Symbolic Forms for a New Humanity: Cultural and Racial Reconfigurations of Critical Theory

Symbolic Forms for a New Humanity: Cultural and Racial Reconfigurations of Critical Theory

Symbolic Forms for a New Humanity: Cultural and Racial Reconfigurations of Critical Theory

Symbolic Forms for a New Humanity: Cultural and Racial Reconfigurations of Critical Theory

Synopsis

It has become commonplace to write about the vociferous appetite of colonialism and its insatiable devouring of modern life. In this book the authors expand on those ideas, showing how there has been a colonization of critical theory itself, fitted with prejudices that would limit knowledge to analytic reductions commensurate with so-called Western metaphysics. Against such a monolithic force, the authors posit the work of the oft-neglected German Idealist Ernst Cassirer in careful textual precision to unearth his contribution to critical theory via an in-depth understanding of symbolic forms in all of their richness and complexity. Such a maneuver allows an ethical humanism to emerge that grants equal importance and standing both to the intellectual heritage of Afro-Caribbean historicism and poeticism and to the long-ignored significance of black philosophies of existence. Each of these traditions provide searing indictments against imperialist domination of the so-called Third World and return such questions of domination to the realm of critical theory against some who would deny that we are still in an age of imperialism. The focus of this book is an exposition on the human condition that is then expanded upon to raise, and at times answer, some of the most important questions of "What is to be done?" about the global racism, sexism, and poverty that have asymmetrically infected the livelihoods and ways of life for so many people who have been rendered beneath the register of humanity.

Excerpt

In the image marking the cover of this book, Sacrifice by Mark Rothko (April 1946), interested readers should already feel their imagination provoked by the juxtaposition of colors, shapes, and symbols begging for meaning. We do not pretend to know the motivations of its creator, or fancy ourselves skilled aestheticians. But, this artwork and its title seem to dare one to name them into symbolic being.

The painting seems fluorescently sublime, a flicker of our own consciousness fallen out of time. the tip of a fiery red trident cleaves through the foreground and above its trail sets a bright yellow sphere that seems to burn through the canvas itself. the background to these symbols is a thick, solid rectangular stream painted in a melancholic hue of monotony stretched to horizontal infinity. Encircling this background are amorphous shapes of fluid two-ness and one-ness dancing to a rhythm heard only in aesthetic whisperings secretly traveling through the watercolors bound to the canvas. a figuration whimsically dressed in blue watches this event on the horizon, crowned with a halo stitched to its body with an almost unnoticeable dotted line. To the right of this anonymous being is an emaciated gray brushstroke with filaments writhing at its sides, an anthropomorphic allegory of a person fledging madly in distress.

It would be easy to point at the neglected, fallen gray line and remind ourselves that the absurdity of reality is taken to its zenith when the cries of the other are met with deafening silence from the world. Surely, we could figure the angelic spectator as a reminder of our own weak messianic power . . .

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