Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought

Synopsis

Reflecting critically on the discipline of African American studies is a complicated undertaking. Making sense of the black American experience requires situating it within the larger cultural, political-economic, and ideological dynamics that shape American life. This volume moves away from privileging racial commonality as the fulcrum of inquiry and moves toward observing the quality of the accounts scholars have rendered of black American life.This book maps the changing conditions of black political practice and experience from Emancipation to Obama with excursions into the Jim Crow era, Black Power radicalism, and the Reagan revolt. Here are essays, classic and new, that define historically and conceptually discrete problems affecting black Americans as these problems have been shaped by both politics and scholarly fashion. A key goal of the book is to come to terms with the changing terrain of American life in view of major Civil Rights court decisions and legislation.

Excerpt

Adolph Reed Jr. and Kenneth W. Warren

This volume coheres around a presumption that African American studies and its subject matter are both nested within and partly constitutive of broader currents of American history and thought and, therefore, that making sense of the black American experience requires situating it fundamentally within the larger cultural, political-economic, and ideological dynamics that shape American life in general. Specifically, we stress this view against the tendency to attempt to reposition the field within putatively “diasporic” frames of reference. Although such perspectives have attracted considerable interest over the past two decades, their appeal stems more substantially from their privileging of racial commonality as the fulcrum of inquiry than from the quality of the accounts they render of black American life. We should be clear that our objection is not to transatlantic inquiry in principle. However, much of the discursive strain associated with the frame of the African diaspora, particularly that lying outside the nonverbal arts, relies on exceedingly thin intellectual or cultural history, naive textual interpretation, nimble yet facile cultural analysis, or other forms of metonymic fallacy to justify a claim that black Americans’ beliefs and practices are most authentically understood as nodes in a supraterritorial world of African descent. This objective is rooted in the unproblematized conflation of scholarly and political legitimations that besets the field, including the presumptive posture that black studies scholarship articulates needs, concerns, and perspectives for the race.

Rather than succumb to the temptation to attempt to speak on behalf of then black American identity and agendas have been constructed and pursued. To that extent they also undergird the black studies field’s definition of its subject matter and its interpretive frameworks.

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