Celsius.

Vishwas Satgar 36:05

Now the climate science is also cautioning us that at three degrees Celsius, life in southern Africa is going to become more and more unlivable. And that's within a short horizon of time. And it's a very, very scary reality that we are facing. So of course, if we breach two degrees, we are facing four degrees in Southern Africa. This is climate justice writ large in front of you. The climate science is telling us this: that the more eco-fascism continues on our planet, the more carbon is extracted and emitted and so on. Well, it's going to obliterate life, and in the context of Africa, the most vulnerable, and those least responsible for this problem.

Vishwas Satgar 36:47

Now, it's in this context, I'd like to just maybe say a few words around climate justice and Black Lives, and just sort of just maybe quickly draw some parallels. So we've been living through the worst drought in our history in South Africa, since circa 2014. And in that context, you know, we've deployed subaltern analysis to try and understand what's happened here. And subaltern analysis for us is about looking at class, and class helps us to look vertically: who's ruling and what are they doing, what are the powerful forces doing? So we connected the dots, and at one point in time, it was Obama. And then it was Trump, cranking up, sort of, fossil-fuel extraction and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 37:33

But it also gets you to look below, and in the South African context it's really about the disproportionate impacts on workers and the poor, and so on. Now, we also have experienced some of the worst cyclonic activity in southern Africa over the past five years. We've had Cyclone Idai and Kenneth -- over 3 million people impacted in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, and so on. And it has had devastating consequences, mainly for women and children. And the recovery, there is still, if you like, very, very slow, and it may not happen. So what we are seeing is, if you like, climate destruction and collapse, and it's not given that there's going to be a rebuilding that comes out of all of this. And again, you see climate injustice registered in the disproportionate impacts that we've experienced.

Vishwas Satgar 38:30

But in the midst of all of this, we've seen a third cycle of resistance: what we call One Degree Celsius movements. The Climate Justice Charter movement started out of this drought, but alongside Standing Rock in the United States, extinction, rebellion, Fridays for Future. And this is the third cycle of resistance, which for us is very, very important. In parallel to this, of course, is Hurricane Katrina and, you know, the kind of revelation that comes out there. And Malini did a very interesting kind of perspective on a very local racialized community in Washington. But Katrina, for us, looking from the outside in also revealed, if you like the continuities of a racialized order in the United States, and again, subaltern analysis was very important to connect us all up. And we... and you know, locating Katrina locating, if you like, climate justice resistance has been very, very important for us. But there is a question given Black Lives Matters' emergence after this and in the wake of this, and the Sunrise Movement about whether these things are converging. And I'll just come back to say something about that quickly.

Vishwas Satgar 39:46

Emancipatory futures for us and I think this this Duboisian dialectic is very, very important that Melanie mentioned, it's not just about the negative, it is also about the positive. And in the context of it activism and the frontiers of activism in South Africa, the people's food sovereignty campaign has been very much about imagining a different kind of food system.

Vishwas Satgar 40:09

Now what you have on your screen is what is called the People's Food Sovereignty Act, which we took to our parliament in 2018. In the midst of our drought, where we had a process of trying to work out what kind of food system do we want, that's different from the carbon-controlled globalized industrial food system. And we grappled with all the basic elements of that -- from soil, to production to consumption, the role of the state, etc. And we produced what is called the People's Food Sovereignty Act. And it's not about a state-centric vision of a food system. It's about a food system that's constructed by from below, it's what we would call a democratic systemic reform. And this is about building that "new" in interstitial spaces in spaces outside of, if you like, accumulation, and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 41:00

Alongside this is the Climate Justice Charter Document. And I'm not really going to go into it. But just to say, that alongside the People's Food Sovereignty Act, we began to realize over the past few years, that we really need a compass, we need another vision, we need another way forward beyond the kind of carbon capitalism that we have in South Africa. And hence, imagining and envisaging a different kind of future took root. And we set up a methodology of, if you like, affirming that the subaltern can think, that the subaltern has answers, if you like, for great-scale transformation. And this is what the Climate Justice Charter is about. It's affirming that tacit knowledge, so you're not going to read it and find the ideal academic definition of climate justice. But what you are going to find are perspectives on frontline movements that are fighting against extractivism, the Life after Coal campaign in South Africa, that are fighting on the on the frontlines of water struggles in South Africa, that are fighting at the frontlines of, if you like, gender-based violence in South Africa, and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 42:09

Just to highlight one thing, there's a principle in the Climate Justice Charter, decolonization, and that's a very, very important principle. And it came from, again, those conversations, even with students and scholars in South Africa. And the idea of deep colonization is very, very important in the context of the deep just transition that we want. We don't want to reproduce America. We don't want to reproduce the imperial ecocide of America. And this is the challenge the liberal Biden administration in the context of the climate crisis: Is America going to let us choose the society that we want? We don't want the high-carbon footprints, we don't want the high ecological footprints of American society, which is some of the highest in the world. This, for us, is the materiality of decolonization in the South African context. We want to be able to validate, and de-link on our terms so that we can survive. And this is a very, very important idea for us in the context of, if you like, the global geopolitics of climate justice today.

