Neil Roberts hosted a fantastic symposium on April 13th, putting together an eclectic group of political theory oriented folks to discuss the theme “Democracy Between Past and Future.” It was a great meeting and I gave this short talk titled “Vernacular Culture and the Problem of Belonging.”
The second annual symposium under the rubric Re-Thinking the Black Intellectual Tradition was held on March 30th, 2019. We gathered under the theme “Pessimism as Interpretative Frame” and explored the meaning of pessimism for thinking about the histories and lives of Black people.
Broadly: How can the abjection of blackness under regimes of anti-blackness be (or has it already been) reversed, disrupted, disputed, and resisted? Specifically: what is Négritude to James Baldwin, who is Baldwin to Négritude?
My essay, linked here in final draft form, is forthcoming in a volume on James Baldwin and his influences and sites of intervention. Baldwin did not talk in any detail about the Négritude movement in his non-fiction, despite the fact that it was one of the most important movements in the mid-century black Atlantic world.
What is the Middle Passage to philosophical thinking?
My talk at Society for French Historical Studies, linked HERE in very draft form, explored this question in Édouard Glissant’s work. I frame the discussion in terms of “event,” drawn from Martin Heidegger’s late work Identity and Difference. In particular, I am interested in how event or Ereignis names the appropriation of thought and thinking by moments of fissure, fracture, and radical breaks from the past. Glissant’s account of the Middle Passage is just that: an event that fractures relation to the past, but also generates new conditions of thinking – inside, but also outside, the disaster.
Here is a preview of my new book Glissant and the Middle Passage: Philosophy, Beginning, Abyss with University of Minnesota Press. The book offers a long argument for understanding the Middle Passage as a philosophical event, transforming our understanding of memory and its constitutive relation to subjectivity, aesthetics, and the nature of intellectual work.
Texts, conversation, and friendship … I value these three things more than anything else. Whether books or gestures or habits or art, conversations about texts among friends – new friends, old friends, everyone in between – just make me happy. It’s the sort of thing that makes work-life worth living.
I went to bed and woke up with the same troubled conscience of all decent people. Yet another school massacre, and all the senses of hopelessness that come with the news. Knowing it is unspeakably sad and awful, knowing we’ll be here again sooner than later.
From 30 December 2017
A small thought on Erica Garner.
I was thinking today about the long, searching conversations I had with my Baldwin seminar last spring while we were reading his last great work Evidence of Things Not Seen. Baldwin in that book was able to make the lives of black Atlanta and the lives of murdered children speak, come alive, and communicate their individual and communal despair, as well as the link between that suffering and the long arc of African-American history.
A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, he needs no new recognition. He was as great a poet as one can imagine. His non-fiction is fantastic. In a post-Fanon, post-Césaire world, he refashioned the meaning of the Caribbean for more than one generation of intellectuals. That is the world. For me, right here, there was no greater influence on my work in Africana studies.