Introduction -- Biographical details -- The nature of the philosophic enterprise: initial issues -- Contemporary scholarship on arts -- Artistic expression in Africa -- Philosophy and artistic expression in Africa -- Arts, memory and identity -- Conclusion.
Black beauty shame emerges within the Black/white binary because of the beauty values sedimented in our structure of feeling since African enslavement. This article does not start from white beauty as the ideal, but focuses on the performativity of Black beauty shame as it transforms or intensifies the meanings of parts of the body in Jamaica and its UK diaspora. Using extracts from interviews with UK Jamaican heritage women, the discussion illustrates how Black beauty shame (...) produces such intensification. First, where white beauty is iconic and reproduces the Black other as ‘ugly’, and second, where the Black ‘mixed race’ body is constructed as ‘other’ because of Black Nationalist discourses on beauty. The women’s critique of the shaming event shows that shame is undone through dis-identification as speakers draw on alternative beauty discourses to produce new beauty subjectivities. Dis-identification illustrates the transformational potential of shame as new Black beauty positionings emerge within the diaspora, drawing on beauty ideologies and models from Jamaica and thus destabilising the Black/white binary. (shrink)
In this article, I read Chester Himes' Blind Man With a Pistol as the work of an African- American writer who takes Harlem to be a colonial space, and who attempts to think through the ways that are available for him to contribute to some degree of liberation for its black residents. I suggest that there are strong parallels between Himes' position and that of African philosophers, and that Himes' self critique is instructive. I read this against Derrida's thoughts (...) on monolingualism and philosophy as a community of the question, asking what learning the language that is not one's own and what induction into the community of the question entail for the marginal, those who I describe as being from neither Athens nor Jerusalem. I conclude by offering my response to what I take to be our inescapable colonial lot: poetry and laughter. (shrink)
This article focuses on the work of Black and Asian women playwrights in Britain and examines their position as constitutive subjectivities in contemporary British culture. It suggests that recent developments in theatre studies such as the emphases on the postcolonial, intercultural, world theatre and performance art, which have emerged simultaneously with these playwrights’ work and might have offered some critical reception of their work, have not done so because of their maintenance of a colonial cultural imaginary that is more (...) engaged with the elsewhere and the ‘other’ than with the here and now and the diasporic reality of contemporary Britain. Utilizing Avtar Brah’s concept of the ‘diaspora space’, the article argues that Black and Asian women playwrights’ work in Britain not only demands an interrogation of British theatre as a ‘white’ space but also asks that we accept Britain as a diasporic space. (shrink)
: It is argued here that part of the attraction of African music in the Atlantic Diaspora is its roots in an oral tradition in which agency is often more important than words. This makes it possible for the music to have a moral significance, not merely with respect to the verbal content of the words of songs but also with respect to the manner in which it is composed and performed. As such, a performance may be liberating, even (...) when the words used in the performance are not. By reinforcing elements of the oral tradition in a culture based on notational literacy, the music of the Black Atlantic exemplifies an alternative to ideals embodied in a technological culture. (shrink)
This essay argues that Marcus Garvey held a constructivist theory of self-determination, one that saw nationalism and transnationalism as mutually necessary and reinforcing ideals. The argument proceeds in three steps. First it recovers Garvey’s transnationalist emphasis by looking at his intellectual debts to other diaspora struggles, namely political Zionism and Irish nationalism. Second it argues that Garvey held a constructivist view of national identity, which also grounds his argument that the blackdiaspora has a right to collective (...) self-determination. Third it explicates Garvey’s further contention that the right to self-determination and the persistence of oppression give the African diaspora a pro tanto claim to an independent state, which he considered essential to vanquishing white supremacy and realizing collective self-rule. (shrink)