Vishwas Satgar 43:15

And then very quickly, just to say something about strategic disruption. Now we've seen a lot of, if you like, symbolic disruption happen in this cycle of resistance: Fridays for Future, Greta Thunberg -- all very, very important -- ringing the bell loud on climate science, and its urgency, etc. And we fully support that. We've also seen tactical disruption. You've seen in the Niger Delta women stand up against Shell Corporation over decades, and push it back, ok. You've seen this also in places like Ecuador and so on. But there's also space for strategic disruption. And strategic disruption for us is about the abolition of the ecocide of capitalism. Because if we do not get rid of it, we are in its endgame -- it's going to end all of us. It's as simple as that. Okay.

Vishwas Satgar 44:08

Now, in the South African context, the end of the struggle against apartheid was an abolitionist struggle. It was about ending the most heinous racist regime that we've had, if you like, in our planetary existence. Now, that struggle, by the way, made major breakthroughs and gains. And in 1994, as I said, we had our democratic breakthrough. We have a wonderful constitution and the "rulers" were about humanizing the dominant system, in other words, de-racializing capitalism. And really, it hasn't succeeded. We have one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of income distribution, over 40% of our population below the poverty line, and epidemiological neoliberalism, if you likem in the context of COVID-19 has revealed the hard underbelly of African reality.

Vishwas Satgar 45:05

Now, this is a black government that has been in power for over 20 years. And it really disrupts some of how we start thinking about nationalism, particularly, and liberal nationalism. And in the end, we have a very fraught society, a very polarized society in many ways. We are seeing xenophobia coming to the fore -- exclusionary African and exclusionary white nationalism -- and and these are all part of a carbon-based capitalism. And the strategic question we are grappling in this context is: What is required for a deep just transition to sustain life, ok? How can we move beyond this? And this is where we are talking about a political project, the Climate Justice Project: it's about science, it's about the Climate Justice Charter, it's about policies, it's about just transition building from below, food sovereignty pathways, a universal basic income grant -- these are all existing struggles right now on the frontiers in South Africa.

Vishwas Satgar 46:06

But this has a very interesting parallel, if you like, in the in the U.S. context. So you know, we had over 100 years of modern nationalism, trying to abolish apartheid in South Africa. From the American Civil War up until the mid-60s, you had a very, very important struggle. But after that struggle and its victories in the mid-60s, what happened? And it's the question we are grappling with, as well: What happened in the post-apartheid period? So it seems that there was an incorporation of the few in the U.S. context, it seems that there's been securitization, exclusion and incarceration for the many. And so the racial divide was not really fully resolved in that context, like it is in South Africa today.

Vishwas Satgar 46:52

So there's some very, very interesting parallels here and what that means, and I think, again, coming back to the question of the convergence between Black Lives Matter and climate justice forces. Because for us, that's the frontier in which radical non-racialism has to come together. That is to be the glue that builds the bridges, if you like, for the kinds of resistance we need for a new political project, grounded in a resistance to eco-fascism. Building the systemic alternatives that displace carbon lock-ins and build the new systems, if you like, emancipatory futures pathways in our everyday lives: food systems that can feed us, water commoning that we can control, and so on. And, of course, embracing and constituting forms of power that we create.

Vishwas Satgar 47:45

If we build food sovereignty systems, we control our food system. That became very, very clear during COVID-19 for us. We went into COVID-19 with 14 million people hungry. We are now at about 30 million people food stressed. We also know in the American context, hunger has gone up, again, revealing that a corporate controlled food system is not where the answers lie. So, ultimately, I think my message here today is that radical, non-racial unity, together with struggles against other forms of oppression, is how we see the challenge. Thank you for your time.

Kian Goh 48:28

Thank you. Thank you, Vish. And, Jenny, do you have anything to say? Or should I? Should I move forward? Sure.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 48:39

Why don't you go ahead and ask a couple questions. I have questions also from the students, which I will text you.

