The essays gathered here, with one exception, were each presented, in whole or in part, at "An International Conference: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Question of Another World," held June 15–17, 2006, in the Graduate School of Education at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan. That setting—on the northern Paciﬁc coast of Japan among the hillsides of the Kawauchi campus of Tohoku University, with its magniﬁcent views overlooking the city and out to the ocean—provided a space of generous relief for the care of thinking. Likewise, its other side—the interior-scape of the discussion at the conference—was so rich, dense, multiple, and unprecedented in unexpected ways that the presentation of the essays in the form of this special issue should properly be understood as only one extension of an event, the incipiting occurrence of which continues to take on its own subtle turning play of multiple refracting impressions.
The general question that solicited our conference was apparently quite simple: in what way can the thought of W. E. B. Du Bois contribute to our thinking of the contemporary period, both our present and our future? We then formulated a further question, as our guide to unfolding the question [End Page 1] of Du Bois's relation to our time, in a sense folding the previous question over to reveal its other side: how might the thought of Du Bois propose the possibility of another world, a different one (in the past as much as in the future), perhaps a new one, perhaps even an impossible world, or even a world which is not one (neither a "one" nor a "world," an actual or given horizon)?
Perhaps one could ask about a world that could not—or might not—have been, or one that may or could be yet to come, even if it is yet impossible, beyond our horizon, beyond horizon. These formulations thus lead us to propose that the whole matter of ideals as Du Bois's itinerary inhabits it proposes a reconsideration of the status of telos in general as end or ﬁnality (or even whether such terms are the necessary heading). This form of the problematic can be said to have emerged on the subterranean levels of our conference.
It can be proposed (although each of the conference participants might well offer their own interventions on the matter) that across our differences of approach and consideration there was a maintenance of the thought that another world is, was, always—was and will be—possible, even if only by way of its impossibility. How, then, should we think such a question? What is required? And in what way does the itinerary and practice of Du Bois assist us, complicate our endeavor, or instruct us about limits in this domain? Certainly, then, the example of Du Bois—his persistence, his sense of hope, his indefatigable commitment to the labor of thought, and his respect for justice—continued to stand for us, across the differences of our relation to his practice. Yet, perhaps most profoundly, it is the problematizations of his thought, in a double sense of that which is announced within it and that which it names as a problem for thought that should be understood as the most powerful legacy that it is engaged here. It remains that the discussion as it was sustained across a few days at Tohoku—some passages of which show in the contributions that follow in this special issue—are simply the beginning of a sustained and contrapuntal conversation, a dialogue, a debate, an interlocution.
In her essay on "the idea of black culture," thus, Hortense Spillers names the stakes of a fundamental question for contemporary critical [End Page 2] thought in general and which, under the heading by which she engages it, often remains the unthought therein. This lucid, generous, "surreptitious" reﬂection cuts across contemporary debates on the bias, revealing thereby that the provenance of such a heading for critical work extends far beyond the questioning of a putative object: at stake is the question of our theoretical resource in our inhabitation of a historicity that sustains itself...