This essay explores a philosophical encounter between Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin framed by the problem of the affect of shame. In particular, this essay asks how the affect of shame functions simultaneously as the accomplishment of regimes of anti-black racism and the site of transformative, revolutionary consciousness. Shame threatens the formation of subjectivity, as well as, and as an extension of, senses of home and belonging. How are we to imagine another subjectivity, another relation to home, and so (...) another kind of social and political order? For both Fanon and Baldwin, imagining the future requires an engagement with memory and history that purges black subjects of shame. The two thinkers part ways at that moment, however, with Fanon advocating a forgetting of abject history and Baldwin arguing for a retrieval of meaning and place won through pain and suffering. At the heart of this parting of ways, then, lies a conflict over the meaning of history across the blackdiaspora and its relation to cultural production, which, in turn, reflects important, differing conceptions of home. (shrink)
This review seeks to evaluate and navigate the theoretical terrain in which author Nathalie Etoke engages new modes of reflection on old problems of anti-black violence and erasure. Melancholia Africana: The Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition is a fairly short and accessible text devoted to rethinking paradigms of subjectivity in ways that animate our individual and collective responsibility. She offers theoretical but practical interventions invigorated by the indisputable vitality of Black arts, particularly music and literature. She (...) deftly combines rigorous philosophical examinations of the self and the other with a praxis-oriented invitation to reconsider the pathological hierarchy of social relations since the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how we might best upend them. Etoke’s refreshing take is one of possibility and potential. (shrink)
This article explores chemical skin bleaching practices in urban Ghana to demonstrate the ways that particular racialized understandings of meaning are deployed in a contemporary postcolonial African society. I argue that the processes of racialization indexed by skin bleaching in Ghana must be contextualized within global racial formations; specifically, they can only be understood by examining the interlinked local and global ideologies and practices of race. In elaborating this argument, the essay also engages with contemporary African diaspora theorization that (...) tends to foreground diasporic identity and experience at the expense of contemporary continental processes. By bringing a postcolonial African society into a dialogue about race, processes of racialization, and the interlinked transnational construction of black identities, this essay offers one way out of the ambivalent relationship that I believe diaspora theorization has with Africa. (shrink)
In _History 4° Celsius_ Ian Baucom continues his inquiries into the place of the Black Atlantic in the making of the modern and postmodern world. Putting black studies into conversation with climate change, Baucom outlines how the ongoing concerns of critical race, diaspora, and postcolonial studies are crucial to understanding the Anthropocene. He draws on materialist and postmaterialist thought, Sartre, and the science of climate change to trace the ways in which evolving political, cultural, and natural history (...) converge to shape a globally destructive force. Identifying the quest for limitless financial gain as the primary driving force behind both the slave trade and the continuing increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, Baucom demonstrates that climate change and the conditions of the Black Atlantic, colonialism, and the postcolony are fundamentally entwined. In so doing, he argues for the necessity of establishing a method of critical exchange between climate science, black studies, and the surrounding theoretical inquiries of humanism and posthumanism. (shrink)
If philosophy’s pretensions are to the universal, its creative context is ineluctably local, and we routinely refer, without perceiving any contradiction, to ancient Greek metaphysics, medieval logic, German idealism, the Scottish Enlightenment, American neo-pragmatism, and so forth, without thinking that these modifiers of time and space invalidate the insights of the bodies of thought in question. Recently, race has explicitly emerged—some would say it has long been implicitly present—as another spatiotemporal modifying term, genealogically linked to the modern period insofar as (...) critical race theorists claim race is a constructed product of modernity, and global in scope, insofar as there is a planetary “white” European diaspora of voluntary migration and a “black” African diaspora of forced migration. Africana Philosophy has thus recently been added to the APA’s list of officially recognized philosophical subdivisions, signifying the “black” philosophy that has come out of the African, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean experience. The first two fields are well established; the last has been completely unrecognized. It is the great and overwhelming merit of Paget Henry’s book, Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy, that it sets out to change that unhappy state of affairs, and succeeds. Moreover, as one of the first works in Routledge’s Africana Thought book series, co-edited by Henry