Infrastructure and the Black Panther Party: Toward an Infrastructural Politics
thesisposted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Dalton William Kamish
The Black Panther Party (BPP) is one of the most iconic and influential groups in the history of Black radicalism, the global sixties, and left politics more broadly. While many scholars have examined its history, ideology, legacy, and more, few have focused on the BPP as a vanguard party in the tradition of Marxism-Leninism. This thesis addresses this gap through a study of the BPP and (its) infrastructure(s). The central wager of this thesis is that infrastructure can be a powerful organizing concept for radical politics as well as a discerning lens for analysis of the same. It employs infrastructure—in all of its conceptual richness as a media theoretical perspective, sociotechnical assemblage, and concrete thing—as the framework for a discourse analysis of the BPP's newspaper, The Black Panther, to produce a multivalent concept of infrastructural politics informed by the BPP's unique thought and practice, Marxist political and cultural theory, and the recent infrastructural turn in communication and media studies. First, infrastructural politics activates infrastructure as a site of political struggle. Second, it identifies providing and becoming infrastructure to the people as a mode of political praxis. And last, infrastructural politics directs attention to the communicational infrastructures that sustain political movements. Finally, embedding the BPP within the context of postmodernism, the thesis argues that the BPP articulated an aesthetics of cognitive mapping endemic to late capitalism by virtue of their infrastructural politics. Because infrastructure has a special relationship to cognitive mapping, it is recommended that this last be adopted as an imperative for infrastructuralism, toward an infrastructural politics.