Kian Goh 48:46

Okay. Perfect. So welcome, everyone. It's a real pleasure to be here. My name is Kian Goh, and I'm an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA. So a dear friend and colleague with Jennifer. And thank you so much to Vishwas, and to Melani for your presentations, I think together they put forth a totally critical range of issues and sites that we all need to be thinking of right now.

Kian Goh 49:22

So I'll just... my work. I've been studying the the spatial politics of urban climate change responses. And I've been studying a variety of sites primarily in the U.S. So in New York, post-Hurricane Sandy, in Jakarta, Indonesia, a city that confronts chronic flooding, and tracing the flows of ideas and influence among these sites with other places, such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, often cited as a kind of model for climate adaptation primarily. And so what strikes me as really the top-line issue of importance here is how we look, I apologize, there will be some sounds from the background, how we look from the transnational interconnected nature of things that clearly we must when we look when we're trying to understand climate change and climate struggles, and the very place-based and historically specific nature of how inequalities are produced in different places.

Kian Goh 50:47

So, for instance, so both Malini and Vishwas talk from particular places, and in fact, Vishwas, you started by saying where you are situated. That it's really important that you're speaking from South Africa, and you're conducting analysis from South Africa. And Malini your points about particular neighborhoods, wardsm in D.C. and the difference in of how particular inequalities are constituted in those places, was like, totally, totally critical to how you understand the whole problem.

Kian Goh 51:30

And so, for me, the main question is, how do we, how do we balance these two things? So I'll say a few things about what what I thought was so gripping and then pose just one question, I think, because I love to foreground the questions for the students. So the first is, if we think that place-based, historically specific context matters, then what are the modes of organizing do we have to do in order to make these relationships between places like South Africa, or even, you know, other countries of the Global South that are not and that don't admit as much as South Africa might, and places like D.C., where the struggles are so real, but they are contained within a nation-state structure that is continuing to be, you know, the leading, or at least like, [among[the top-three leading global global carbon emitters in the in the world? So Vish, you said, quote, "America going to let us choose the society we want if we had these ideas of a radically decarbonized future?"

Kian Goh 52:57

Historically, that answer has been no. Whenever alternatives primarily in South America and other places have come up, alternative societies that do not conform to the kinds of liberal capitalist state that our government would like to see everywhere, they've been snuffed out in so many ways. And so how do we... that continues to be a problem, even in our better-case scenario today than last week? So ... how do you how do we conduct those modes of organizing to get us to a place where where climate justice struggles in the U.S. don't continue to have deleterious effects in other places?

Kian Goh 53:50

And then that my second broad question is, really, what are the kinds of methods that that scholars who want to work with activists on the ground and feel it's entirely necessary to work with and for activists on the ground, how do we do our work? So Malini, I know that for you, and for Eve, you mentioned your collaboration with Eve Pratman, it was based on very fine-grain collaborations with residents and with activists who understand their own histories, their own daily lives, in order to really place their struggles within this broader context of climate struggles and urban development and urban resilience. Are those the kinds of methods that we have to continue doing and then in that case, how do, you knowm I don't want to say scale up? Because I think scaling up is a kind of presumes one particular way to do this. But how do we build a more mass movement if each of our moments of knowledge production have to be so embedded and so local? Like, are we envisioning a kind of global transnational, co-productive movement of very localized collaborations between scholars and activists?

Kian Goh 55:34

It sounds amazing to me, but also, like, a pretty big hurdle. So what are the kinds of methods -- both the kinds of actions we take on the ground to understand struggles in place, and more broadly, our ways of knowing and aligning them across the disparate power relationships, not only in our cities, but across continents? So those those are my, my mainmain observations? Maybe one concrete question. What do you think, either of you, are some some concrete modes of organizing and movement building that you see that could help us move beyond some of the some of these gaps, both in terms of knowledge production and in terms of scale? Yeah, I'll stop there for now.

Malini Ranganathan 56:46

Well, thank you for those observations. I think, for me, implied in your set of comments and questions, is an overarching question about how we move from the particular to the general, right. How we how we sort of connect the the observations and the embeddedness of particular research programs that are situated in place, whether it's South Africa or Washington, D.C., with a kind of global solidarity building -- particularly when sometimes we're speaking from so-called centers of power. And I think here the issue of really recognizing that there are global sounds within the Global North, and that there's a real reckoning with the fact that you know, what Black radicals talked about 60 years ago, of the sort of internally colonial nature of some of the places that we that we speak from, right.