and Lewis Gordon, it should be of great interest not just to the small number of people who presently work in the field, but to philosophers in general who want to educate themselves about how differently philosophy—and what are deemed to be the pressing philosophical questions—will be conceived of in a context so radically different from the more familiar “white” European and Euro-American setting. Yet we do well to remember that these are not at all two unrelated worlds, but rather two poles of a single world. (shrink)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s account of a transnational “confessing” church, developed with allusion to W.E.B. Du Bois, offers critical potential for addressing the problem of the global color line. To make this case, I first trace the ways in which Du Bois’s and Bonhoeffer’s German–American exchange studies contribute to their critical standpoints. Bonhoeffer’s “Protestantism without Reformation” is then examined to show that its view of American denominations is not mere German paternalism but a critique of how atomized churches can mask racial segregation, (...) even as it takes seriously America’s founding as a “nation of refugees.” Finally, Bonhoeffer’s references to intercultural encounter, particularly with respect to the Jewish diaspora in his later Ethics, provide for the extension of his ecclesiology beyond Germany and the “West.” Specifically, Du Bois’s own creedal language and pan-Africanism require that a truly global confession of the “form of Christ” must attend to unrecognized histories from the “Black Atlantic.”. (shrink)
Using the turn of the century blackface performer Bert Williams as a case study, this essay explores how we might think about black male performativity in the New World as a historical formation, one that extends both over the time of modernity and across the space of diaspora. I draw from contemporary theories of circum-atlantic performance and black feminist studies of the impact of slavery on black racial and gendered identities, to argue that performance affords a (...) unique window into how blackness is constructed in a space between the black male performer and his equally racialized New World audience. The essay theorizes a notion of key black male performances as ‘signature acts’, then explores discussions of minstrelsy by other black American writers such as Ralph Ellison, Ishmael Reed, and the black British writer Caryl Phillips. Using Fanon's notions of triple-consciousness in tandem with Brechtian and Freudian theories of alienated performances and jokes, the essay concludes with a brief analysis of some of the gendered significations in lyrics from Bert Williams’ first musical comedy and then also in a novel about the performer by Caryl Phillips. (shrink)
Introduction Paul Boshears The following excerpt from Paul Amitai's In Between States: Field notes and speculations on postwar landscapes (2012) confounds its reader. Presenting an alternate history of the State of Israel as a space station orbiting Earth, the excitement of possibilities crackles across the texts and images. Like Chris Marker's La Jeteé , the accompanying static images distort the viewer's temporality: are these archaeological items, images from a past, or a future? Why isn't this our future? In Between States (...) can also be seen as complementing Larissa Sansour's provocative science fiction works, Space Exodus (2009) which "documents" the Palestinian space program, and her Nation Estate (2012), in which Palestine is relocated into a skyscraper. Amitai's vision opens onto an intergalactic diaspora, wherein the refugees of World War II are given the stars as Western Europe continues to fight over terrestial colonies. —PFB Auditorium, Hoechst AG headquarters, Industriepark-Höchst, 2011. In 1941 an investigation by the US Justice Department exposed a marriage cartel between John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil) and I.G. Farben. The two corporations had formed a joint operation in 1927 called Standard IG Farben. It was revealed that the two had shared patents in order to control prices and markets in their respective regions. Standard was accused of hiding patents from the US Navy and supplying fuel to German submarines, which lead to charges of criminal conspiracy. The Pentagon intervened, requesting that President Roosevelt stop the investigation in order to protect war production and oil supply. Roosevelt agreed, and the Senate committee investigating the matter, headed by Senator Harry Truman, was halted. Standard Oil paid a fine of $5000 and promised to stop supplying fuel to the enemies. Auditorium, Hoechst AG headquarters, Industriepark-Höchst, 2011. Furious at the decision to terminate the investigation of acts he considered treason, Truman initiated a new inquiry into Standard Oil’s war-time practices after succeeding Roosevelt as president in 1945. With the chief executives of I.G Farben simultaneously on trial at Nuremburg, Truman brokered a deal with the Allies that reduced or withdrew criminal charges leveled against both corporations in exchange for Standard Oil and I.G. Farben’s