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Cedric Robinson 1940 – 2016

by Black Study Group (London)
12 Jun 2016 • Comments (2) • Print
Posted: General Issue [10]

With the recent passing of Cedric Robinson we wanted to express our sadness and our gratitude to him by briefly explaining what Cedric and his work has meant to us. The incalculable debt we owe him that he never wanted back, except in that thing we want too: new forms of life for the total configuration of human experience – full attainment of an ample cosmological justice so that even the dead are free.

Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition was the first text our reading group read, another in a long line of collective readings that book has called together. When Black Marxism came into the world the prevailing conservatism tried to diffuse the epistemic dynamite its pages contained by meeting it with a resounding critical silence. Yet against this, Black Marxism carried with it its own conditions of production, the sociality of collective study, as an underground and undercommon agency. The text was passed around like contraband amongst radicals, dog eared and multiplying marginal notations. That is, the text carried the memory of the soul food and material sustenance of talking shops (salons?) for black and minority students at Elizabeth and Cedric’s house in the 70s: ‘red beans and rice, cornbread, and Stroh’s beer’ and the weekend workshops organised to provide the ‘academic body armour’ they needed to survive.[1]

When Cedric spoke at Queen Mary 2011 a number of us left the student occupation of the finance offices at Goldsmiths College to go and see him. When him and Elizabeth came to Goldsmiths a couple of days later to hold a roundtable discussion they moved it, without hesitation, into our occupation. Undeterred, even, by the fact that It was the middle of winter and the building had mysteriously started pumping freezing cold air into the rooms that had been occupied. For us this was an experience of the collective study that has always been the field of sociality which Cedric and Elizabeth engendered and nurtured in work and in person. Their generosity in thought and practice testified to the fact that, as brilliant as they are, Cedric’s books were appendices to his ceaseless care for that ontological totality he wrote of – an untiring commitment to social life and collective study.

So it makes sense that a book like Black Marxism would have its own social life. Cedric’s work has a tendency to assemble collectivities around it because it always carried the charge of the life it was born from, both in terms of the black radical tradition he finds and the informal gatherings his work calls into being. The black radical tradition called on Cedric to respond for it: to follow its subterranean movements, to gather it together, to give it a name. In finding it, in breaching the frame that rendered it invisible, he found his place within it. And, his work calls on us. To get together, to engage with the tradition he retrieved from closure, to respond collectively and politically. His body of work calls on us, with Cedric’s passing, it is our turn to respond for it.


1. Thomas, D. C. “The Black Radical Tradition ­ Theory and Practice: Black Studies and the Scholarship
of Cedric Robinson.” Race & Class 47.2 (2005): 1­22. [↑]

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Black Study Group (London): Simon Barber, Dhanveer Brar, Victor Manuel Cruz, Ciarán Finlayson, Sam Fisher, Lucie Mercier, Fumi Okiji, Ashwani Sharma
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