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Avery F. Gordon’s The Hawthorn Archive: Letters from the Utopian Margins: A Roundtable

Fri, November 10, 10:00 to 11:45am, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Gold Coast, Concourse Level West Tower

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format


In August of 2017, Fordham University Press will release Avery Gordon’s long-awaited book The Hawthorn Archive: Letters form the Utopian Margins. Constituting an archive itself and in the tradition of her experimental classic Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, The Hawthorn Archive exceeds the genre of the scholarly monograph, assembling documents of fugitivity, photographs, correspondences between critics and artists, cultural analyses, and more. The Hawthorn Archive is an imaginary infrastructure that gathers the utopian histories and practices that exist in the margins of conventional understandings of utopia. Its contents are comprised of those who challenged the modern capitalist system but whose challenges have been obscured because they were not the vaunted subjects of canonical Marxism. They are the slaves that ran; the abolitionists who clung to the mantra “own nothing, own nothing, own nothing;” and the soldiers who deserted wars and their rationales.

In addition to introducing readers to images, documents, and correspondences, the book is the record of forms of political consciousness and modes of critical thought that point toward histories of people working to live on terms better than the ones that they received. Both an intervention into and a departure from canonical versions of utopia, The Hawthorn Archive does not take for granted the progressivism of utopian thought. Indeed, it rightly identifies the utopian as a site of contestation and exclusion, contestations over what is excluded in typical utopian calculations. Rather than render dissent into the exceptional achievement of a few or into the exclusive affair of the vanguard, The Hawthorn Archive argues that the seeds of dissent can be found in the past and the present as well as in the most overlooked social groups.

This roundtable speaks directly to this year's conference theme as Gordon's archive of marginalized utopias quite literally represents an attempt to assemble the "intellectual, political, historical, and social genealogies of critical and transformative thought and praxis." With Gordon herself as respondent, the panel brings together scholars who have large reputations where matters of racial capitalism, the histories of radical dissent, and archives of the alternative are concerned. They are also friends and colleagues who have had long engagements with Gordon and her generative work. Extending the spirit of The Hawthorn Archive, the roundtable convenes a conversation about the history and necessity of dissenting margins, a conversation that will surely become part of the ASA’s own archive of radical thought.

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