486D University Hall
230 North Oval Mall
Columbus, Ohio 43210
Areas of Expertise
- Afro-Pessimism and Ontologies of Blackness/Antiblackness
- Critical Theory, especially metacritique of racialization
- Political theory
- Global and comparative labor studies
- Intellectual history
- South African politics and history
- Colonialism and postcolonialism
- BA, Politics (University of Bologna, Italy, 1992)
- MA, BA/HONS, Sociology (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, 1997)
- PH.D., Sociology (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, 2006)
My latest book is Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa (State University of New York Press and University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2011). The book is the winner of the 2012 CLR James Award of the Working Class Studies Association for best Published Book for Academic or General Audiences in working-class studies. I have also edited (with Tom Bramble) the book Rethinking the Labour Movement in the 'New South Africa' (London: Ashgate, 2003).
In 2014-15 I was a Larry Donnell Andrews Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, where I am currently a non-resident fellow..
Among my awards are the 2010 Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award at the Ohio State University and the 2008 Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship (Article) Award from the American Sociological Association, Labor and Labor Movements Section. I am also a senior editor for International Labor and Working Class History (Cambridge University Press) and an International Visiting Research Associate at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (South Africa).
From 1996 to 2002, I taught in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (South Africa) and from 2002 to 2005 I taught in the Department of Politics at the University of Bologna (Italy). After joining OSU in 2005, in 2012-13 I held the position of Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brooklyn College (City University of New York).
My main current research project is provisionally titled "Liberalism, Antiblackness, and Labor across the Atlantic, 1880s-1920s". This project is a comparative historical and theoretical analysis of white liberal governance as it underpinned the formation and consolidation, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, of racialized state practices and paradigms of antiblackness in Black societies across the Atlantic world. My broad theoretical analysis will be informed by the historical study of cases from, among other contexts, the United States (Baltimore, Maryland), the Caribbean (Barbados), and South Africa (Witwatersrand). I will focus on how white governments used ideas of individual economic activity and work ethic to enable and justify, under pretenses of reform and modernization, the subjugation of black populations. My research will, finally, pay particular attention to transatlantic intellectual and political connections circulating ideas of racial subjection and Black opposition to oppressive labor regimes. The end result of this project is intended not only as a piece of theoretical meditation and historical research, but also as an element in a conceptual genealogy of the present that questions the significance of white liberalism, civil society, and their capacity to structure sociopolitical conflicts and ethical dilemmas that reproduce and legitimize antiblackness as an ontological and paradigmatic mode of subjugation.
I see this work as a continuation of the research culminating in my first monograph, Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa (State University of New York Press, 2011). That book was a critique, premised on African refusal of work and subversion of capitalist employment, of wage labor as a structuring modality of conflicts -- under rubrics of class, race, gender, citizenship, or nation -- which pointed at deeper incompatibilities in contexts of racialized domination. Following the book's publication, I came to the conclusion that such incompatibilities require an approach to Blackness in ontological and paradigmatic terms, rather than as a cultural, historically transient, or sociologically "racial" concept. Consequently, after 2011 my work has been substantially informed by the core theoretical, ethical, and critical tenets of AFRO-PESSIMISM.
Frank Wilderson (Professor of African American Studies, University of California, Irvine) defines Afro-Pessimism as follows:
“Rather than celebrate Blackness as a cultural identity, Afro-Pessimism theorizes it as a position of accumulation and fungibility (Saidiya Hartman); that is, as a condition—or relation—of ontological death. One of the guiding questions … Afro-Pessimism asks [is]: How are the political stakes of analysis and aesthetics raised and altered if we theorize the structural relation between Blacks and Humanity as an antagonism (an irreconcilable encounter) as opposed to a (reconcilable) conflict?
[The Afro-Pessimists argue] that violence toward the black person happens gratuitously, hence without former transgression, and, even if the means of repression change (plantation was replaced by prison, etc.), that doesn’t change the structure of the repression itself. Finally (and this is important in terms of the self-definition of the white person), a lot of repression happens on the level of representation, which then infiltrates the unconscious of both the black and the white person…Since these structures are ontological, they cannot be resolved; this is why the [Afro-Pessimist relational-schema] would be seen as the only true antagonism (while other repressive relations like class and gender would take place on the level of conflict—they can be resolved, hence they are not ontological).
Something that all the Afro-Pessimists seem to agree upon regarding social death are notions of kinship (or lack thereof), the absence of time and space to describe blackness…There is no grammar of suffering to describe their loss because the loss cannot be named.
