Charis welcomes Lewis R. Gordon in conversation with Hortense J. Spillers for a discussion of Fear of Black Consciousness. Lewis R. Gordon’s Fear of Black Consciousness is a groundbreaking account of Black consciousness by a leading philosopher. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.
In this original and penetrating work, Lewis R. Gordon, one of the leading scholars of Black existentialism and anti-Blackness, takes the reader on a journey through the historical development of racialized Blackness, the problems this kind of consciousness produces, and the many creative responses from Black and non-Black communities in contemporary struggles for dignity and freedom. Skillfully navigating a difficult and traumatic terrain, Gordon cuts through the mist of white narcissism and the versions of consciousness it perpetuates. He exposes the bad faith at the heart of many discussions about race and racism not only in America but across the globe, including those who think of themselves as “color blind.” As Gordon reveals, these lies offer many white people an inherited sense of being extraordinary, a license to do as they please. But for many if not most Blacks, to live an ordinary life in a white-dominated society is an extraordinary achievement.
Informed by Gordon’s life growing up in Jamaica and the Bronx, and taking as a touchstone the pandemic and the uprisings against police violence, Fear of Black Consciousness is a groundbreaking work that positions Black consciousness as a political commitment and creative practice, richly layered through art, love, and revolutionary action.
Lewis R. Gordon is an Afro-Jewish philosopher, political thinker, educator, and musician. He is Professor and Head of the Philosophy Department at UCONN-Storrs. He has received accolades for his many influential books and articles, many of which have been reprinted and translated around the world. He is Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies and a former president of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, for which he now serves as its chairperson of awards and global collaborations. Gordon’s previous works include Disciplinary Decadence, His Majesty’s Other Children, and, with Jane Anna Gordon, Of Divine Warning.
Hortense J. Spillers is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Since receiving her Ph.D. from Brandeis, she has taught at Wellesley College, Haverford College, Emory, and Cornell Universities. She has also served as a guest professor in the Program in Literature at Duke University during academic year 2002-03 and for two consecutive years during tri-semester terms at the John F. Kennedy Center for North American Studies at the Free University in Berlin, Germany, 2000 and 2001. A recipient of numerous honors and awards, among them, grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, she has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle, and the Center for the Study of the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto. While at Haverford, she was chair of the English Department for two years before moving to Cornell where she joined the Norton projects by serving as one of the period editors of the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature.
Her collection of scholarly essays, Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2003. With Marjorie Pryse, she co-edited Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, published by Indiana University Press; Spillers also edited for the English Institute series a collection of essays entitled Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text, published by Routledge. Spillers serves on a number of editorial boards, among them, the Editorial Collective of boundary 2, and is a former member of the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association. Some of her more recent essays have appeared in The New Centennial Review, das argument, and boundary 2. Currently, she is at work on two new projects, the idea of black culture and black women and early state formations. She teaches courses in American and African-American literature, Faulkner, and feminist theory. She travels extensively, lectures widely both at home and abroad, most recently delivering the 2010 Sidney Warhaft Distinguished Memorial lecture at the University of Manitoba, the DuBois Lectures at Harvard in the fall of 2014, and the Henry L. Gates Jr. Lecture at Yale in 2016. She received a Lifetime Achievement award from the literary journal, Callaloo, in 2016, and was honored with the Nicolás Guillén Lifetime Achievement award by the Caribbean Philosophical Association at its most recent international conference in summer 2017. She lives in Nashville.
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