Whereas Karl Marx saw the Lumpenproletariat as lacking class consciousness and doubted that it could help advance the struggle for revolutionary freedom, Frantz Fanon identified a uniquely subversive potential in this group of dispossessed agents. This article revisits the question of the Lumpenproletariat in our current moment of global capital. It takes up Zoe Leonard’s Analogue series (2007) and focuses on a sequence of photographs within it that represent the transnational traffic in used clothing— a circuit that links Shenzhen to Brooklyn to Kampala. With a close analysis of Leonard’s photographs, the article argues that this American–African economy works two effects. As a commodity dump, it factors into the ruin of Ugandan textile traditions. Yet as consumers select their wares from the jumbled mass of castoffs, they fashion new styles and invent new meanings.
Research Article|November 01 2013
Reading the Lumpenproletariat: Zoe Leonard’s Kampala Photographs
Charity Scribner is a Mellon resident fellow at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Her publications include Requiem for Communism (2003), Beyond Militancy (2014), and articles for Critical Inquiry, New Left Review, and Grey Room.
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Nka (2013) 2013 (33): 46-55.
Charity Scribner; Reading the Lumpenproletariat: Zoe Leonard’s Kampala Photographs. Nka 1 November 2013; 2013 (33): 46–55. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-2352803
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