The past ten years have witnessed a revival in scholarship on militarism, through which scholars have used the concept to make sense of the embeddedness of war-like relations in contemporary liberal societies, and to account for how the social, political and economic contours of those same societies are implicated in the legitimation and organisation of political violence. However, a persistent shortcoming has been the secondary role of race and coloniality in these accounts. This article demonstrates how we might position racism and colonialism as integral to the functioning of contemporary militarism. Centering the thought and praxis of the US Black Panther Party (BPP), we argue that the particular analysis developed by BPP members, alongside their often-tense participation in the anti-Vietnam war movement, offers a strong reading of the racialised and colonial politics of militarism. In particular we show how their analysis of the ghetto as a colonial space, their understanding of the police as an illegitimate army of occupation, and most importantly Huey Newton’s concept of intercommunalism prefigure an understanding of militarism premised on the interconnections between racial capital, violent practices of un/bordering, and the dissolving boundaries between war and police action.
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We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Kelly-Jo Bluen, James Eastwood, Paul Higate, Katharine Millar and participants at the 2019 BISA Annual Convention, the 2019 BISA Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial Working Group Symposium on Racial Capitalism, and the QMUL TheoryLab for their invaluable input into earlier drafts of this article. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
© The Author(s) 2021.