Malini Ranganathan 57:40

And so for me, DC is very emblematic of what Black radicals were talking about in the '60s, black Marxists, about the internal economic colonial nature of the United States. And then and then those types -- and we haven't seen the types of civil rights, anti-colonial struggles that we saw in the 1960s -- we haven't seen them since. So there is this kind of return to thinking across the color line. I love the way that Vish talked about that, drawing from Dubois' work` with the global color line, I think we're really in a moment of return to some of the narratives from the 1960s, which sought to connect, quote, unquote "third-world" peoples within empires right within so-called democratized countries, with those that were still colonized. And I think that sort of general impulse is something that we're seeing a kind of resurgence of today. And that gives me a sort of hope and inspiration, I think. I didn't see, at least when I was when I was growing up, you know, throughout the '90s and early 2000s, there was a sort of end of history triumphalism and there was not the sense of solidarity.

Malini Ranganathan 58:49

So first of all, I think it's not sort of how do we do... I think it's already happening, Kian. We're thinking here, how do we build solidarity? I think they're really happening. And I've seen them already happen, you know, just connecting, for instance, Black Lives Matter to Dalit Lives Matter in India to other types of, you know, re-humanizing impulses that are going on. And for me, seeing those articulations happen in different places, not necessarily the exact same way, right -- ao so even the concept of environmental justice, climate justice, environmental racism, abolition look different from the standpoint of India than they do from D.C. -- but necessarily, when you're speaking about a particular place, you're speaking with that comparative impulse. So even though Vish is speaking from South Africa, and in my comments is speaking from D.C., it is a comparative move to then to then speak from, right? Because you're necessarily connecting, I think. So I mean, I'll just start there, because I think I saw that sort of urgency of trying to connect the particular with the general in your comments, but I think it really is happening already and it's up to scholars to sort of follow that lead.

Malini Ranganathan 59:56

If I can just make rhree quick points. I mean, just to go back to the kind of defeat of Pan Africanism, actually, in the African context. It's a very, very important for us to register this in this conversation. And actually, it was defeated in the context of a hegemonic U.S. after World War Two, which, you know, was partly responding to the rising civil rights movement and therefore pushed the decolonizing agenda, ironically, largely because of domestic pressure. But that decolonizing agenda really wasn't about transformation in the world. So the U.S. turned its back on French and British and other empires. But in the, in the African context, the kind of radical impulses of Pan Africanism, whether it was African socialism, whether it was African scientific socialism, etc., was physically destroyed. Okay, so you had coups, Kwame Nkrumah, you had assassinations, Patrice Lumumba, etc. And as the kind of Cold War unfolded in the 20th century, we became a major battleground in southern Africa.

Vishwas Satgar 1:01:10

Angola became a crucial frontline of the Cold War. I mean, Reagan, you know, kicked in everything into Angola, ok? So, Pan Africanism was largely defeated in the African context and the U.S. played a very important role in defeating Pan Africanism. And I think it's very, very important just to underline that. And I think part of the kind of, if you like, academic project, has to also recover a critical historiography of these moments in history. We've got to learn from the past, we're not starting from scratch. And I think this is why for us in the South African context today, as we are building and thinking about a different kind of society, we are asking ourselves, well, will imperium allow us to survive, ok? This is a very fundamental question. And it's it is grounded in the history of emancipation and liberation in Africa.

Vishwas Satgar 1:02:07

The second point I'll make is about movements. And so I really think that we've gone beyond the shape of "think global, act local." And that this idea that, you know, crowd politics is enough to kind of unite us, you know, sort of the global assembly and things like that. All very important. Actually, we don't have a climate justice movement that is that is institutionalized at a global scale. We don't have it. You have versions of extinction rebellion, you have versions of Fridays for Future, they land everywhere, they translate everywhere, etc, etc. We don't have a global climate justice movement, it meets alongside the cop summits and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 1:02:56

So we are actually at the frontier of rethinking internationalism again, and this is very, very important for us, I think. And, and, you know, yeah, the literature's around movement building and social movement literature and so on. I mean, what I know of the American literature on this, it really doesn't help us around thinking beyond kind of resource-based theories on movements, etc. We're really at a different frontier here, around internationalism and movement building. And so we need a kind of different research agenda. And the politics that's coming out in these kinds of movements are profoundly transformative. They do not fit into the kind of political categorizations that we have in political science or social movement theory, etc.