[The Afro-Pessimists] theorize the workings of civil society as contiguous with slavery, and discuss the following as bearing witness to this contiguity: the inability of the slave (or the being-for-the-captor) to translate space into place and time into event; the fact that the slave remains subject to gratuitous violence (rather than violence contingent on transgression); the natal alienation and social death of the slave. [T]he Afro-Pessimists all seek to…stage a metacritique of the current discourse identified as “critical theory” by excavating an antagonism that exceeds it; to recognize this antagonism forces a mode of death that expels subjecthood and forces objecthood [upon Blacks]... I think the Afro-Pessimists such as Hartman, Spillers, and Marriott would argue there is no place for the black, only prosthetics, techniques which give the illusion of a relationality in the world."
Courses taught at Ohio State:
AFAMAST 7580, "Enslavement/Emancipation: Colonial and Postcolonial Realities"
AFAMAST 2367.01, "African American Voices in U.S. Literature"
AFAMAST 3440, "Theorizing Race"
AFAMAST 4570, "Theorizing Colonialism and the Postcolonial";
AFAMAST 4557, "History of South Africa";
AFAMAST 7765, "African Social Movements";
AFAMAST 7725, "Political Development of Sub-Saharan Africa".
Professor Barchiesi's publications include:
“The Precariousness of Work in Postcolonial Africa”, in Mapping Precariousness: Subjectivity and Resistance, edited by Emiliana Armano, Arianna Bove, and Annalisa Murgia (London: Routledge, 2017).
“The Violence of Work: Revisiting South Africa’s ‘Labour Question’ Through Precarity and Antiblackness”, Journal of Southern African Studies (in production, 2016)
“The Problem with ‘We’: Affiliation, Political Economy, and the Counterhistory of Nonracialism”, in Ties That Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa, edited by Jon Soske and Shannon Walsh (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 2016).
“’Schooling Bodies to Hard Work’: The South African State’s Policy Discourse and Its Moral Constructions of Welfare”, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 34 (2), 2016: 221-235.
“Work in the Constitution of the Human: Twentieth-Century South African Entanglements of Welfare, Blackness, and Political Economy”, South Atlantic Quarterly 115 (1), 2016: 149-74.
“Precarity as Capture: A Conceptual Deconstruction of the Worker-Slave Analogy”, in On Marronage: Ethical Confrontations with Anti-Blackness: Africana Studies in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Khalil Saucier and Tryon Woods, 177-206 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2015).
(with Stefano Bellucci, eds.), “African Labor Histories”, International Labor and Working Class History 86 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
"Conflict, Order, and Change." In The Oxford Handbook of Employment Relations: Comparative Employment Systems, edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Geoffrey Wood, and Richard Deeg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
"Review of Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order, by Ryan M. Erwin (New York: Oxford University Press)." New Global Studies 7: 2 (2013): 207-10.
"Casual Work and Informal Economy" and "Disappearing Work." In Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, edited by Vicki Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2013).
"Review of Apartheid Vertigo: The Rise in Discrimination Against Africans in South Africa, by David M. Matsinhe." Contemporary Sociology 42: 3 (2013): 405-07.
"Imagining the Patriotic Worker: The Idea of 'Decent Work' in the ANC's Political Discourse". In One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today edited by Omar Badsha, Natasha Erlank, Arianna Lissoni, Noor Nieftagodien, and Jon Soske (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 2012). )
"How Far From Africa's Shores? A Response to Marcel van der Linden's Map for Global Labor History." International Labor and Working Class History 82 (2012).
"Liberation of, Through, or From Work? Postcolonial Africa and the Problem With 'Job Creation' in the Global Crisis." Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements 4: 2 (2012).
“Precarious Liberation: A Rejoinder.” South African Review of Sociology 43/1 (2012): 99-106.
"Per una genealogia del movimento Occupy: note sull'insurrezione del Wisconsin." ["For a Geneaology of the 'Occupy' Movement: Notes on the Wisconsin Insurrection."], in Occupy! I movimenti nella crisi globale, edited by Gigi Roggero and Anna Curcio, 65-80 (Verona, Italy: Ombrecorte, 2012).
Precarious Liberation. Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa (Albany: SUNY Press; Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2011).
“Migrant Labor.” In Encyclopedia of South Africa, edited by Sean Jacobs and Krista Johnson, 200-04 (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2011).
“Informality and Casualization as Challenges for South Africa’s Industrial Unionism: The Case of the East Rand/Ekurhuleni Region in the 1990s.” African Studies Quarterly 11/2&3 (2010): 67-85.
“Wage Labor, Citizenship, and Social Discipline.” In Zuma’s Own Goal. Losing South Africa’s ‘War on Poverty’, edited by Brij Maharaj, Ashwin Desai, and Patrick Bond, 191-212 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2010).
“COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions).” In International Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Protest, edited by Immanuel Ness, 874-77 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009).
