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Race and Racism in Continental Philosophy

Edited by Robert Bernasconi with Sybol Cook

Publication Year: 2003

The 15 original essays in Race and Racism in Continental Philosophy explore the resources that continental philosophy brings to debates about contemporary race theory and investigate the racism of some of Europe's most important thinkers. Attention is devoted to the influence of the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Wright, and Frantz Fanon. Questions about race in European philosophy -- especially in the work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Lévi-Strauss, and Arendt -- are also considered. This volume provides an indispensable critical introduction to new perspectives on thinking about race and racism.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Studies in Continental Thought

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pp. vii

The editors would like to thank Kathryn Gines, Anika Simpson, and, above all, Mary Beth Mader, all of the University of Memphis, for their translations of the essays by Alain David and Léopold Senghor. Special thanks are due to Alain David for securing permission to publish an English translation of “Les Nègres,” which appears as an appendix to...

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pp. 1-7

There is a long and strong tradition of African-American philosophers writing about race, but the recent explosion of interest in race theory among philosophers in English-speaking countries has so far been largely dominated by philosophers whose training and frame of reference is that of analytic philosophy. That marks a certain limitation not only in the resources available to...

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One: Negroes

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pp. 8-18

I am going to speak—I am going to try to speak—about “Negroes.” About “Negroes,” therefore, not about “Blacks” or “Africans,” or about the geopolitical or social or cultural reality of Africa, about which I don’t know more than what everyone in Europe and France knows—that is, that Africa is far away and complicated—scarcely anything. Which is, all the same, a bit more...

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Two: “One Far Off Divine Event”:“Race” and a Future History in Du Bois

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pp. 19-31

As early as 1897, W. E. B. Du Bois expressed his commitment to the theory of history with which he intended to mobilize Black Americans in a b id to have them recognized as fully enfranchised citizens in the United States. In his well-known address delivered to the American Negro Academy, “The Conservation of Races,” Du Bois claims that the people of the world can be...

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Three: Douglass and Du Bois’s Der Schwarze Volksgeist

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pp. 32-52

Frederick Douglass (1817–95) and W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) are critical figures in the political and intellectual history of race in the United States, whose respective visions about race and its conservation remain germane and influential. Contemporary debates around the conservation of race, for example, can be seen to reflect the basic positions that Douglass and Du Bois...

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Four: On the Use and Abuse of Race in Philosophy: Nietzsche, Jews, and Race

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pp. 53-73

In terms of race, Nietzsche is popularly dismissed as an anti-Semite. His views on race have either been used to reject his writings altogether or been ruled ancillary to the rest of his writings. As a result, little has been written on his concept of race and its role in his writings in general. I will investigate Nietzsche’s use of race by looking at the way he contended with “the Jewish...

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Five: Heidegger and Race

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pp. 74-97

For anyone acquainted with Heidegger’s writings, the question of Heidegger and race is likely to seem, prima facie, a little peculiar. Given that the idea of race is generally associated with a biologically based species of anthropology, and given that Heidegger’s thought is, in its fundamental principles, opposed to any such anthropology, one would not expect him to grant any validity to...

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Six: Ethos and Ethnos: An Introduction to Eric Voegelin’s Critique of European Racism

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pp. 98-114

As my title indicates, the purpose of this essay is to offer a historical and philosophical introduction to Eric Voegelin’s critique of European racist ideology. That critique is contained in two books, Race and State and The History of the Race Idea: From Ray to Carus, both published in Germany in 1933, and now reissued, in English translation, as volumes 2 and 3 of the thirty-four...

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Seven: Tropiques and Suzanne Césaire: The Expanse of Negritude and Surrealism

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pp. 115-128

Born in 1913 in Trois-Ilets, Martinique, the picturesque village where Napoleon’s Joséphine spent her adolescence, Suzanne Roussy was a philosophy student in Paris in the 1930s. Her philosophical debut would not occur until the onset of World War II. In 1937, Suzanne Roussy became Suzanne Roussy Césaire. She returned with then a spiring Negritude poet Aimé Césaire to...

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Eight: Losing Sight of the Real: Recasting Merleau-Ponty in Fanon’s Critique of Mannoni

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pp. 129-150

What does Fanon mean by alienation? The root of his conceptualization is a medical one, meaning a neurosis (cf. BSWM 204), but he employs it in a social context so that donning a white mask is equated with a false self, an inauthentic self in Sartre’s terms, or a self with a false consciousness in Marxian terms. Establishing a process of “ disalienation” moves Fanon away...

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Nine: Fanon Reading (W)right, the (W)right Reading of Fanon: Race, Modernity, and th eFate of Humanism

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pp. 151-175

My intention in this essay is to provide something of a metareading of the dialectic of race and racism—that is, to read the meaning of that logic by which the social construction of “race” is aggravated and distorted in the value judgments posited in the lived experience of individuals of dominant and subordinate groups at the end of late modernity. My “reading” of this...

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Ten: Alienation and Its Double;or, The Secretion of Race

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pp. 176-195

If “the black man is not a man,” as Frantz Fanon claims at the beginning of Black Skin, White Masks, who is he? Fanon answers that “the black is a black man” and he suggests that the rest of the book is his attempt to delineate the difference between a man and a black man (BSWM 8). Echoing Sartre, Fanon describes man’s confrontation with “a zone of nonbeing, an...

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Eleven: (Anti-Semitic) Subject, Liberal In/Tolerance, Universal Politics: Sartre Re-petitioned

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pp. 196-213

Why is it that the drift into post-history and post-politics in the face of and “after” Auschwitz has been marked by violent intrusions of traditional as well as postmodern styles of racism? How can one account for the upsurges in Europe of a primarily differential racism not only in the territory of former Yugoslavia but, in an uncanny correspondence, also in the very hearts...

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Twelve: Sartre and the Social Construction of Race

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pp. 214-226

That race is a social construct is, by now, old news, at least in philosophical circles. But what does it mean to say that a group that is, for instance, racially defined is a social construct? How we understand the process of constitution and related identities is important beyond the conceptual reality or nonreality that defines the group. The goal of this paper, then, is to provide...

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Thirteen: The Interventions of Culture: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Race, and the Critique of Historical Time

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pp. 227-248

The View from Afar, the title of one of the later collections of essays by Claude Lévi-Strauss, draws its inspiration, the author tells us, from the idea in Japanese Noh theater that in order to be a good actor it is necessary to know how to look at oneself the way the audience does—as “seen from afar.” For Lévi-Strauss, this “summed up the anthropologist’s attitude, looking at...

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Fourteen: All Power to the People! Hannah Arendt’s Theory of Communicative Power in a Racialized Democracy

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pp. 249-267

Hannah Arendt’s innovative, liberal political thought provides insights into the complexities and contradictions of the world’s premier democracy, its racialized practices and policies, and its mythologized status. Derived from personal experience as well as political practice and theory, Arendt’s theory of power posits that it is neither force, domination, nor oppression; power is...

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Fifteen: Beyond Black Orpheus: Preliminary Thoughts on the Good of African Philosophy

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pp. 268-285

In 1981, Peter O. Bodunrin (of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria) argued, “Philosophy in Africa has for more than a decade now been dominated by the discussion of one compound question: Is there an African philosophy, and if there is, what is it? The first part of the question has generally been unhesitatingly answered in the affirmative. Dispute has been primarily over the...

Appendix: What the Black Man Contributes

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pp. 287-301


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pp. 303-305


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pp. 307-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110671
E-ISBN-10: 025311067X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253342232

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Studies in Continental Thought

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Racism.
  • Race.
  • Continental philosophy.
  • Philosophers -- Europe -- Attitudes.
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