Vishwas Satgar 1:03:42

The last point I'll make is that I really do think we need a different theory of capitalism today. And this is a very important challenge for critical social theory, for radical social theory. We are actually dealing with a capitalism and I have been alluding to it, ecocide, I've been using that concept. Capitalism today is destroying our life world. And the evidence is there and I'm not being hysterical about this. You can look at the IPCC reports, you can look at the International Panel on Biodiversity and System Services. I mean, there's there's a plethora of international studies alluding to, if you like, a flashing light of destruction on a planetary scale.

Vishwas Satgar 1:04:28

So I think the theory of capitalism that captures this dynamic is very, very important. And I think this is where a kind of organic knowledge of activism, but also the hard-edged theorizing of the academy, the radical academy, becomes important. Thank you.

Vishwas Satgar 1:04:44

Thank you. Thank you, both of you. So I'll show you one follow up comment. Malini, I think you are correct, that there are emerging solidarities that are new and, I think conductive, there are things that we would like to see and we would like to understand more. And still, one of the things that worries me is when we see the structure of American cities and the structure of the American nation state, we fight for almost radical redistribution of investments in places like Ward Seven in D.C. or in some of the sites I've looked at in places like Red Hook and Brooklyn, and yet do hardly anything to the ways in which the U.S. and other countries alongside the U.S., continue to dominate both the factors of climate change, the actual emissions, but also the structures through which those factors are unequal and increasing. So certainly touching in connection to what Vish just said, yeah, a rethinking of capitalism more broadly and, as well, I think a really useful reminder about where the climate justice movement is globally at the moment. So like I offhand, talk about like a global climate justice movement, but perhaps we should also recognize where such a movement is limited to... its own institutional limitations at the moment, if only, you know, alongside the COC meetings.

Kian Goh 1:06:47

So thank you. And let's turn to some questions from from the the viewers. So I have one ... thatJenny has sent to me. So for Vish: you state in your article in the climate crisis that Donald Trump expanded the fossil fuel pipeline, pipeline development, such as the Keystone XL, rolled back Obama's climate modest, Clean Power Plan, weakened the EPA and withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement. And this is the question: Even in the Obama administration, the modest interventions that were implemented didn't have the support of the ruling class. So how do you think the current President Joe Biden's administration will tackle these issues, not only enacting the policies, but implementing them within a nation where the ruling class still does not, by and large, support green alternatives, at a time when these actions are even more crucial than in the years of the Obama administration?

Vishwas Satgar 1:08:09

Thank you. Can you hear me? Yes. Ok, great. Thank you for that question. Excellent question. I mean, I think it's very important for us to situate this moment in history. And there's different social thinkers that can help us do this. I mean, Karl Polanyi, and his work on The Great Transformation is very, very important in this conversation. And, you know, Polyani wrote his text in 1944, okay, after World War Two, and he was ringing the alarm bell about unleashing marketization in the late 19th century, which which gave us World War One. And then of course, in the interwar years, where the gold standard was reinstated, and it was kind of humdrum free marketeering, etc, etc. And it ended up in World War Two. We have the Great Depression in between all of that.

Vishwas Satgar 1:09:06

Now, that's one way of thinking about this moment of history. There's an historical analog here. But I actually think that there's something more complex about this historical moment and, you know, marketization is part of it. They've been four big crises of capitalism over the past 150 years: the late 19th century, the interwar years, in the early '70s, and now, circa if you, like 2007. But each crisis has to be understood on its own terms. Each crisis has its own specificities and its own dynamics.

Vishwas Satgar 1:09:39

The current crisis that we are living through is actually deeply systemic, on the one hand. So you've got the climate problem, you've got resource peaks, you've got hunger, you've got the hollowing out of democracy, but you also have a crisis of a political project. So neoliberalism is becoming more and more authoritarian because it cannot govern the unequal, if you like, and so on. So you have a very deep and profound crisis at this point in time. And I think it's very, very important for us to keep this in mind. It's a civilizational crisis. It is unprecedented in history.

Vishwas Satgar 1:10:16

Now to come to the specifics of your question. This is the this is the scale of the challenge, even to the Biden administration. Now, within the American ruling classes, there's been a divide and Trump has accentuated that divide. Before Trump, Biden and Obama, kind of, you know, continued the kind of neoliberal project from Clinton, going back to Reagan, etc., and accelerated financialization of American society, if you like carbon, and so on and so on. Biden was part of that project, but there's been something intervening between all of that. The first has been the horror of Trump's plutocratic neo-fascism, which I think has shaken up, if you like, the liberal faction of the ruling class in the United States.

