Dr. Carolyn Rouse

Carolyn Rouse
Professor of Anthropology
Princeton University

Carolyn Rouse teaches anthropology at Princeton University. She began her career as a documentary filmmaker before receiving her PhD from the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on race and inequality and the role institutions play in shaping forms of inclusion and exclusion. Her books include Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam and Uncertain Suffering: Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease. Her book, Televised Redemption: The Media of Black Muslims, Jews, and Christians, co-written with John Jackson and Marla Frederick, is being published by New York University Press. Also in production is her book Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World that chronicles her experiences building a high school in Ghana.

Reading Malcolm X from the Caves of Tora Bora: Reinterpreting a Global Icon at the End of History

After the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Al-Quaeda put out a video contrasting Malcolm X with Obama. Edited into the film is footage of Malcolm X’s famous 1963 speech during which he delineates a field Negro from a house Negro. Obama, we learn from Al-Quaeda’s video, is a house Negro who cannot be trusted because of his disloyalty to his race, his father’s religion, and the oppressed of the world. The fact that Malcolm X was presented as a foil to the first black President of the United States speaks volumes about how images and discourses from the US Civil Right movement have traveled globally. I ask how and why Malcolm X has come to signify revolutionary authenticity at the so-called end of history, after communism has failed and numerous forms of radicalism have filled the void.

This conference is critical because radicalism throughout the world threatens the legacy of Malcolm X.  Many people still consider X a terrorist, and his associationwith Islam makes this connection all the more real for his critics. Equally problematic are organizations like Al-Quaeda who misuse the legacy of Malcolm X for their own purposes. In fact, Malcolm X’s life and philosophy offer important lessons for people suffering from growing structural inequality and increasing militarization.


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