Being Apart

Being Apart: Theoretical and Existential Resistance in Africana Literature

LaRose T. Parris
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Being Apart
    Book Description:

    InBeing Apart,LaRose Parris draws on traditional and radical Western theory to emphasize how nineteenth- and twentieth-century Africana thinkers explored the two principal existential themes of being and freedom prior to existentialism's rise to prominence in postwar European thought. Emphasizing diasporic connections among the works of authors from the United States, the Caribbean, and the African continent, Parris argues that writers such as David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, Frantz Fanon, and Kamau Brathwaite refute what she has termed the tripartite crux of Western canonical discourse: the erasure of ancient Africa from the narrative of Western civilization, the dehumanization of the African and the creation of the Negro slave, and the denial of chattel slavery's role in the growth of Western capitalism and empire. These writers' ontological and phenomenological ruminations not only challenge the assigned historical and epistemological marginality of Africana people but also defy current canonical demarcations. Charting the rise of Eurocentrism through a genealogy of eighteenth-century Enlightenment racial science while foregrounding the lived Africana experience of racism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Parris shows that racist ideology is intrinsic to modern Western thought rather than being an ideological aberration.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3814-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    During Western modernity,¹ the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century proliferation of literary productions by enslaved and free Africans must be understood for its historical, philosophical, and epistemological import, as African people’s interventions into Western discourse became a form of theoretical resistance to their enslavement, subjugation, and marginalization. Attendant to the birth of modern philosophy’s natural rights doctrine was the coterminous rise of Eurocentrism and racist discourse;² this ideological confluence represents the cultural and epistemo­logical dualism of modernity that eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Africana writers ardently contested. Africana writers delineated philosophical racism as an epistemic progression born of seminal historical, geopolitical, and socioeconomic forces;...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Being Apart: The Enlightenment, Scientific Racism, and Chattel Slavery
    (pp. 23-65)

    The Age of Reason¹is generally hailed as the West’s triumph over the provincialism of religious fervor in the eighteenth century through mastery over science, economics, and civil government. As the epochal representation of modernity’s maturity, it is also considered an unparalleled sociocultural and political moment that established connections among ideology, science, industry, and society toward the common goal of “‘the mastery over nature’” (Kennington 392). The Western subject’s dominion over nature is reflected in the highly influential scientific and anthropological classifications ofHomo sapiensinitiated by Linnaeus inSystema Naturae(1737). Yet while the eighteenth century witnessed the domination of...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The African Diasporic Proletariat
    (pp. 66-103)

    Where the nineteenth-century Africana vindicationists David Walker and Frederick Douglass sought to connect Negro American history to a larger historical discourse that situated ancient Africa as the foundation of Western civilization, two twentieth-century Africana philosophers sought to reconceptualize enslaved Africans in the Americas as workers, an African diasporic proletariat central to the birth of modern Western capitalism and empire. W. E. B. Du Bois’sBlack Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880(1935) and C. L. R. James’sThe Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution(1938) mark a shift within the disciplines of history and political philosophy as their...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Frantz Fanon: Existentialist, Dialectician, and Revolutionary
    (pp. 104-133)

    Unlike Du Bois’s signification of Douglass’s orature inBlack Reconstructionand James’s references toBlack Reconstruction’s historiographical innovation in “Lectures on the Black Jacobins,” Frantz Fanon’sBlack Skin, White Masksinvokes neither Du Bois nor James by name. Fanon’s interdisciplinary study does, however, recall Du Bois’s and James’s larger theoretical project of centralizing the Africana subject’s pivotal role in watershed moments of Western historical and ideological developments. As a psychiatrist and political philosopher, Fanon is concerned with the psychology, material conditions, and ontological reality of the colonized subject; thus inBlack Skin, White Maskshe reinterprets psychoanalysis, historical materialism, and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Brathwaite’s Nation Language Theory: Sound and Rememory in the Americas
    (pp. 134-162)

    Where David Walker, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and Frantz Fanon redirect Western historiography’s narrative axis by casting enslaved and colonized Africans as historical agents central to the genesis of Western civilization, modernity, and colonial liberation, the Bajan poet and critic Kamau Brathwaite holds these agents to be the source of an Africana cultural discourse of resistance born in the Americas. Like his predecessors, Brathwaite credits African orature for creating a culture of resistance against chattel slavery in the Americas. However, his theoretical intervention in “History of the Voice”¹ breaks from his predecessors’ with...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 163-166)

    I consider this study a beginning and a continuation. It marks the beginning of my career as an academic author, and it also represents a continuation of the discursive resistance and existential probing present in the works of the thinkers who have inspired me. The works of David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Kamau Brathwaite, Cheikh Anta Diop, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Sylvia Wynter, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Molefi Asante, Cedric Robinson, Martin Bernal, Lewis Gordon, Paget Henry, Maghan Keita, and others prove that Western discourse has...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 167-176)
    (pp. 177-190)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 191-196)