Universality, Black Lives Matter, and the George Floyd Uprising


Sociology and Criminal Justice

Document Type


Publication Date



This article offers a theoretically informed case study of the George Floyd Uprising that emerged in May 2020. In addition to analyzing details of the uprising, it illustrates the ways in which particular uprisings can register at the level of the universal. I make this point through a critical engagement with theories of universality offered by Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, and Todd McGowan, whose work helps us to theorize universality in its concrete and singular manifestation. Along the way, I show how adjacent work in the Black radical tradition, social movement studies, and the critical social sciences at large can also enter a constructive dialogue with these approaches to universality. Using theory and data, the case study illustrates how this insurgent act embodied the striving towards universal human dignity and liberation. It is long overdue for the humanistic social sciences to revisit and reengage the concept of universality. By doing so, we may generate better social theory, and better understand major movements for social change in the twenty-first century.

Journal Title


Journal ISSN


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)