Letter on Salaita, U of Illinois

August 18th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

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 «

Heidegger, racism, and scholarship

July 23rd, 2014 § 25 comments § permalink

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 «

Beauty, pain, and A Small Place

July 21st, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

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 «

On Fanon’s birthday

July 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

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 «

Race, reading, and critical framing

July 3rd, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

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 «

Rest in peace, Allen Grossman

June 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

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 «

Spivak on Du Bois and Black Reconstruction

June 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Here is a snippet from an interview with Gayatri Spivak. The interview as a whole is very interesting, touching on issues of solidarity, community, language, translation, and the like. In this passage, she has a few words about Du Bois, capitalism, and racial capitalism in the frame of the success, then downfall, of Reconstruction. Very suggestive. And can’t wait for Spivak’s Du Bois book to come out.

From King’s Review, an interview with Ryan Rafaty. » Read the rest of this entry «

Grandin on slavery and freedom

June 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

From Greg Grandin’s fantastic The Empire of Necessity (Holt, 2013)

“Writing in the 1970s, Yale’s Edmund Morgan was one of the first modern historians to fully explore what he called the “central paradox” of this Age of Liberty: it also was the Age of Slavery. Morgan was writing specifically about colonial Virginia, but the paradox can be applied to all of the Americas, North and South, the Atlantic to the Pacific, as the history leading up to and including events on the Tryal reveals. What was true for Richmond was no less so for Buenos Aires and Lima—that what many meant by freedom was the freedom to buy and sell black people as property. » Read the rest of this entry «

Boys Will Be

June 16th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

melting boys feet
There’s blood on the leaves.

There is blood on this ground like there used to be, like there still is, blood on the leaves.

This blood, the kind that has been shed on this ground, is dark and brown and sticky. Familiar. It pools and spreads all over the floor. Reminding. It drips from the bodies of small black boys, small brown boys: from their chins, from their arms, from their feet, from the baskets they carry.

This blood, it reeks. » Read the rest of this entry «

Remembering Born in the U.S.A.

June 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

As hard as it is to believe, this is the 30th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. To get the obvious stuff out of the way: wow, time flies and this makes me realize just what getting older feels like. I was 15 when it first came out. I’ve listened to it regularly since it came out. I’ve argued with people who thought the title and title track was some sort of stupid patriotic anthem, I’ve » Read the rest of this entry «