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James Baldwin’s Pragmatist Aesthetics

This essay establishes a philosophical connection between James Baldwin and the philosopher William James by investigating how the pragmatist protocol against “vicious intellectualism” offers Baldwin a key resource for thinking through how anti-black racism might be dismantled. While Richard Wright had earlier denounced pragmatism for privileging experience over knowledge, and thereby offering the black subject no means for redressing America’s constitutive hierarchies, uncovering the current of Jamesian thought that runs through Baldwin’s essays brings into view his attempt to move beyond epistemology as the primary framework for inaugurating a future unburdened by the problem of the color line. Although Baldwin indicts contemporaneous arrangements of knowledge for producing the most dehumanizing forms of racism, he does not simply attempt to rewrite the enervating meanings to which black subjects are given. Articulating a pragmatist sensibility at various stages of his career, Baldwin repeatedly suggests that the imagining and creation of a better world is predicated upon rethinking the normative value accorded to knowledge in the practice of politics. The provocative challenge that Baldwin issues for his reader is to cease the well-established privileging of knowledge, and to instead stage the struggle for freedom within an aesthetic, rather than epistemological, paradigm.

James Baldwin Review
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James Baldwin and the Ethics of Trauma

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.

James Baldwin Review
An Interview with James Baldwin (1969)

This is the first English language publication of an interview with James Baldwin (1924–87) conducted by Nazar Büyüm in 1969, Istanbul, Turkey. Deemed too long for conventional publication at the time, the interview re-emerged last year and reveals Baldwin’s attitudes about his literary antecedents and influences such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen; his views concerning the “roles” and “duties” of a writer; his assessment of his critics; his analysis of the power and message of the Nation of Islam; his lament about the corpses that are much of the history and fact of American life; an honest examination of the relationship of poor whites to American blacks; an interrogation of the “sickness” that characterizes Americans’ commitment to the fiction and mythology of “race,” as well as the perils and seductive nature of American power.

James Baldwin Review
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in 1952 (with a prologue written by Lamming). 17 In London, Lamming mixed with the poets Dylan Thomas, Louis McNeice, and George Barker, and with fellow West Indians, through whom he entered into a European network of exiled, black intellectuals. His friend C. L. R. James was in contact with Richard Wright in Paris. Wright wrote the introduction to the first (American) edition of In

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Sol Plaatje and W.E.B.Du Bois

threatens to foreclose rather than expand critical studies of black diasporic cultures, African cultures and their relationship. Part of the mystification lies in Gilroy’s notion of modernity, of which he gives both a totalising and a narrowly culturalist definition. Speaking of Richard Wright, for instance, Gilroy contends that ‘perhaps more than any other writer he showed how modernity was both the period and the region in which black politics grew. His work articulates simultaneously an affirmation and a negation of the western civilisation that formed him’ (p. 186

in Postcolonial contraventions
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’s Combat. But to explain French interest in the civil rights of Blacks solely by anti-Americanism would produce a partial account for several reasons. Black Americans, such as Josephine Baker and Sidney Bechet, had been important figures in French cultural life during the inter-war decades, and in the post-war years Paris-settled writers such as Richard Wright and James Baldwin maintained this interest. Indeed, French affection for Americans was strong after 1918, as the role of the United States in contributing to France’s victory was recognized. Black American soldiers

in Democratization through the looking-glass
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Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic

conceptualisation that posits black diasporic identity to be constituted through the triangular relationship of the continents of Africa, Europe and America. He traces the path of this transnational cultural-political formation through an exhilarating series of case studies analysing contemporary black music, the formative sojourns of prominent black intellectuals W.E.B. Du Bois and Richard Wright in Germany and France respectively. Of Du Bois, for example, he argues: chapter4 21/12/04 11:00 am Page 79 Journeying to death 79 Du Bois’s travel experiences raise in the

in Postcolonial contraventions
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francophone intellectuals – and to Richard Wright – needs more research. His political impact in France in the 1930s is investigated in Philippe Dewitte, Les Movements Nègres en France, 1919–1939 (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, n.d., 1986?). 44 James, ‘Notes on the life of

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
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ground-level histories.” This study draws from Gilroy’s ( 1993 ) theoretical framework of the Black Atlantic, but expands his geographical and theoretical purview in five important ways: (1) rather than exploring meanings created by individual sojourners such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Richard Wright, I specifically examine ground-level experiences of a group of Afro-Caribbeans; (2) I raise the

in Sport in the Black Atlantic
Forensic and archaeological approaches to locating the remains of Holocaust victims

number of key issues and raised a number of further questions in relation to both the history of the site itself and the contribution that archaeologists can make to the examination of Holocaust sites more broadly. There are also several questions that archaeologists will not be able to answer and a number of further challenges that they will likely face in the future as a result, either because we are unable to excavate or because of the Nazis’ attempts to hide their crimes. 182 182   Human remains in society Where are the bodies? In 2010, Richard Wright considered

in Human remains in society