sponsorship of one of Truman’s most ambitious postwar projects—the relocation of the Jewish people. Detail, Sanofi-Aventis advertisement, 2011. The third critical player in this bold experiment was the nascent North Atlantic Space Agency. Formed by Allied forces using the seized assets and engineering expertise of Hitler’s hitherto classified space program (conquer Earth, then the stars), the North Atlantic Space Agency was a pre-NATO foray into interstellar nation building, with orbital occupation as the first point of order. By 1947, NASA was nearly ready to deploy the first manned space station. Standard Oil and I.G. Farben’s advanced fuel refinement capacities and deep, war-enriched financial resources allowed NASA to speed up their launch schedule significantly. Detail, Sanofi-Aventis advertisement, 2011. Diplomatic efforts to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine were failing to gain traction, while post-colonial England held its ground on immigration restrictions and bands of Jews and Arabs battled over territory on the ground. More immediate was the issue of temporarily housing Holocaust survivors and refugees across scorched Europe. Leaders of the continental nations demonstrated, at best, reluctance to accommodate the Jews, who in turn were, at the least, resistant to returning to the same bloody cocktail from which they had fled. Truman used the impasse to advance a plan for NASA’s space station to be put to use as a temporary Jewish outpost, an orbital displaced persons camp, to be operated by the US Army. Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011. Final preparations advanced rapidly. Viewing the orbital displaced persons (ODP) camp as a solution to their immigration problem both at home and abroad, England came on board as a willing partner. Spaceship Exodus was positioned for takeoff on German farmland 20 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt. On December 30, 1947, one month after the UN General Assembly voted down the separation plan for Palestine, Exodus rocketed into the atmosphere hauling the first module of barracks designed to house 1,500 refugees. Transport vehicles arrived shortly thereafter, loaded down with leftover wartime military rations and 3,000 Jews of Russian and Polish origin. Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011. "The camp is the space that is opened when the state of exception begins to become the rule."—Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer , trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 96. Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011. The ODP camp proved to be a longer-term solution than originally envisioned. Additional installations were positioned to form swollen clusters of interlocking units – sleeping quarters, schools, clinics, canteens. The UN was brought in to monitor the camp following two chaotic years of US Army control in which food shortages, pandemic diseases, and rampant black market trade had brought the camp to near total collapse. No less bureaucratic or ineffectual, the UN relief agency at least had prior experience facilitating contexts of a similar magnitude and could potentially predict outcomes. Detail, Infaserv Höchst advertisement, 2011. What had been unexpected was the degree to which the camp would evolve into its own self-regulated, hive-like ecosystem where previously accepted rules of conduct were not applicable. The ODP camp was an exceptional space, a riverboat casino, an offshore research lab of social experimentation and entrepreneurial innovation. No longer Earth-bound, touching soil knotted by prescripts of Talmudic law, the camp residents were able to rationalize loopholes and detonate barriers standing in the way of absolute production. The Jewish archipelago was renamed Israel after the ancient homeland. If the temple couldn’t be rebuilt in the motherland, a post-national rhizome would sprout up in its stead. Eyes everywhere, beyond all borders. More information on the project at the author's site. (shrink)
Monica A. Coleman achieves remarkable rigor in bringing together in one volume her long-standing interests in process philosophy and theology, womanist theology and ethics, African diaspora studies, West African religions, and African American women’s literature. Making a way out of No Way (2008) is a tour de force in contemporary African American constructive theology and especially in womanist discourse on the religious experience(s) of African American women. Coleman insists on understanding black women’s religious experience through the lens of (...) their complex subjectivity, which is irreducible to singularity or totality. As typically found in academic womanist theology, Coleman does not begin her theology with .. (shrink)
This paper is a critic analysis of a doctorate thesis and a master dissertation, which subjects are the samba and the afro religions in the city of São Paulo. Both consider the samba and the religion as manifestations and cultural expressions through which the black population in afro-diaspora rebuilded and reupdated memories via religiosity, rythm, dance and performan.
