The Laboring of Black Politics: Decolonial Meditations on Claudia Jones

Published date01 March 2022
Date01 March 2022
Subject MatterArticles
2022, Vol. 75(1) 76 –88
Political Research Quarterly
© 2020 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912920979107
An Introduction
Liberation is an ongoing struggle. Its finality lies in its
activeness. Liberation demands of action a certain per-
petuity. This liberation is not only a push against but
also is, manifestly, a push for. In this sense, liberation
is agonal. Agonia, its Greek derivative, denotes “a
struggle for victory.” This partly explains Frantz
Fanon’s (2004, 51) clarion call: “The struggle, they
say, goes on. The people realize that life is an unending
struggle.” Such a colorful canvas of struggle paints the
liberatory landscape (sometimes in a rich crimson red).
Action reconstitutes the political and relocates its mar-
gins. In so doing, the political act of doing necessitates
an agonal mooring—a push for freedom. It is here lib-
eration finds its ascendency. Its call echo in and
through accents of struggling, of doing, of laboring.
Claudia Jones, an Afro-Trinidadian who migrated to
the United States during the colonial epoch, became a
journalist and an anti-capitalist, anti-colonial-cum-
imperial activist. Her activism was not borne of a stud-
ied knowledge tethered to the academism of the
colonial world. Jones agonally lived her politics, real-
ized through her intersectional entry points into
oppression as a working-class, black immigrant
woman. Mundane interactions with the oppressed sedi-
mented her revolutionary program. For Jones, the
question of struggle raises, ineluctably, another: for
what do we struggle? Indeed, for whom?
In what follows, I contend Claudia Jones reimagines
the act of labor beyond conventional economic terms and
frames. Rather, in addition to its economic necessity, I
argue Jones also decolonizes labor in expressly existen-
tial, political, and epistemic terms to meet the demands of
a liberatory project. Moreover, labor, when redefined as a
collectivized struggle, does violence against existing
hegemonic holds, and through it, intersubjective, unified
spaces emerge. From there, I contend Jones’ recapturing
of radicalism shifts, implodes, and widens its epistemic
margins from merely a descriptive act of resistance, one
that only punctuates or interrupts modes of imperialism.
Instead, Jones’ radicalism stands as revolutionary ethos,
grounded in an (inter)national consciousness of self and
other that troubles and remaps the positionality of the
New World black subject. As such, radicalism is not writ-
ten in the signature of singularity (bounded by isolated
acts of transgression) but does the larger work of onto-
logical realignment—a re-articulation of relational com-
mitments. This realignment of radicality becomes
repositioned as truth discourse, one that implicates and
inflects core epistemic considerations. That is to say,
Jones’ radicality leads to a shift in epistemes, toward a
PRQXXX10.1177/1065912920979107Political Research QuarterlyChevannes
1The University of Memphis, TN, USA
Corresponding Author:
Derefe Kimarley Chevannes, The University of Memphis.
The Laboring of Black Politics:
Decolonial Meditations on
Claudia Jones
Derefe Kimarley Chevannes1
This article examines the role of labor as a political concept within the work of Caribbean thinker and activist,
Claudia Jones. It argues for a reformulation of black labor politics. Specifically, it contends Jones’ formulation of
labor requires moving beyond its conventionally economic articulations, to consider, in tandem, labor’s expressly
political, existential (racial), and epistemic dimensions to actualize a coherent project of transnational liberation. Doing
so requires decolonizing labor, reimagining it anew—outside Eurocentric thought. Such a multilayered, imbricated
approach widens the philosophical margins of liberatory politics, interrogating, in the process, the Arendtian model of
labor, so as to speak meaningfully to the emancipatory possibilities that lie within the labor practices of the colonized.
As such, I theorize these added dimensions of labor from the position of the black subject—offering an explicit
discussion of black labor for the project of liberatory politics.
black politics, Claudia Jones, black liberation, black labor, decolonizing labor

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