Letter on Salaita, U of Illinois

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…

Heidegger, racism, and scholarship

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…

Beauty, pain, and A Small Place

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…

On Fanon’s birthday

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…

Race, reading, and critical framing

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,…

Rest in peace, Allen Grossman

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…

Spivak on Du Bois and Black Reconstruction

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…

Grandin on slavery and freedom

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…

Boys Will Be

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…

Remembering Born in the U.S.A.

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…