One of the appeals of imagining a future alternative to the political present is the possibility of shedding modernity’s constitutive colonial assemblages and its conceit of the inevitability of human progress. Yet it remains something of a paradox that even at their most radical, such imaginaries are premised on that which is already intelligible and draw on standing models of social organization and political association in putting forward claims for an alternative future. This essay examines black Marxists thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, C. L. R. James, Aimé Césaire, Walter Rodney, and Amílcar Cabral as representing a strain of black Marxist thought pursuing what the author calls the politically unimaginable—a mode of thought and orientation that pursues forms of political association for which one lacks the historical models and even the theoretical language to fully conceptualize what one hopes to bring into existence.
The Politically Unimaginable in Black Marxist Thought
Minkah Makalani is an associate professor of African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917–1939 (2011) and the coeditor (with Davarian Baldwin) of Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem (2013). He is currently working on a study of C. L. R. James’s return to Trinidad in 1958–62.