In recounting his falling out with Stokely Carmichael in Revolutionary Suicide, Huey Newton touches on a couple of key points, most of which are well-known to those familiar with Black Power/Black Panther history, But bear they repeating and reexamination because the conflict and division they identify raise enormously complex, enormously urgent questions. In this case, I want to revisit them in order to ask the question both Carmichael and Newton ask: in terms of racial justice, what does it mean to consider white people as participants in, and so not just bystanders to or targets of, a revolutionary project? » Read the rest of this entry «
After Obama’s election in 2008, we got to hear a lot about this term “post-racial.” I’ve never been sure exactly who believed in such a thing, except those people for whom race is such an anxiety that they now flat out deny its presence in everyday life and always have. Opportunists. In that sense, I could hardly take the rhetoric for or against seriously. The same people who were happy to declare race “over” when Obama was elected had been saying the same thing for a few decades, at least. Targeting that particular term as a product of the moment? A strange project, I think.
Here is a funny bit of historical perspective. » Read the rest of this entry «
There are many ways to read Huey Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide. It is, above all, a signature text of its moment: peaking Black radicalism, splinters in that radicalism (the critiques of Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael aren’t just polemical, they cut to the heart of the meanings of nationalism and revolutionary politics), and autobiography as a kind of revolutionary practice. It is also a programme for self-liberation that, in Newton’s telling, becomes the liberation of a people. Self-liberation is inseparable from the encounter with books and ideas – or, perhaps better, from the encounter with what makes books and ideas possible. This last bit is what interests me.
Re-reading Revolutionary Suicide for my course this semester, I’m also struck by the fragmented and quirky intellectual lineage Newton evokes, from Plato and Descartes to Mao and Fanon to Coleridge to Ho Chi Minh. There is a lot to tease out in those connections, and in general I think Newton needs to be read closely and appreciated as an intellectual in both the bookish sense and the organic, politically mobilizing sense of what Grant Farred calls “the vernacular intellectual” (see his What’s My Name?). » Read the rest of this entry «
Some thoughts that are something like an entirely too early post-mortem on professional philosophy’s great harasser: Brian Leiter. Thanks to Leigh Johnson for playing the role of collector of the major pieces out about Leiter and, hopefully, his final stumble and fall. This recent stuff about him – sending harassing emails meant to intimidate – should be no surprise. No surprise at all. He’s been at it a long time. Perhaps it’s worth stopping and reflecting on what it says about philosophy as a profession. » Read the rest of this entry «
I am posting here (with his permission) a letter by Martin Kavka, who teaches in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. His words represent an alternative and thoughtful response to the Salaita case at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A boycott of the campus by faculty has spread across social media (I have myself signed on), and I think the boycott is both a smart response and an important one. Martin’s letter outlines a bit of a different response, one that builds a protest into the the talk. Thanks to Martin for permission to post this and for his considered alternative. » Read the rest of this entry «
My doctoral training was in European philosophy. At University of Memphis (1991-1996), I studied Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Irigaray, and Derrida with some of smartest folks out there, including most prominently Robert Bernasconi, Tom Nenon, and Tina Chanter. Around 1999 or so, I decided to shift fields to what I do now: Africana studies in a philosophical register. I still follow some European trends and work, and there’s no doubt that my own orientation is informed by what we call “poststructuralism.” I read from that place, even as the tradition I used to work in gets reworked at every level when I think and write. The re-emergence of Heidegger and the question of anti-Semitism, controversial yet again, caught my eye and I’ve been meaning to write a bit on it. Here’s that bit, for what it’s worth. » Read the rest of this entry «
I’ve been stuck in a particular section of this project – a long critical introduction to a new translation of Jean Bernabé, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Raphael Confiant’s Éloge de la créolité (contracted with SUNY). The section is on Édouard Glissant’s contribution to and critical appraisal of the creolists. On the one hand, this is the most straightforward section of the introduction. Unlike other sections on Négritude and surrealism, black existentialism, and my own conception of the afro-postmodern, this section – which I title Theorizing the Black Atlantic – has plenty of texts for dialogue, extrapolation, and analysis. Still, as it goes with writing, sometimes it is hard to start and find the right motif. » Read the rest of this entry «
Today is what would have been Frantz Fanon’s 89th birthday – born in 1925, died in 1961, but in that short time he completely changed how we think about embodiment, freedom, resistance, identity, and so much more. I’ve always been partial to Black Skin, White Masks, which I consider his greatest work. As with all ambitious work, it is flawed and is full of oversteps, oversights, and under-theorized concepts. But that’s exactly what I like about it: it thinks more than the book can contain. » Read the rest of this entry «
I’m working slowly but persistently on this James Baldwin book – tentative title ‘So Unimaginable a Price': Baldwin and the Black Atlantic – and have recently been sitting with his famous critique of Richard Wright. The basics of that critique are well-known and straightforward enough: the protest novel is one-dimensional and Black life is more complex, complicated, and therefore worthy of a better literature. Whether or not that’s fair to Wright is its own question. But it reveals Baldwin’s own priorities and values as a thinker and are important for that reason alone. » Read the rest of this entry «
Sad news via Publishers Weekly that poet Allen Grossman has passed away. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s at 83, according to this story and his son. I’m not a poetry professor or specialist, but I know beautiful words when I read them. Grossman’s poetry and fantastically wandering, evocative essays – a sort of poetics, also a sort of autobiography – caught me when I first read him. Completely by chance. » Read the rest of this entry «