Fear of a Black Nation
Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal
In the 1960s, Montreal was a hotbed of radical politics that attracted Black and Caribbean figures such as C.L.R. James, Walter Rodney, Mariam Makeba, Stokely Carmichael, Rocky Jones, and Édouard Glissant. It was also a place where the ideas of Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and Malcolm X circulated alongside those of Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. During this period of global upheaval and heightened Canadian and Quebec nationalism, Montreal became a central site of Black and Caribbean radical politics.
Situating Canada within the Black radical tradition and its Caribbean radical counterpart, Fear of a Black Nation paints a history of Montreal and the Black activists who lived in, sojourned in, or visited the city and agitated for change. Drawing on Saidiya Hartman’s conception of slavery’s afterlife and what David Austin describes as biosexuality – a deeply embedded fear of Black self-organization and interracial solidarity – Fear of a Black Nation argues that the policing and surveillance of Black lives today is tied to the racial, including sexual, codes and practices and the discipline and punishment associated with slavery.
As meditation on Black radical politics and state security surveillance and repression, Fear of a Black Nation combines theoretical and philosophical inquiry with literary, oral, and archival sources to reflect on Black political organizing. In reflecting on Black self-organization and historic events such as the Congress of Black Writers and the Sir George Williams Affair, the book ultimately poses the question: what can past freedom struggles teach us about the struggle for freedom today?
Featuring two new interviews with the author and a new preface, this expanded second edition enriches the political and theoretical conversation on Black organising and movement building in Canada and internationally. As the Black Lives Matter and abolition movements today popularize calls to disarm and defund the police and to abolish prisons, Fear of a Black Nation provides an invaluable reflection on the policing of Black activism and a compelling political analysis of social movements and freedom struggles that is more relevant now than ever.
- Winner, Casa de las Americas Prize in Caribbean Literature in English or Creole 2014
"Fear of a Black Nation is a powerful reclaiming of the history of radical Black organizing in 1960s Montreal and an insightful analysis of its global ramifications … This book makes a major contribution to the fields of Black history and political studies; it also challenges conventional and left race-blind readings of the histories of Quebec and Canada."- Sunera Thobani, professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia
"At the heart of this big-hearted book is Austin’s insistence on history, or as he puts it, the 'lived experience of Blacks,' against silence and the abstractions or chimeras of ideology. Readers will learn much about Canada’s Black history here, but they will also learn about why it matters to everyone."- Karen Dubinsky, professor, Department of Global Development Studies/History, Queen's University