Vishwas Satgar 1:11:07

I think the second thing that has happened is real climate shocks inside the United States. I mean, it's tragic, when we all look at what's happening on the planet. We're seeing the wildfires in California, we've seen the hurricanes devastating the United States, we've seen flooding in the United States, etc. Nobody can ignore that the climate science is very, very serious right now, around the urgency, the 2018 IPCC report, but subsequent studies, we're entering the sixth cycle of reporting. And right now the climate models that people are working with are showing greater urgency for action. So I think... And then lastly, I think the fact that a group of activists in your society, the Sunrise Movement, I think, eco-socialists inside the Democratic Party like Bernie Sanders, AOC, etc. All of these factors have impacted, in my view from where I'm sitting, on how Biden has to grapple with this historical moment.

Vishwas Satgar 1:12:08

Now, I really think that if, and this is going to be a very, very serious test. I mean, it's not just a question of reacting to Trump. It's a question of whether a political project can come to the fore that can provide answers to these deep systemic crises, this crisis of civilization. And I think there, the jury's out. I mean, there's a good start with the, you know, rewinding, if you like, what you're erasing some of the damage with executive orders, etc. And, of course, you face the big challenge of COVID destruction and harm in the United States. But the big picture thinking still has to reveal itself. The big propositions, the big policy agendas, I think still has to come to the fore. And I think we all are hopeful that it'll open space, hopefully, on a planetary scale.

Vishwas Satgar 1:13:02

Thank you. Vish. So we have another question for Melani. This, I believe, it's also a student question. So in order to re-imagine resilience or, following your critique of resiliance, Malini, you suggest that we shift our focus from understanding the various factors that produce and reinforce harms, instead of blaming individuals, yes, societal expectations. Thus, we must adopt an abolitionist practice to achieve environmental justice and equity. So if state development programs are harmful, like the single-family housing programs, for instance, can we go around working with the state to achieve justice, even though all of our policies, or at least many of our policies, have been deeply rooted in injustice as produced by the nation state? And if so, how?

Jennifer Jihye Chun 1:14:07

So if I'm understanding that question correctly, it's it's basically asking for, how do we think about the role of the state in bringing about abolition, when in fact, the state has been so complicit in the kind of infrastructures of violence that I spoke about and also in the ways in which, you know, resilience itself has been used as a sort of technocratic planning tool for accumulation in which consultants are deployed, etc., and and and people aren't actually benefiting? So how is how is the state to be thought of as a partner here, when in fact, it's it's so much the source of harm? And I think that's a really really pertinent question.

Malini Ranganathan 1:14:59

So here'swhere I think, again, right, people coming at this from very different vantages, with very different activist agendas, are recognizing the state is not a unitary actor, and therefore, what are the leverage points within the state? Right? What are the places of maneuver within the state that enable a more kind of radical approach to change? Right, so even thinking about, sort ofm the arms of the state the deal with housing, it turns out that a particular arm of the state that tries to ensure tenant protections, such as the arm of the state that advanced that Tenant Ppportunity to Purchase Act in D.C., is actually you know, very, very pro de-commodifying housing and taking it out of the market so that it can be accessed by people who, you know, who are marginalized. And so I think, for me, I'll just leave it at that sort of answer, which was we cannot think of the state as homogenous.

Malini Ranganathan 1:14:59

I think that one of the things that I keep coming back to again and again, when I think about the state is how, you know, how richly theorized the state has been in post-colonial literature, especially literature in anthropology on the post-colonial state, because one of the major takeaways is that the state is not a unitary actor. Right. It's a highly heterogeneous, highly internally contentious, internally contradictory actor. And in fact, abolitionists have also recognized this.

Vishwas Satgar 1:16:30

Thank you. Thank you, Malini. And actually, maybe a follow up to that, because because of your work in different settings, thinking about your work in South Asia? So we have a question from Kimberly Thomas. So given your work in places like India, can you help us see how an abolitionist approach might also be applied to those contexts?

Jennifer Jihye Chun 1:16:55

Yeah, I think this is this is a really, really important question. And thank you, Kimberly, for that, because it's the one that I think I'm grappling most with. In terms of, you know, as you said, there's been emergent ways in which solidarity building has happened, right. And certainly, it's not a cohesive movement. But I think we have to think about this historically and theoretically, right. So when you look at it from the vantage of Marxist history, or whether you look at it from the vantage of Foucault's political genealogy, or from the vantage of post-colonial theory, I think it's clear that the birth of prisons and the police has always had a very comfortable relationship to the expansion of liberal capitalism and liberal imperialism, right? That's a really important starting point for thinking about abolition more globally. Right. So in particular, if you read the work of Marxist historians, right, like Peter Linebaugh, you will see that policing and prisons are necessary to the privatization of land, right, and to the institution of private property.

