Publisher: AK Press
Released: March 25, 2016
In Keywords (1976), Raymond Williams devised a "vocabulary" that reflected the vast social transformations of the post-war period. He revealed how these transformations could be grasped by investigating changes in word usage and meaning. Keywords for Radicals—part homage, part development—asks: What vocabulary might illuminate the social transformations marking our own contested present? How do these words define the imaginary of today's radical left?
With insights from dozens of scholars and troublemakers, Keywords for Radicals explores the words that shape our political landscape. Each entry highlights a term's contested variations, traces its evolving usage, and speculates about what its historical mutations can tell us. More than a glossary, this is a crucial study of the power of language and the social contradictions hidden within it.
Praise for Keywords for Radicals
"An extraordinary volume that provides nothing less than a detailed cognitive mapping of the terrain for everyone who wants to engage in radical politics."
—Slavoj Žižek, author of Living in the End Times
“Keywords for Radicals recognizes that language is both a weapon and terrain of struggle, and that all of us committed to changing our social and material reality, to making a world justice-rich and oppression-free, cannot drop words such as ‘democracy,’ ‘occupation,’ ‘colonialism,’ ‘race,’ ‘sovereignty,’ or ‘love’ without a fight."
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"A primer for a new era of political protest."
—Jack Halberstam, author of Female Masculinity
"This keywords upgrade puts powerful weapons into revolutionaries' hands. Unexpected entries expand into new terrain.… Indispensable."
—Jodi Dean, author of The Communist Horizon
"Keywords for Radicals is a considerable enterprise, containing 57 entries with as many authors. Some of the words have been commonplace in the radical milieu and thus are expected to appear herein: representation, utopia, vanguard, oppression, hegemony, rights. Others are timely as relevant additions to radical analyses: commons, crip, prefiguration, and trans*/- (a word that even looks different). One entry that is both timely and traditional: occupy. A.K. Thompson gives us a much-needed analysis of the contested meanings of this word, since key voices even at the time of Occupy Wall Street objected to its usage, citing its colonial legacy."
—Jack Z. Bratich, International Journal of Communications
"Though this is not it's primary purpose, I think the theory underlying Keywords gives us ways to think through how arguments about language and terminology arise within and beyond the left, and to perhaps approach them in ways that are more historically grounded and potentially useful."
—Scott Neigh, A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land
"This collection is a worthwhile and important contribution to the exploration of our language and the tensions that are produced as it is deployed within radical culture."
—Chris Kortright, Briarpatch Magazine
Kelly Fritsch is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto.
Claire O' Connor is a doctoral student in Communication at the University of Southern California.
A.K. Thompson teaches social theory at Fordham University in New York.