“Afrique du Sud: Débats autour de l’idée d’allocation universelle.” In Retour de l’Etat. Pour quelles politiques sociales?, edited by Laurent Delcourt, 85-104 (Paris: Éditions Syllepse; Louvain: Centre Tricontinental, 2009).
“That Melancholic Object of Desire. Work and Official Discourse before and after Polokwane.” The Johannesburg Salon, Vol. 1, edited by Lara Allen and Achille Mbembe: 50-54 (2009).
“Hybrid Social Citizenship and the Normative Centrality of Wage Labor in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Mediations 24/1 (2009): 53-67.
"Lean and Very Mean: Restructuring the University in South Africa." In Towards a Global Autonomous University, edited by the Edu-factory Collective, 66-71 (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2009). 66-71.
“Wage Labor, Precarious Employment, and Social Inclusion in the Making of South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Transition.” African Studies Review 51/2 (2008): 119-42.
“Privatization and the Historical Trajectory of ‘Social Movement Unionism’: A Case Study of Municipal Workers in Johannesburg (South Africa).” International Labor and Working Class History 71 (2007): 50-69.
“South African Debates on the Basic Income Grant: Wage Labour and the Post-Apartheid Social Policy.” Journal of Southern African Studies 33/3 (2007): 561-575.
"Wage Labor and Social Citizenship in the Making of Post-Apartheid South Africa." Journal of Asian and African Studies 42/1 (2007): 39-72.
“Labour and Social Citizenship in Colonial and Postcolonial Modernity: South African Perspectives in a Continental Context.” Review. Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems, and Civilizations 30/1 (2007): 19-43.
“Capitalist Mode of Production” (Vol.1: 445-47); “Asiatic Mode of Production” (Vol.1: 187-88); “Feudal Mode of Production” (Vol.3: 133-35); “Class Consciousness” (Vol.1: 571-72.) In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd Edition, edited by William Darity, Jr. (Detroit: MacMillan Reference USA, 2007).
“Globalization on Trial. Review of Bamako, by Abderrahmane Sissako.” New Labor Forum 16/3 (2007): 184-187.
“Classes, Multitudes and the Politics of Community Movements in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” In Challenging Hegemony. Social Movements and the Quest for a New Humanism in South Africa, edited by Nigel Gibson, 161-194 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2006).
“Commodification, Economic Restructuring, and the Changing Urban Geography of Labor in Post-Apartheid South Africa: The Case of Gauteng Province, 1991-2001.” Urban Forum 17/2 (2006): 93-124.
(edited) Affinità sovversive. I movimenti sociali americani nella guerra globale. [Subversive Affinities. U.S. Social Movements in the Global War.] (Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2005). With original contributions by Stanley Aronowitz, Heather Gautney, David Graeber and Michael Hardt.
“Class, Social Movements and the Transformation of the South African Left in the Crisis of ‘National Liberation’.” Historical Materialism 12/4 (2004): 327-353.
(edited, with Tom Bramble), Rethinking the Labour Movement in the 'New South Africa.' (London: Ashgate, 2003).
“Beyond the State and Civil Society. Labor Movements and Economic Adjustment in African Transitions: South Africa and Nigeria Compared.” In Contested Terrains and Constructed Categories: Contemporary Africa in Focus, edited by George Bond and Nigel Gibson. 145-172 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002).
(with Bridget Kenny) “From Workshop to Wasteland: Deindustrialisation and Fragmentation of the Black Working Class on the East Rand (South Africa), 1990-99.” International Review of Social History 47/Supplement (2002): 35-63.
"L'eclatement de la nation sud-africaine minée par la mondialisation." Multitudes (Paris) 10 (2002): 35-52.
"Fiscal Discipline and Worker Response: The Restructuring of Johannesburg's Solid Waste Management." In The Commercialisation of Waste Management in South Africa. Occasional Papers Series No.3, Municipal Services Project. Edited by Franco Barchiesi, Msoqoli Qotole and Mthetho Xali. Kingston, Ontario: Queen's University, 2001.
“Review Essay: Engaging the State and Business. The Labour Movement and Co-determination in South Africa, edited by Glenn Adler (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 2000).” African Sociological Review 5/1 (2001): 80-89.
“Transnational Capital, Urban Globalisation and Cross-Border Solidarity: The Case of the South African Municipal Workers.” Antipode 33/3 (2001): 384-406.
"Transnational Capital, Urban Globalisation and Cross-Border Solidarity: The Case of the South African Municipal Workers." In Place, Space and the New Labour Internationalisms, edited by Peter Waterman and Jane Wills, 80-102 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001).
"South Africa: Between Repression and 'Homegrown Structural Adjustment.'" In A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities, edited by Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis, and Ousseina Alidou, 165-70 (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2000).