Malini Ranganathan 1:17:58

So if you start there, right, if you start from that really important starting place, then you see that notions of criminality, right, who is a criminal, right, is a really, really sort of shifting social construct that is deployed in the service of capital accumulation, in the service of protecting property. And so then you start to see, well, even in places like India, where abolition per se is not the rubric through which people are articulating right problems with criminalization, nevertheless there is a movement against the criminalizing of the poor, the criminalizing of queer groups, the criminalizing of sex workers, the criminalizing of the urban informals.

Malini Ranganathan 1:18:44

And so for me, there is a really important abolitionist impulse embedded in the pushback against how we define criminalization, you know, particularly now with the Hindu nationalist state, the criminalization of Muslims and of lower caste groups, is really something that we're seeing. And that's really the strong arm of the police, which of course, comes from the strong arm of the colonial police state that is imputed there. So for me, I think that's a really important place to start to thinking about abolition more transnationally.

Kian Goh 1:19:16

Thank you, Malini. So we have another question for Vish. So this is from Taylor Wicklund, who is a Ph.D. candidate in urban planning here. So this plan and approach to climate justice and food sovereignty that you've talked about seems very compelling. However, it also seems very modern, in its modes of rational analysis, universality, human centrism/ supremacy and basis in quantitative science. So to put you into conversation with scholars on modernity or coloniality, who have argued that modern epistemologies and ontologies are inherently colonial. Have you considered approaches or strategies which would deliberately engage more diverse, "more than modern" ways of knowing and theories of reality?

Malini Ranganathan 1:20:24

That's an excellent question. I just want to start off first by again locating Marxism in this conversation. Because it's very, very important for us to kind of, if you like, understand that, that Marxism as it's traveled in the 20th century, and in struggles and so on, has been indigenized. But more than that, it has actually challenged us even the epistemological moment of racism in Marx. And that was a very brief moment, you know, where he was waxing lyrical about the expansion of capitalism and how good it is, etc., etc. And beyond 1852, Marx becomes much more careful in how he's thinking about colonialism and its deleterious impacts and the expansion of capitalism on a global scale. There's increasing evidence about how he rethought his whole framework, if you like. So I just want to I just want to pop that point because it's very, very important.

Vishwas Satgar 1:21:32

But deriving from that, which is also important. I think what Marxism does give us is this idea of universals from the subaltern and this is important: the exploited subaltern but not just the worker, the industrial white worker, okay. A Marxism that is not class reductionist can appreciate universals from the subaltern more generally -- fighting oppressions -- and I think this is this is also important to park in the conversation. This brings me then to the kind of decolonial critique because I do think it's very, very important. And I do think that the idea of, if you like, pluri-epistemologies is very, very important, and other ways of knowing, other ways of being and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 1:22:25

And the idea of pluriversality is important because here you can affirm, it's my clumsy way of saying many universals, okay. And allowing different kinds of knowledge to contest and engage, etc. Now, in the South African context, in the way we are engaging in our activism and how we are doing, including in the Democratic Marxism series, the Democratic Marxism series is in dialogue with other bodies of knowledge. It doesn't start from the premise that Marxism has all the ideas, it's not that dogmatic and closed. So if you engage with that body of work, you will find us in conversation with anarchists. You'll find us in conversation, including we had occupy activists, right, in Volume Two, by the way, we were engaged in dialogue with anti-racist activists that are not Marxist, anti-cost activists, etc.

Vishwas Satgar 1:23:29

And I think this is very, very important for where I'm, if you like, located in terms of a knowledge project in the 21st century. It's very important to appreciate the radicalisms, the anti-capitalism's and, if you like, the epistemologies of other subaltern forces, and to respect that and to work with it. In the context of food sovereignty campaigning, as you know, I mean, La Via Campesina is the largest planetary movement, over 200 million members, peasant-based, small-scale family farming, etc. I mean, in its whole approach to knowledge, particularly agro-ecology is really, if you like, decolonial, okay. It's retrieving and it's recovering indigenous knowledge as a science, as a people science.

