4 Political life in an antisemitic world: Hannah Arendt's Jewish writings All I wanted was to be a man among other men. I wanted to come lithe and young into a world that was ours and to help to build it together. (Franz Fanon, The Fact of Blackness ) 1 We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English or representatives of any country for that matter. We will always remain
Hannah Arendt’s Jewish writings
Robert Fine and Philip Spencer
James Baldwin Review (JBR) is an annual journal that brings together a wide array of peer‐reviewed critical and creative non-fiction on the life, writings, and legacy of James Baldwin. In addition to these cutting-edge contributions, each issue contains a review of recent Baldwin scholarship and an award-winning graduate student essay. James Baldwin Review publishes essays that invigorate scholarship on James Baldwin; catalyze explorations of the literary, political, and cultural influence of Baldwin’s writing and political activism; and deepen our understanding and appreciation of this complex and luminary figure.
James Baldwin and Malcolm X
Taking its cue from recent scholarly work on the concept of time in African American literature, this essay argues that, while both James Baldwin and Malcolm X refuse gradualism and insist on “the now” as the moment of civil rights’ fulfillment, Baldwin also remains troubled by the narrowness assumed by a life, politics, or ethics limited to the present moment. In his engagement with Malcolm’s life and legacy—most notably in One Day, When I Was Lost, his screen adaptation of Malcolm’s autobiography—he works toward a temporal mode that would be both punctual and expansive. What he proposes as the operative time of chronoethics is an “untimely now”: he seeks to replace Malcolm’s unyielding punctuality with a different nowness, one that rejects both calls for “patience,” endemic to any politics that rests on the Enlightenment notion of “perfectibility,” and the breathless urgency that prevents the subject from seeing anything beyond the oppressive system he wants overthrown. Both thinkers find the promise of such untimeliness in their sojourns beyond the United States.
Listening over James Baldwin’s Shoulder
Black music played a crucial role in the work and life of James Baldwin. What Baldwin heard in the music guided his sense of political reality and human possibility, his invention of character, his shifting analytical point of view, and his decisions about what to do, when, and how to do it during his life in private and career in public. The music, therefore, also offers his critics and his readers important insight and guidance in their own experience and interpretation of his work. This brief essay accounts for some of the most basic connections between Baldwin and black music; it serves here as an introduction to a list of songs, some of which offered Baldwin important guidance and some of which offer his readers access to deeper meanings in his work. A playlist of songs, curated by Ed Pavlić and Justin A. Joyce, is available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtSYQ5bCX-C-IZkeQ_PX7ncsbdjI32HSy
Deaths and politicised deaths in Buenos Aires’s refuse
Mariano D. Perelman
The appearance of corpses in rubbish tips is not a recent phenomenon. In Argentina, tips have served not only as sites for the disposal of bodies but also as murder scenes. Many of these other bodies found in such places belong to individuals who have suffered violent deaths, which go on to become public issues, or else are ‘politicised deaths’. Focusing on two cases that have received differing degrees of social, political and media attention – Diego Duarte, a 15-year-old boy from a poor background who went waste-picking on an open dump and never came back, and Ángeles Rawson, a girl of 16 murdered in the middle-class neighbourhood of Colegiales, whose body was found in the same tip – this article deals with the social meanings of bodies that appear in landfills. In each case, there followed a series of events that placed a certain construction on the death – and, more importantly, the life – of the victim. Corpses, once recognised, become people, and through this process they are given new life. It is my contention that bodies in rubbish tips express – and configure – not only the limits of the social but also, in some cases, the limits of the human itself.
James Baldwin and Ray Charles in “The Hallelujah Chorus”
Based on a recent, archival discovery of the script, “But Amen is the Price” is the first substantive writing about James Baldwin’s collaboration with Ray Charles, Cicely Tyson, and others in a performance of musical and dramatic pieces. Titled by Baldwin, “The Hallelujah Chorus” was performed in two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City on 1 July 1973. The essay explores how the script and presentation of the material, at least in Baldwin’s mind, represented a call for people to more fully involve themselves in their own and in each other’s lives. In lyrical interludes and dramatic excerpts from his classic work, “Sonny’s Blues,” Baldwin addressed divisions between neighbors, brothers, and strangers, as well as people’s dissociations from themselves in contemporary American life. In solo and ensemble songs, both instrumental and vocal, Ray Charles’s music evinced an alternative to the tradition of Americans’ evasion of each other. Charles’s sound meant to signify the history and possibility of people’s attainment of presence in intimate, social, and political venues of experience. After situating the performance in Baldwin’s personal life and public worldview at the time and detailing the structure and content of the performance itself, “But Amen is the Price” discusses the largely negative critical response as a symptom faced by much of Baldwin’s other work during the era, responses that attempted to guard “aesthetics” generally—be they literary, dramatic, or musical—as class-blind, race-neutral, and apolitical. The essay presents “The Hallelujah Chorus” as a key moment in Baldwin’s search for a musical/literary form, a way to address, as he put it, “the person and the people,” in open contention with the social and political pressures of the time.
Robert J. Corber
The author reviews Raoul Peck’s 2016 film, I Am Not Your Negro, finding it a remarkable achievement as a documentary that breaks with cinematic conventions and emphasizes the importance of listening as much as looking. The director has singled out Baldwin as the writer whose work spoke most directly to his own identity and experience during his peripatetic childhood in Haiti and Africa, and in I Am Not Your Negro, Peck aims to ensure that Baldwin’s words will have a similar effect on audiences. However, even as it succeeds in reanimating Baldwin’s voice for a new political era, I Am Not Your Negro inadvertently exposes the difficulty of fully capturing or honoring the writer’s complex legacy. As scholars have long noted, interest in Baldwin’s life and work tends to divide along racial and sexual lines, and Peck’s documentary is no exception. The filmmaker privileges Baldwin’s blackness over his queerness by overlooking the parts of The Devil Finds Work and No Name in the Street in which the writer’s queerness figures prominently.
and monopolistic distortions. And as liberal hopes for a pacific and technocratic utopia have taken leave of empirical reality, the assumption of progress has been sustained primarily through myth-making and cognitive gymnastics. Fake news is not the antithesis of liberal truth but its progeny. Nonetheless, the notion of liberal order is useful to the extent that it signals the role of liberal ideas and politics in the consolidation of Western hegemony and, more specifically, the expansion of American power. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four
Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order
own societies, especially as reformists of the centre left and right (Clinton, Blair) came to dominate the party-political scene after Thatcher and Reagan embedded the neoliberal revolution of the 1980s. After the Cold War, in other words, the liberal world order was a fact of life. In Margaret Thatcher’s immortal words, ‘there is no alternative’. The consequences of this focus on private enterprise, mobile money, weakened unions, reduced state welfare and regulation and lower taxes are all too visible today in areas like wealth inequality and
Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design
changing network connections and disconnections. The overlap here with neoliberalism’s necessarily ignorant subject is returned to below. Importantly, the pure factuality of a post-humanist existence casts doubts on the distinction between a lived reality and a wider world, a distinction that is central to knowledge and the narrative of history. Without this separation there is no space, as it were, for a political commons of contrasting life-chances, contestation and critique that is essential if we are to successfully share the world with Others