The Ruse of Modern Liberalism?- and Other Potential Research Topics

In the process of determining the topic I would hope to further investigate, I narrowed it down to these five potential areas of research.

  • Contemporary education has witnessed a shift towards more active learning methods where much of the onus is placed on the students to develop their own unique understanding of the material to promote advocacy and independent thinking skills. As a form of simulated immersion, role-playing is one such technique that is often employed. I believe however a number of questions can be raised on its efficacy especially its tendency to engender a dissociation and complacency with the real-world issues being discussed- antithetical to an activist mentality that it hopes to foster.
  • In the last blog post, I discussed the use of culture jamming as a form of disruption and subversion against normative cultural codes. There is much evidence that the use of culture jamming today has failed to produce a significant impact and has sometimes done more harm then good. I would be interested in further investigating whether the problems of culture jamming are intrinsic to its nature or whether its potency has diminished temporally.
  • Another issue I think is critical to examine with regards to contemporary activism is the evolution of modern racial politics. I would argue that things like the birth of the Black Lives Matters movement is not only indicative of the emergence of long-suppressed racial tensions but also signals a shift in the ideology of contemporary racial politics- namely from afro-optimism (which defined the civil rights movement) to one of afro-pessimism.
  • In “Activism!” Tim Jordan discusses a number of forms of activism. In particular, he criticizes more reformist forms of activism that take incremental steps towards change within the institutions that they criticize. Jordon dismisses this form activism arguing that this can never be a true form of transgression that activism calls for. However, I think there is definitely more room for inquiry here given the empirical success of many reformist movements.
  • Finally, I also considered the area of climate activism as a potential research subject. Environmental issues have also become more and more split along partisan lines. I think there is a lot of room to investigate modern climate activism and how it may combat widespread climate denialism that has leaked into the mainstream or just general public apathy.


A number of racial scholars cite that modern liberalism has created a ruse that we’ve “solved” issues of discrimination. People have become complacent with Voter I.D. Laws, Gerrymandering, racial violence dubbed “self-defense”, a Criminal Justice System disproportionately incarcerating minorities. It pushes the issues underground, making them subtle and harder to identify but all the more insidious. Many people argue that the response of the black community in the form of protests, solidarity around Black Lives Matter, etc. primarily indicates that “buried racial tensions have finally come to light”. I think this view as a starting point is problematic. It causes racial analysis to be posited in terms of its visibility to some external entity. I think it also causes a fixation on the past where we spend too much time attempting to uncover what was. I would argue that the best starting point for analysis of contemporary racial politics is understanding the fundamental shift in ideology that occurred after the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was fundamentally optimistic in that it sought to reform a system that it believed could include all bodies of people. However, it became more apparent that a civil society literally built upon the enslavement of the black body could never truly be inclusive. Thus was born the idea of Afro-pessimism which I believe has slowly taken over as the predominant ideology of racial politics. I think realizing this shift is critical to any further investigation of modern activism in the context of race.



2 thoughts on “The Ruse of Modern Liberalism?- and Other Potential Research Topics”

  1. The idea of looking deep into the shift from afro-optimism to afro-pessimism based on two periods of time will make research easier, as it allows you to narrow down your topic. A possible suggestion to add onto your already well thought out plan, is to consider focusing on relating historical events/major events with social media reactions. This could open up many correlations and patterns that haven’t been addressed before and help with your understanding of the present afro-pessimism idea we face in present time. Another suggestion I have to offer is to look at newspaper headlines in particular as you work to place a definition on afro-optimism and afro-pessimism. I feel as though there could be an interesting shift in headlines(specifically looking at diction) as the civil rights movement took place.


  2. I think this is a super interesting and important take on contemporary and past race-oriented civil rights movements. Activist movements of today are of course inextricably connected to civil rights-era work but have evolved to take on a new, subtler set of issues. I think your focus on changing fundamental ideologies not only deepens the significance of current rhetoric but also allows a lot of questions as to the place of optimism in activist movements. Do pessimism-based movements have fundamentally different goals than optimism-based movements? Is optimism naive or empowering? Does pessimism breed frustration and inaction or promote realism? I enjoyed reading your proposal and think this topic is both critically important and unexplored in popular media.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s