These are some notes I have about different reading groups in which I have participated.
I’m going to keep all of them anonymous, excepting the first one, the WEB DuBois Book Club, which I initiated.
Group 1 – WEB DuBois Book Club
Book: John Brown by WEB DuBois, available for free online. 310 pages.
Technology: Spatial Chat, Discord, Librevox Audiobook version of text
Format: 45 minutes of intros, presentation of notes, and once around the circle for comments and discussion about how the material might related to events today, followed by picking a note-maker and moderator for the next meeting, and then a “free time for discussion”. This free time generally lasted 1 to 3 hours, and went off topic.
We read the entire book, and also did outside readings to increase understanding of the material.
The book was divided into approximately 60-page chunks, and each note-maker summarized the reading and presented notes. I was hoping to collect these notes, but did not manage to do that.
Host provided an audiobook version of the book (it was free). Host once used the audiobook instead of reading the entire chapter.
Note taking and presentation forced one to study much harder, and even re-read the chapter.
Posted extra references and comments to Discor. Helped to have activists in the convo, to ground things and relate the work to contemporary challenges.
Group size: started with around a dozen people, and reduced to 5 or 6 die-hards.
Group 2 – The Color of Law
I joined this group but could not participate due to a scheduling conflict.
Book: The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, 368 pages
Format: I forgot. It was somewhere between a presentation by the group leaders, and a discussion. Discussion questions were prepared by the leaders, and helped to guide the discussion. Hosts took notes and repeated back things discussed.
Group 3 – Marxism
I was an occasional participant.
Books: Paper on the left, ending in 1990, On Contradiction, What is to be Done (I forget the rest)
Technology: Zoom (I forget)
Format: Discussion with breakout discussion groups. Discussion was consciously encouraging women to talk. They also used a speaking checklist so individuals would not dominate the discussion.
Group 4 – Marxism
Books: Excerpts from Dialectical and Historical Materialism, On Contradiction, The United Front by Dimitrov, Current Problems in the Tactics of the Anti-Japanese United Front
Format: Presentations based on the readings. The presentations distilled the information, and also explained things in simpler language.
Group 5 – People’s History
Book: People’s History of the US by Zinn
This group never got started for me, because I was given the assignment, but not the links to the discussion.
Book was read in two directions – back to front, and front to back. One or two chapters from the front, and one or two fro mthe back. Meeting in the middle.
Group 6 – The Communist Manifesto
Book: The Communist Manifesto
This group met at the host’s home. I think we didn’t get past the first couple pages, because discussion meandered all over the place. We didn’t followup with a second meeting as far as I know. The discussion was lively, however.
Group 7 – Liberation Theory
Books: too numerous to mention, many excerpts, and lots of text.
Format: readings and discussion. Discussion was questions, and individual answers from the group. It wasn’t tightly coupled with the text, or that’s how it seemed. Most of the group was in a different city, where an in-person project built community with the participants.
I had scheduling conflicts, and had a hard time keeping up regardless, because the texts were quite long. They were also new to me, at the intersection of ecological collapse and texts about indigeneity. Overall, too advanced for me.