Irvin J. Hunt
University of North Carolina
In their darkest hours over the course of the twentieth century, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ella Baker, George Schuyler, and Fannie Lou Hamer gathered hundreds across the United States and beyond to build vast, now forgotten, networks of mutual aid: farms, shops, schools, banks, daycares, homes, health clinics, and burial grounds. They called these spaces "cooperatives," local challenges to global capital, where people pooled all they had to meet all their needs. By reading their activism as an artistic practice, Irvin J. Hunt argues that their overarching need was to free their movement from the logic of progress. Steeped in the wonders of this movement's material afterlife, Hunt extrapolates three non-progressive forms of movement time: a continual beginning, a deliberate falling apart, and a kind of all-at-once simultaneity. These temporalities describe how these leaders, along with their circles, maneuvered the law, reappropriated property, expressed the pleasures of resistance, challenged the value of longevity, built autonomous communities, and fundamentally reimagined what a movement can be.
“Dreaming the Present is a beautifully rendered and captivating enarration of Black political life. Hunt refuses a story of linear progress or permanent disaster for Black people, instead focusing on the hard work of doing, that is to say the Black political tradition in which ethical relation has been the primary ethos. He tells us about the work of the living, which is not held hostage to hope. The book is brilliant and timely and will transform our understandings of social movements from abolition to civil rights and Black Lives Matter.” — Imani Perry, author of South to America
“Irvin J. Hunt reads key sites of Black cooperative economic formation to examine questions of political autonomy, collective power, and planning. He reveals how these cooperative formations were not just ‘alternatives’ to traditional market enterprises but were capable of protecting people from the violence and precarity of the ‘free’ market. This is a book that courses with creative energy, tacking back and forth between examples of the cooperative movements and their implications for social movement studies, literary studies, and political analysis. An enormously ambitious book.” — Daniel Martinez HoSang, author of A Wider Type of Freedom: How Struggles for Racial Justice Liberate Everyone
About the Author:
Irvin J. Hunt is assistant professor of English and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.