“The Public Sector Strikes in South Africa: A Trial of Strength.” Monthly Review 51/5 (1999): 15-19.
“Kelvinator: Restructuring, Collapse and Struggle.” South African Labour Bulletin 23/6 (1999): 65-70.
“Economic Adjustment, Political Institutionalisation and Social Marginalisation: COSATU and the First Democratic Government (1994-1999).” Transformation 38 (1999): 20-48.
"Restructuring, Flexibility and the Politics of Workplace Subjectivity. A Worker Inquiry in the South African Car Industry.” Rethinking Marxism 10/4 (1998): 105-133.
"Trade Unions and Organizational Restructuring in the South African Automobile Industry. A Critique of the Co-Determination Thesis.” African Sociological Review 2/2 (1998): 47-76.
"Delivery from Below, Resistance from Above. Electricity and the Politics of Struggle over Social Needs in Tembisa.” Debate. Voices from the South African Left 2/1 (1998): 12-27.
“Nigeria’s Contested Democratization: Adjustment, Authoritarianism, and Civil Society.” Indicator South Africa 15/3 (1998): 81-88.
“Labour, Neoliberalism and Democratic Politics in Nigeria and South Africa: A Comparative Overview.” Labour, Capital and Society/Travail, Capital et societe’ 30/2 (1997): 170-225.
"South Africa in Transition: Scenarios Facing Organized Labor.” Critical Sociology 22/3 (1996): 79-112.
"The Social Construction of Labour in the Struggle for Democracy: The Case of Post-Independence Nigeria.” Review of African Political Economy 69 (1996): 349-369.
(with Elsa van Huyssteen) "Islands on the Power Map. The New South African Constitution and the Social Legacy of Apartheid.” Africa (Rome) 51/4 (1996): 475-498.
(with Glenn Adler and Karl Gostner) "Unions without Comrades. Democratisation, Structural Adjustment and the Labour Movement in Zimbabwe”, South African Labour Bulletin 20/3 (1996): 83-87.
"Orientamenti metodologici e bibliografici per lo studio del sindacalismo indipendente sudafricano" [Methodological and bibliographical orientations for the study of the South African independent trade unionism], Africa (Rome) 48/1 (1993): 70-91.
"I sindacati indipendenti sudafricani e la democratizzazione delle relazioni industriali: introduzione storica al problema." [The South African independent trade unions and the democratization of industrial relations: historical introduction to the problem], Lavoro e diritto (Bologna) 7/4 (1993): 687-719.
Awards, Honors, Fellowship, and Grants
2013: Finalist, Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, Ohio State University.
2012: CLR James Award, Best Published Book for Academic or General Audiences in Working-class Studies, Working Class Studies Association, for Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa.
2012: Finalist, Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, Ohio State University.
2011: Research Enhancement Grant, College of the Arts and Sciences, Ohio State University.
2010: Arts and Humanities Publication Subvention Grant, College of the Arts and Sciences, Ohio State University.
2010: Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, Undergraduate Research Office, Ohio State University.
2010: Faculty Honoree at the President's Salute to Undergraduate Achievement, Ohio State University.
2009: Arts and Humanities Manuscript Preparation Grant, College of the Arts and Sciences, Ohio State University.
2008: Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship (Article) Award, American Sociological Association, Labor and Labor Movements Section, for "Privatization and the Historical Trajectory of 'Social Movement Unionism': A Case Study of Municipal Workers in Johannesburg (South Africa)," International Labor and Working Class History 71: 50-69.
2007: Writing Grant. South Africa-Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD), for "Wage Labor and Poverty in South Africa," to be presented at the International Conference on The Poverty Challenge: Poverty and Poverty Reduction in South Africa, India and Brazil (Durban, South Africa, June 27-30).
2005: Research Grant, Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), for "Community Movements in South Africa's Post-Apartheid Transition: A Comparative Analysis of the East Rand and the South Durban Basin."
2004: Short-Term Mobility Grant, National Research Council (Italy), for research in foreign institutions.
2003: "Marco Polo" Grant, University of Bologna (Italy), for research in foreign institutions.
2000: Conference Grant, Onati International Institute for the Sociology of Law (Spain), to organize the International Workshop on Rights and Citizenship in Constitutional Transitions: South Africa in Comparative Perspective, held in June 2001.
2000: Doctoral Research Grant, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg - University Research Committee (URC), for "Social Citizenship and the Transformation of Work in the Making of the South African Democracy."
2000: Research Internship Grant, National Research Foundation (South Africa), Division for Social Sciences and Humanities, for "The Influence of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on Social Security Policy in Democratic South Africa."
2000: Social Transformation in South Africa Research Grant, National Research Foundation (South Africa), Division for Social Sciences and Humanities, for "Inequality, Human Rights and Legal Mobilisation in South Africa."