City: Columbus, Ohio
Country: United States
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Critical Race Theory
American Political Thought
Race And Politics
My scholarship focuses on how ideas, identities, and institutions intersect, with a particular focus on racial identities in the United States. My work examines moments of violence and death to consider how "mournable moments" shape and then transform identities categories (for example, the Triangle Fire, the death of Emmett Till, September 11, the Charleston Massacre). In addition, I teach Western Political Thought, American Political Thought, Critical Race Theory, and Race and Law, and I can speak about larger questions in those fields, as well.
A politics of mourning invokes the deaths of everyday citizens to call for political change. For this to occur, a loss must be visible and provoke discussions about responsibility. Mourning gauges political standing and belonging; it is also a moment when these categories can be transformed. This article analyzes the Triangle Fire of 1911 as a site of political mourning, which ultimately provoked a mixed response to the political status quo. Mourning improved labor’s position in relation to industry by opening formerly private spaces of employment to government regulation, but it did so by expanding the domain of whiteness rather than contesting the racialized construction of the polity. In doing so, the mourning contributed to the construction of a white body politic.
Why did it take only 23 days for the state of South Carolina to pass a law to remove the Confederate Battle Flag (CBF) from the grounds of the state house after Dylann Roof, white, murdered nine black parishioners at a prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015? The flag had been flying at the state capitol since 1962, raised as a commemoration of the centennial of the Civil War, but then never lowered; the resignification of the CBF that had occurred mid-20th century had turned the flag from revered, almost sacred memorial/historical object to a symbol of contemporary resistance to the Black Freedom Movement. So why and how did the Charleston Massacre overcome 53 years of resistance to the removal of the CBF in a mere 23 days? To begin formulating an answer to these questions, the first section provides an overview of the events in Charleston and the political context surrounding the events, while the second section traces the evolution of the meanings of the CBF from 1865 to date. The third section then offers a variety of ways we might interpret the events leading to the removal of the flag. I argue that the response to these questions lies where sovereignty, symbolism, and white domination intersect. First, the sovereignty of the state required reassertion in the wake of Roof's massive unleashing of violence on black persons, persons against whom the state frequently and disproportionately uses violence. Roof's arrest and prosecution, then, might be read as an effort to reassert sovereignty by reminding its (white) citizens that it alone has the monopoly on violence against black persons. Second, one of the significant symbols of the state's sovereignty - the CBF, which had flown over the capitol dome for 38 years, then at the entrance to the capitol complex for another 15 - is inextricably linked to white domination. Thus, to fully enact a performance of neutral sovereignty - the sovereignty of a "colorblind" state - South Carolina needed to remove the symbol of white domination. However, the symbolic removal did little to erase the institutional legacy of the interwoven nature of sovereignty and white domination; it merely worked to make the strong connections between them less visible. In the last substantive section of the paper, I suggest that we may be entering a new era of symbolism for the CBF, as the strong backlash against the removal contributed to early support for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Guest on the local NPR call in radio show on the rise of the 'alt-right' and white populism.
I was asked to write a short piece on the politics of mourning in Turkey's leftist magainze, Duvar. It was translated into Turkish for the January 2016 issue. Here is the citation: I have not been able to find a link: Heather Pool, "The Politics of Mourning," trans. into Turkish by Ezgi Arikan, Duvar 24 (January 2016), 2-3.