Reading works by African American philosophers, we will examine debates over the definition of race, ethnicity, and citizenship, and study how these philosophers assess the rule of law and the use of force in twentieth century America. Since all these works refer to the concrete and problematic situation of African Americans, they raise with special urgency the issue of how philosophical reflection can address social change. When a philosopher makes his or her lived experience as an African American a theme for philosophical reflection, it changes the conception of philosophical method in deep and interesting ways. It also marks out an intellectual and political space at the center of philosophical research for the thinker, who thereby rejects a marginalization that is widespread and unjust. The course will include works by W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., Joy James, and Frantz Fanon.
Speakers from other institutions will be an important part of this publicity. Lewis Gordon works in the area of Africana philosophy, phenomenology, and social and political theory, and is especially concerned with theories of race and philosophies of liberation: he is the Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought at Temple University. One of his numerous books, Her Majesty's Other Children: Sketches of Racism from a Neocolonial Age (1997) won the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. Joy A. James is active in various human rights groups for political prisoners, and has edited several anthologies on incarceration in the United States, most recently The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings (SUNY Press, 2004). She is currently studying the role of women in the Civil Rights movement. Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze specializes in African philosophical thought and social and political theory, with an emphasis on postcolonial thought, theories of race, and human rights. His most recent book Achieving Our Humanity: The Idea of the Postracial Future was published by Routledge in 2001. Harvey Cormier writes on Cornel West's pragmatism, Kant, and Marx, with a special interest in debates on the concept of race. His book The Truth is What Works, or, Pragmatism and the Seed of Death, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2000.
This course is supported by a $9500 NEH Challenge Grant, Team Teaching Across the Humanities.