This article examines the novels Icône urbaine by French-Togolese writer Lauren Ekué and Blues pour Elise by French-Cameroonian/afropean writer Léonora Miano, with regard to their contribution to chick-lit in a broad sense. With a focus on urban working women, their love lives and consumerism, these novels fulfil a number of criteria of mainstream chick-lit. At the same time, however, a serious concern for structural power relations is inscribed into these texts. Both novelists make ample use of intermedial writing such as (...) structural borrowing from and references to music, TV formats and the fashion press. I will analyse these narrative strategies and address how far Ekué and Miano copy, rewrite and reinvent the Anglo-American chick-lit genre from the transnational perspective of the African Diaspora in France and considering the peculiarities of black Paris as a space. (shrink)
Despite the unprecedented freedoms that decolonization has brought for many Black1 people – especially in specific regions of the African Diaspora – freedom and its fulfilment, adequate signs and contested meanings remain a preoccupation within Black cultural discourses and practices. At the same time, while political and cultural nationalisms have led to greater political and civil rights, racism has not been eradicated. Furthermore, the new postcolonial globalizations of capital, people and cultures have destabilized the collective identities that framed (...) twentieth-century struggles for national sovereignty and equal citizenship, without necessarily erasing them. Instead, they remain, no longer securely anchored in their old homogenous appearances, but re-configured through the inner differences and contradictions of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion. This article addresses these internal differences and the ways in which they produce new contestations over race, the meaning of Black representation and postcolonial freedom, negotiations that are increasingly traced on the intimate contours of the body and the self, through practices of personal consumption, erotic hedonism and style as key performances of freedom. It achieves this through examining two localized moments in the transnational and diasporic circulation of Jamaican dancehall culture, understood as a privileged public space for the performance of Black identifications and personal freedom. It argues that the eroticized discourses of ethnicity, race and gender found in dancehall culture articulate the dominance of neo-liberal conceptions of freedom at the same time as they express, resist and comment on new cultural hegemonies not reducible to racism or the power of the West; that is how dancehall expresses the new problematizations of postcoloniality. 1Except when quoting other writers, I will capitalise the word Black, in order to recognise Black identity as a historically and politically constituted experience and representational category, and not solely denoting skin colour. (shrink)
This article explores reverse mission as practised by African Christians in Britain. The main research question is what crucial role does African identity play in African mission in Britain and how does that lead towards developing African British theology? It is argued that such a theology will help African Christians in Britain be affirmed in their cultural identity whilst at the same time reach beyond African communities in their mission engagement. African British theology is related to Black British theology (...) in that they both take the black experience seriously for theological reflection. However, African British theology is also distinct in that it seeks to understand African identity and mission in a postmodern multicultural British society. My research methods have been as an African Practical Theologian involving active participation as well participant observation. My approach has been interdisciplinary engaging the fields of practical theology, diaspora missiology, African theology and Black theology. (shrink)
Quel message est apporté par le courant littéraire de la négritude, et comment procède-t-il pour le transmettre? C'est par le biais d'une écriture introspective que la diaspora noire a conquis sa dignité et dépassé le stade victimaire, par-delà le seul cadre de la communauté francophone. A travers l'histoire de la traite et de la colonisation, notre lecture procédera en trois phases: une phase locutoire, consacrée à un rappel chronologique du contexte noir dans l'Histoire; une phase illocutoire, où seront exposées (...) les différentes réactions de l'intelligentsia noire face à la ségrégation et au passif colonial; une phase perlocutoire, qui conclura l'étude en observant l'impact de la négritude sur la réalité sociale du genre noir. Au-delà du courant historique francophone, l'idée de négritude incarne le problème des constructions d'identité et illustre parfaitement la difficulté de la condition humaine: être ce que nous voulons de ce que les autres veulent faire de nous. (shrink)
