This essay explores how, when, and why questions regarding the state often seem to drop out of analytic view in scholarship on the African diaspora. I argue that focusing on modes of governmentality across empires clarifies how particular state projects have been imagined and developed transnationally. Specifically, I investigate how gender and sexual norms have been mobilized by states in ways that reproduce class hierarchies through the idea of culture. I demonstrate how links were conceptualized and institutionalized among the economy, family, and political participation for communities of African descent in the United States and the British West Indies at particular moments, and I show that these links became the basis for a culturalist discursive framework applied first to black family formation and more recently to violence. This discursive framework limits our ability to offer alternative explanations of the various kinds of violence that have emerged (epistemological and actually existing) among black folk here and there. Ultimately, I argue that the classed and gendered dimensions of state projects are entangled and that this entanglement is both reproduced by and reproduces culturalist-oriented scholarship, even in the face of much transformed ways of organizing global relatedness in economic and political spheres.
Skip Nav Destination
Deborah A. Thomas; The Violence of Diaspora: Governmentality, Class Cultures, and Circulations. Radical History Review 1 January 2009; 2009 (103): 83–104. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2008-032
Download citation file: