Now available online through Duke University Press

This issue examines the entanglements and aftermaths of colonialism, Apartheid, and genocide in our moment of forced displacements, techno-surveillance, and global authoritarian ethno-nationalism.  The essays connect seemingly disparate legacies of racialized violence; they negotiate continuities and discontinuities between events and aftermaths; and they offer various openings for imagining the future, the un-thought, and the not-yet-imagined. 

Contributors to the issue include Vilashini Cooppan, Paul Gilroy, David Theo Goldberg, Marianne Hirsch, and Debarati Sanyal. Their essays examine the roles of both memory and critique in our understanding of political time. They ask how the legacies of slavery, empire, colonial extraction, and genocide continue to shape contemporary political contexts, and they turn to a range of historical and artistic archives in order to remember and imagine otherwise. In “Rhythm in the Force of Forces,” for example, Gilroy turns to anti-Apartheid jazz and Black Atlantic music as sites of resistance for our current moment. In his essay “Coding Time,” Goldberg analyses the conjunction of technology, security, and racism and develops an algorithmic ontology that parts ways with the posthuman. And in “Stateless Figures,” Hirsch finds possibilities for a counter-monumental form of memory in the work of contemporary women artists responding to the experience of statelessness.

A dispatch from Sudan by Elsadig Elsheik considers the aftermath of the popular uprising that deposed Omar Al-Bashir in 2018. Artistic interventions by Bouchra Khalili and Jane Taylor offer further, compelling perspectives on the questions addressed throughout the issue: the confluence of times, the task of critique, and the commitment to justice.

This issue of Critical Times is guest edited by Debarati Sanyal.

In the Midst | Blog

"In the Midst" conveys the difficulties of writing during critical times, and registers the importance of writing from within concrete, unfolding situations, of staying with the troubles of the moment, of thinking from particular grounds, and of allowing for responsive, experimental, and tentative interventions.


Freedom in Quarantine

Zairong Xiang / May 26, 2020

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. [Read More]

Politics of Life vs. Politics of Death

Zeynep Gambetti / May 19, 2020

Critics have recently begun to compare the Covid-19 crisis either to 9/11 or to the 2008 financial meltdown. This is highly misleading, in my view. The Covid-19 crisis is impossible to fully control by political fiat or to overcome by injecting money into the system. The sovereign right over life and death has been usurped by a virus, which is neither dead nor alive. Political decrees won’t be enough to stop the virus from killing, although they can slow down its spread. Nor are bailouts sufficient to revive economies devastated by the very lockdowns mandated by political authorities, since production lines cannot be reactivated without risking contamination. Perhaps for the first time since the dismantlement of the welfare state (et encore, since that was but a palliative that curbed the radicalization of working class demands), lawmaking and moneymaking pull in opposite directions. Political and economic imperatives have ceased to coincide: it’s either pandemic control or the economy. [Read More]

COVID-19: A Brake on the Desire for Fascism in Brazil

Cláudia Perrone and Rose Gurski / May 11, 2020

“I am here because I believe in you. You are here because you believe in Brazil. We won´t negotiate anything. What we want is action for Brazil …”

These words were spoken by Jair Messias Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, in the middle of his call for the end of the social isolation measures recommended by the World Health Organization as a means of containing the harmful impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Brazilian experts, the moment is worrying as the country approaches the peak of the transmission curve, with some 615 deaths in 24 hours—and this even without the disease’s having reached the most socially vulnerable members of the population. The event at which Bolsonaro spoke these words took place on April 19 and gathered a small group demanding the closure of congress and the army’s presence on the streets. [Read More]

Critical Times, a project of the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs, is a peer reviewed open access journal published by Duke University Press with the aim of foregrounding encounters between canonical critical theory and various traditions of critique emerging from other historical legacies, seeking to present the multiple forms that critical thought takes today.

Critical Times seeks to reflect on and facilitate the work of transnational intellectual networks that draw upon critical theory and political practice across various world regions. Calling into question hemispheric epistemologies in order to revitalize left critical thought for these times, the journal publishes essays, interviews, dialogues, dispatches, visual art, and various platforms for critical reflection, engaging with social and political theory, literature, philosophy, art criticism, and other fields within the humanities and social sciences.