This article aims to present Judith Butler’s theory of diaspora as a theological paradigm for post-secular social existence. Her accounts of dispossession, statelessness, and exilic identity all afford us a normative challenge for how to think politics and the theological together. We begin by framing Judith Butler’s diasporic theory of politics within Adriennes Rich’s poetic perspective on ecstatic identity. We proceed to argue that by emphasizing both the precariousness and interdependency of social life, Rich and Butler’s shared commitments to (...) universalizing queer forms of collective belonging and affective relations offer an alternative post-secular paradigm to that offered so far by theorists such as Charles Taylor or Jürgen Habermas. Achieving a post-secular “state” may ultimately be a matter of embracing the failure of our own representations, particularly the failures of contemporary religion to represent either the divine or the human, or to constitute a society with its own political theology. It is paradoxically this kind of failure that can open us up to look at ourselves, and to focus on the precariousness and vulnerability of human existence that we see with our very eyes and reproduced by our very own hands. (shrink)
Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons, yet liberalism has denied equality to those it saw as black sub-persons. In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in the United States today.
Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race understands Black embodiment within the context of white hegemony within the context of a racist, anti-Black world. Yancy demonstrates that the Black body is a historically lived text on which whites have inscribed their projections which speak equally forcefully to whites' own self-conceptualizations.
The Black Lives Matter movement has called for the abolition of capital punishment in response to what it calls “the war against Black people” and “Black communities.” This article defends the two central contentions in the movement’s abolitionist stance: first, that US capital punishment practices represent a wrong to black communities rather than simply a wrong to particular black capital defendants or particular black victims of murder, and second, that the most defensible remedy for (...) this wrong is the abolition of the death penalty. (shrink)
Black hole thermodynamics is regarded as one of the deepest clues we have to a quantum theory of gravity. It motivates scores of proposals in the field, from the thought that the world is a hologram to calculations in string theory. The rationale for BHT playing this important role, and for much of BHT itself, originates in the analogy between black hole behavior and ordinary thermodynamic systems. Claiming the relationship is “more than a formal analogy,” black holes (...) are said to be governed by deep thermodynamic principles: what causes your tea to come to room temperature is said additionally to cause the area of black holes to increase. Playing the role of philosophical gadfly, we pour a little cold water on the claim that BHT is more than a formal analogy. First, we show that BHT is often based on a kind of caricature of thermodynamics. Second, we point out an important ambiguity in what systems the analogy is supposed to govern, local or global ones. Finally, and perhaps worst, we point out that one of the primary motivations for the theory arises from a terribly controversial understanding of entropy. BHT may be a useful guide to future physics. Only time will tell. But the analogy is not nearly as good as is commonly supposed. (shrink)
In recent months, Covid‐19 has devastated African American communities across the nation, and a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd. The agents of death may be novel, but the phenomena of long‐standing epidemics of premature black death and of police violence are not. This essay argues that racial health and health care disparities, rooted as they are in systemic injustice, ought to carry far more weight in clinical ethics than they generally do. In particular, this essay examines palliative and (...) end‐of‐life care for African Americans, highlighting the ways in which American medicine, like American society, has breached trust. In the experience of many African American patients struggling against terminal illness, health care providers have denied them a say in their own medical decision‐making. In the midst of the Covid‐19 pandemic, African Americans have once again been denied a say with regard to the rationing of scarce medical resources such as ventilators, in that dominant and ostensibly race‐neutral algorithms sacrifice black lives. Is there such thing as a “good” or “dignified” death when African Americans are dying not merely of Covid‐19 but of structural racism? (shrink)