Banafsheh Hussain

Project Title: Don’t Buy the Marxism from Shein: Historiography, Sustained Revolutionary
Traditions, and the Radical Left

Project Description: What brings a radical movement to its end? How are revolutionary anticolonial movements subsumed into non-revolutionary statist projects? How are radical movements with significant aesthetic and symbolic components stripped of their transgressive ideological content and sold in consumer cultures? My project addresses the question of how radicalism can stay radical and resist being diluted when exposed to a broader audience—does vanguardism counter these eects in practice, or is there another way to preserve revolutionary message and spirit? By looking at a variety of left-aligned examples including grunge and hippie countercultures, Pan-African movements,Surrealism and the Situationist International, Gay Liberation, and Marxist labor struggles, I will understand how movements with diering dimensions of radicality vary in their susceptibility to certain neutralizing processes. My work will be guided by thinkers of the avant-garde and the Black Radical Tradition, especially with regard to conceptions of humanity and historiography (and understanding the silences that even today obscure these revolutionary groups).

Greatest Accomplishment: I do a lot of things—I don’t think ranking them necessarily helps me on a personal level.

Reflections on College Scholars Program: Because so much of my project requires me to think beyond the social and political structures and relations of the present, I feel lucky to have found a program at Cornell that doesn’t limit us to studying what is and what has been, but encourages us to envision future ways of being that exist outside of present worldviews.