James Baldwin, William F. Buckley,
Jr., and the 1965 Cambridge Debate
Daniel Robert McClure
The 1965 debate at Cambridge University between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley,
Jr., posed the question: “Has the American Dream been achieved at the Expense of the
American Negro?” Within the contours of the debate, Baldwin and Buckley wrestled with the
ghosts of settler colonialism and slavery in a nation founded on freedom and equality.
Framing the debate within the longue durée, this essay examines the deep cultural currents
related to the American racial paradox at the height of the Civil Rights movement.
Underscoring the changing language of white resistance against black civil rights, the
essay argues that the Baldwin and Buckley debate anticipated the ways the U.S. would
address racial inequality in the aftermath of the civil rights era and the dawn of
neoliberalism in the 1970s.
industrialisation, legal protections and changes in family structures ( Moghadam, 2003 : 25). It is not necessarily
displacement itself that causes change; contestations about gender may already be
Scholars have critiqued descriptions of gendered changes during displacement that
emphasise the need for modernity. Humanitarian actors have been critiqued as
colonial for using European modernity as the stance from which the lives of
‘others’ are analysed ( Peace
This essay proposes that we turn to James Baldwin’s work to assess the cost of, and think alternatives to, the cultures of traumatization whose proliferation one witnesses in contemporary U.S. academia. Beginning with some recent examples, the essay briefly places these cultures into a genealogy of onto-ethics whose contemporary forms arose with the reconfiguration of diasporic histories in the idioms of psychoanalysis and deconstructive philosophy in 1990s trauma theory. Baldwin speaks to the contemporary moment as he considers the outcome of trauma’s perpetuation in an autobiographical scene from “Notes of a Native Son.” In this scene—which restages Bigger Thomas’s murderous compulsion in Native Son—he warns us against embracing one’s traumatization as a mode of negotiating the world. In foregoing what Sarah Schulman has recently called the “duty of repair,” such traumatized engagement prevents all search for the kind of “commonness” whose early articulation can be found in Aristotle’s query after “the common good” (to koinon agathon). With Baldwin, the present essay suggests the urgency of returning to the question of “the common good”: while mindful of past critiques, which have observed in this concept’s deployment a sleight-of-hand by which hegemonic positions universalize their interests, we should work to actualize the unfinished potential of Aristotle’s idea. Baldwin’s work on diasporic modernity provides an indispensable archive for this effort.
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). While anticipating late-modernity, the spirit of 1970s direct humanitarian action
was fabricated from a deductive process of knowledge formation framed by narratives of history,
causation and reciprocity. Reflecting the rise to dominance of a cybernetic episteme, this
register has been replaced by a reliance on inductive mathematical data and machine-thinking for
sense-making ( Rouvroy, 2012 ). Thinking has been
transformed into calculation ( Han, 2013 ). 1
The current dominance within the academy of empiricism and behaviourism reflects this
important in a world whose rules they did not write,
allege that human rights and humanitarianism represent the soft-power version of Western
modernity, another vector for the transmission of liberal-capitalist values and interests that
threatens their hold on national power and resources. China, with its muscular conception of
sovereignty and its no-questions-asked relationship with other authoritarian states, leads the
way. These non-Western states can hardly be blamed for their scepticism given the degree to which
humanitarians often attend crises
resource for academics from different fields (e.g. human
geography, information systems, anthropology and sociology, among others) interested in
understanding the role digital technology plays in the fulfilment of people’s
communication and information needs.
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Dimensions of Globalization ( Minneapolis
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
Rio de Janeiro, 20 August 2018
Outside, resentment festered in the deep tracks of modernity’s march. Inside, Celso
Amorim sat back on his sofa, coddling a copy of E. V. Rieu’s English translation of
The Iliad . ‘Sometimes I seek asylum in classical antiquity.’
There are surely more tranquil sites of refuge than Homer’s Troy. But it is perhaps
fitting that Amorim should find comfort in a foundational tale of great power struggle. He has
worked in foreign service for most of the last fifty years. He is the most
of my forthcoming book ( Evans, 2021 ).
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Deleuze , G. ( 1995
’ (128) – a ‘call to arms’ that was portrayed with
‘connotations of modernity’ (131) conveyed through images like that of
a Red Cross hospital with rows of ‘doctors and nurses in crisp Western
uniforms’ assembled on the lawn. Analysing ‘humanitarian
photography’, Reeves’ essay reminds us, requires looking at how
humanitarian mobilisations have occurred outside, often influenced but also distinct
from, the West. More comparative analysis of the visual languages of