African American Studies

By Jeanette R. Davidson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
African American Philosophy:
Through the Lens of Struggle

George Yancy

Duquesne University


INTRODUCTION

In this chapter, I provide a general characterization of African American philosophy which presupposes the continuous encounter by persons of African descent with the absurd in the form of white racism. While by no means exhaustive, I provide a broadly contextual approach to African American philosophy, emphasizing meta-philosophical themes and assumptions that I take to be salient. I then provide a sketch of a few early African American philosophers who earned their PhDs in the field of philosophy, focusing especially on two of those pioneer figures who have been historically neglected. Thematizing the neglect of early credentialed African American philosophers by those engaged in the project of explicating the meaning, structure, and various historical trajectories of African American philosophy functions as a form of critique. I then conclude, briefly, with African American philosophers’ efforts to create sites that nurture a sense of critical community and self-determination. Such efforts are dialectically linked to ideological and material anti-Black racist contexts out of which African American philosophy struggled and continues to struggle. Lastly, I make no claims to provide the last word on the subject of African American philosophy—as if there were such a thing. My approach to African American philosophy, and the assumptions that inform that approach, as with every hermeneutic framework, both discloses and yet conceals. One always begins an inquiry in medias res. There is no hermeneutic perspective from nowhere. Every perspective (etymologically, “to look”) is a partial, unfinished look, a beckoning for one to look again.

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