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Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question

Kathryn T. Gines

Publication Year: 2014

While acknowledging Hannah Arendt's keen philosophical and political insights, Kathryn T. Gines claims that there are some problematic assertions and oversights regarding Arendt’s treatment of the "Negro question." Gines focuses on Arendt's reaction to the desegregation of Little Rock schools, to laws making mixed marriages illegal, and to the growing civil rights movement in the south. Reading them alongside Arendt's writings on revolution, the human condition, violence, and responses to the Eichmann war crimes trial, Gines provides a systematic analysis of anti-black racism in Arendt’s work.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt is among the most insightful and influential intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century, and her work remains relevant to the global political landscape of the twenty-first century.1 The ongoing publication and multiple reprints of Arendt’s books attest...

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pp. xiii-xiv

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge and thank my partner, Jason, who made sure that our four beautiful and brilliant children were lovingly engaged so that I could have the space and time to think and write. My heart is also filled with gratitude for the many scholars and friends who offered fruitful feedback...


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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-13

This book’s title echoes Richard Bernstein’s Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question in which he asserts that the Jewish question and Arendt’s wrestling with it left an impression on her thinking and writing.1 Bernstein’s title is quite provocative and he is careful to explain, “‘The Jewish question’ never referred to a...

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1 “The Girl, Obviously, Was Asked to Be a Hero”

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pp. 14-29

The opening lines of Hannah Arendt’s “Reflections on Little Rock” essay read: “It is unfortunate and even unjust (though hardly unjustified) that the events at Little Rock should have such an enormous echo in public opinion throughout the world” (RLR 46). Arendt goes on to situate these events inside the context of...

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2 “The Most Outrageous Law of Southern States—the Law Which Makes Mixed Marriage a Criminal Offense”

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pp. 30-42

In “Reflections on Little Rock,” Arendt is adamant that the fundamental human rights and civil rights issue was not equal educational opportunities, but rather anti-miscegenation laws. This position is emblematic of Arendt’s double-edged scholarship, which often offers innovative insights alongside outrageous...

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3 “The Three Realms of Human Life: The Political, the Social, and the Private”

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pp. 43-58

Hannah Arendt’s “Reflections on Little Rock” is only tangentially about the school desegregation crises that occurred in Arkansas. While this may seem like an odd claim to make, a closer look at the essay shows that the key themes taken up broadly address the division between the public, the private, and the social, as...

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4 “The End of Revolution Is the Foundation of Freedom”

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pp. 59-76

Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution offers an in-depth study of the concept of revolution, including two of the most influential revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American Revolution and the French Revolution. But Arendt’s evaluation of the American and French Revolutions in this work is full of inconsistencies...

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5 “A Preparatory Stage for the Coming Catastrophes”

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pp. 77-92

In 1945–1946 Hannah Arendt began to formulate a proposal for a manuscript with the working title The Elements of Shame: Anti-Semitism— Imperialism—Racism.1 The text would be published with the title The Burden of Our Time (1951) in England, but most are familiar with the text as The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)...

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6 “Only Violence and Rule over Others Could Make Some Men Free”

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pp. 93-111

The theme of violence can be traced throughout Arendt’s major political writings, such as The Human Condition and On Revolution, where she draws connections between war, violence, and necessity (or liberation from necessity); The Origins of Totalitarianism, where she examines Europe’s use of violence in concentration...

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7 “A Much Greater Threat to Our Institutions of Higher Learning than the Student Riots”

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pp. 112-122

Hannah Arendt wrote “Reflections on Violence” in 1969, a decade after the publication of “Reflections on Little Rock.” But Arendt’s later reflections have not changed much from her earlier reflections. If anything, her views seem to have gotten worse. And yet Arendt’s claims about Black students and higher education...

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Conclusion: The Role of Judgment in Arendt’s Approach to the Negro Question

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pp. 123-130

Throughout this book I have made several arguments. I argued that Arendt sees the Negro question as a Negro problem rather than a white problem, meaning that Arendt frames the issues of slavery, segregation, and colonialism/imperialism in a way that presents Black persons as the problem rather than situating white...


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pp. 131-166


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pp. 167-174

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253011756
E-ISBN-10: 0253011752
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253011671

Page Count: 194
Publication Year: 2014