Here are the comments I made introducing Vijay Iyer at the 28 January 2016 Hutchins Center colloquium at Harvard, with links to text and examples.
Introducing Vijay Iyer
It is an immense pleasure and honor to introduce Vijay Iyer today, Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music. I know Vijay a bit, and I’ll talk about that in a moment, but before meeting him in person, I was like everyone floored by his music. It is vibrant, challenging, multi-sensory, intellectual, and just flat out beautiful. His honors and recognitions are well-known: Grammy nominee in 2011, Doris Duke Performing Artist in 2012, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and named by DownBeat magazine as pianist of the year in 2014, then artist of the year in 2015. Vijay’s albums have won similar honors (more…)
Here are my long-ish remarks on Lisa Guenther’s book Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives, for a book session at the 2014 American Philosophical Association.
It is nothing surprising to say that Lisa Guenther’s Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives is a stunningly important work. Her topic – the meaning and significance of the practice of solitary confinement as a form of punishment – could not be more timely and urgent, whether we look to the recently released report on torture practices in the U.S. or to the increasing attention given to racialized practices of incarceration in this country. (more…)
Here are my remarks from the roundtable discussion on James Baldwin and Privacy at the American Studies Association meeting in Los Angeles. They are short (a 5-8 minute slot), but I try here to think about colonialism as hyper-visibility and publicity and how Baldwin’s conception of Black cultural formation in the United States operates with a sense of privacy that complicates, if not out rejects, the relation between coloniality and the social and political practice(s) of anti-Black racism in the U.S. (more…)
The following is my response to comments by Sonia Sikka and Kris Sealey at the 23 October book session on my Levinas and the Postcolonial. They commented extensively, raising questions of the future of Levinas studies, philosophical pluralism, and the legacies of colonialism in contemporary thought. This is what I have to say in reply… (more…)
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? (more…)
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. (more…)
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?). (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)