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Re-Aggregating the “Radical,” the “Terrorist,” and the “Extremist:” Centering Political and Racial Convergences in American Terrorcraft
Scholars such as Deepa Kumar have done crucial work in illustrating how the demands of empire have rendered the figure of the Arab and the South Asian inextricable from the ideological construct of the “terrorist” in the post 9/11 moment. Kumar refers to this process as Terrorcraft. Yet “terrorist/terrorism,” genealogically linked to “radical/radicalism” and “extreme/extremist,” has a longer history of being used to discipline and silence racialized peoples and liberation movements. Indeed, “terrorism” and “radicalism” have also been recurring charges deployed against proponents of the Black freedom struggle. Convergences in the racialized targeting of Black and Arab activists as “radicals” or “terrorists” have historically nucleated around Communism, the fight against white supremacy, and the Palestinian liberation struggle. By way of a process I am currently terming “re-aggregating,” this paper therefore reads several key instances of convergence of racialized political repression of Black and Arab activism and organizing to explore the potential political and analytical gains in understanding Terrorcraft as a consolidating process informed by comparisons, juxtapositions, and slippages rather than exceptionalization alone. By analyzing examples such as the joint use of Cold War legislation to target Black and Palestinian activists, the co-presence of anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian surveillance campaigns during the government’s COINTELPRO programs targeting Black activist organizations, as well as the multifarious racial targeting made possible under dangerously broad rubrics such as “hate” or “extremism” promoted by law enforcement agencies and parastatal organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, this paper argues that sustained attention to convergences in racialized political repression can in turn allow for greater understanding of how the notion of the charges of “radicalism,” “terrorism” and “extremism” are deployed to sabotage liberationist movements.
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