Vishwas Satgar 1:24:19

That's exactly what we are also doing in the South African context. We are asking the question, well, what kind of agriculture we had before colonial capitalism in South Africa? How did African communities, because they were for 2,000 years engaged in agriculture in South Africa. And so we want to retrieve some of that. There's indigenous knowledge there that's very, very important for our activism. Retrieving that archive, retrieving that knowledge is very, very crucial. So yeah, I mean, I personally believe that the decolonial option is an option that we should definitely take seriously. We should engage with it. But at the same time, and this is why I'm critical of the Latin American school, we shouldn't disavow, if you like, post-Eurocentric Marxisms that have grown up in the Global South. Thanks.

Vishwas Satgar 1:25:15

Thank you. So we are essentially out of time. And I want to give the final words to our two speakers. I do want to point out that there's a really interesting set of questions in the Q&A right now. And I won't, I won't ask you to answer this. But just to note that the questions are about the possibility of solidarity economies, questions about whether democratic eco-socialism can only happen in the absence of capitalism, questions about the possibility of approaching climate justice as a procedural rather than a distributional question? And also, the time sensitive issue that I think we're also aware of: How do we work for climate, towards climate justice, when even some of the more modest propositions that we've seen now are taken as so provocative? So these are some of the things that are in the chat. And I'm sorry that we won't be able to get to them. But I would like to give Melanie and Vish both of you some final thoughts for the students or for the attendees broadly.

Malini Ranganathan 1:26:44

Yeah, thanks. I think one of the things that themes that's really emerging for me here is something that Vish says about re-thinking internationalism, and what that would look like. I've been staying with that for a while since he said that and trying to think about, you know, to what extent did the models of the past serve us right now? And to what extent do they not? And therefore, then, what are the patterns, the emerging patterns in the solidarity economy, as the question rightly pointed out, as even Eric Shepard pointed out about distributive justice, right? What is the process by which we engage people with, you know, non-traditional, non-mainstream epistemologies? Right? And I think there's something really there, there's a kernel right there, which is the sort of the beginnings of an answer for what a new internationalism would look like, right?

Malini Ranganathan 1:27:32

A new internationalism wouldn't rely on the tropes and inherited theories and paradigms of the of the past solely, right, it would kind of re-envision and make theory as we're building those solidarities, right, in a perhaps a typical way. So I think I'm staying with that and I"m going to, that's going stay with me for a while, and, you know, thank you for all the excellent questions that we didn't get to, but I think they're all part of this notion of sort of rethinking that the process of solidarity building, thank you.

Kian Goh 1:28:01

Thank you, Vish.

Malini Ranganathan 1:28:06

Yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, theory and theorizing can also be an obstacle to building strategic unity. Uh, you know, one of the dominant sort of concepts in the U.S. context is intersectionality, right, going back to the Combahee River Collective, and made, you know, famous by Kimberly, Crenshaw, etc. And that discourse lands differently in different parts of the world. In the South African context, we have a history of theorizing our oppressions, and multiple oppressions, and so on.

Vishwas Satgar 1:28:49

And I think for me, the challenge is to revisit and rekindle -- and that's what the intellectual project I've been engaged in is all about -- is to rekindle those radical traditions and to refine those resources, but not in a way that is, if you like, against other radical ideas. So I really think that as we move forward, we must keep this in mind, that there are other ways of conceptually and analytically thinking through the problem in different parts of the world. They are different inheritances, intellectual resources that are there, they are critical ones, critical social theory, etc. And we've got to find ways of building bridges and learning from each other. And I think in that way, we can overcome the intellectual barriers, but also find ourselves at the common intellectual barricade.

Kian Goh 1:29:45

Thank you.

Jennifer Jihye Chun 1:29:51

Thank you so much. This has been an incredibly stimulating and really insightful conversation. I think many of us are pushed not only to really specify and understand the particularities of our moment and the kind of civilizational crisis, Vish, that you outlined, but also to pose some really urgent alternatives. And to remember that, you know, we can't sort of turn our heads and we have to tackle this problem together, and with creativity and thinking about our past and thinking about our collective futures. So thank you again. I want to just briefly close by saying our next webinar for the Black Eives Matter Global Perspective Series, "From Ethnography to Ethnographic: Representing the Work of the Police," with speaker Didier Fassin and discussant Asli Bali and Aomar Boum, will take place this upcoming Friday, so be sure to register. And again, please join me in thanking Vishwas Satgar, Malini Ranganathan and Kian Goh for this really fabulous conversation. Thank you.

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Download file: 3)-Global-Perspective-series-(2)-b0-jtv.pdf

Sponsor(s): UCLA International Institute, African Studies Center, Geography, Political Science, Urban Planning, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

22 Jan 21
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

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