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25 Years

Black Radical Humanism and the Problem of Freedom

Date: 
Fri, 10/18/2019 - 4:00pm
Event Location: 
President's Room - Coffman Memorial Union

The Institute for Critical Inquiry into Global Change presents: 

"Black Radical Humanism and the Problem of Freedom" 

Dr. Gary Wilder, The City University of New York

Abstract: Since the inception of Atlantic slave system, the degree of systemic violence that Western societies have perpetrated upon African and Afro-descended peoples is astonishing. Its staggering scope, intensity, and chronicity have been intrinsic to the making of the modern world. No historical community has been more affected by, or more aware of, how this racial violence, as well as the various forms of modern domination bound up with it, have been mediated by European conceptions of humanism, humanity, and the human. Yet central to many of this community’s most important radical thinkers, inseparable from their reflections on racism, domination, and emancipation is a commitment to what can only be called radical humanism. Scholars often treat this as a puzzle to be solved or problem to be explained. In contrast, I am interested in examining precisely the humanism of their radicalism and the radicalism of their humanism. Doing so, I believe, will illuminate a particular current or tradition of 20th century black radicalism that developed in the U.S., the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa, in both Anglophone and Francophone contexts. It may help us to better engage the issues with which they grappled – not only the color bar, racial capitalism, and colonial imperialism, but the very problem of freedom, the meaning of emancipation, and the possibility of a good life under modern conditions. Moreover, this critical tradition may speak directly to some of the theoretical impasses and political challenges of our current conjuncture. Running through this study is an argument about the parallels, intersections, and productive tensions between this form of black radical humanism and 20th century heterodox Marxism. Central to the project are close readings of W.E.B. Dubois, James,Césaire, Glissant, Stuart Hall, and Paul Gilroy in relation to their insurgent or maroon predecessors and their feminist, postcolonial, or Afro-Pessimist successors.

Lecture and Q & A from 4-5:30pm with a reception to follow.