Melancholia Africana

The Caribbean Philosophy Association and The Marxist Education Project present

Melancholia Africana: The Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition

With author Nathalie Etoke and conversation with fellow panelists Lewis R. Gordon and Souleymane Bachir Diagne

This year marks the publication of the English translation of Nathalie Etoke’s Melancholia Africana: The Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition. In richly poetic prose Etoke considers pain singing the happiness to come, memories of forgetting, and on va faire comment? She argues that Africana melancholy is distinct. Rooted in collective and historical experiences of enslavement, colonization, and neocolonialism marked by loss of land, freedom, language, culture, and self. Put differently, expropriation of labor and of land also annihilated age-old cycles of life. Considering what to do in the wake of such annihilation, Etoke explores how diasporic Africans reconcile that which has been destroyed with what is newly introduced, framing this inherent tension as the character of Africana historical becoming. On October 30th, Etoke will read from and speak about her newly translated work while Lewis R. Gordon, who authored its new foreword, and Souleymane Bachir Diagne will address the continued relevance of its searching diagnoses.

Nathalie Etoke is Associate Professor of Francophone and Africana Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her articles have appeared in Research in African Literatures, French Politics and Culture, Nouvelles Études Francophones, Présence Francophone, International Journal of Francophone Studies, and Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. She is the author of L’Écriture du corps féminin dans la littérature de l’Afrique francophone au sud du Sahara and of Melancholia Africana l’indispensable dépassement de la condition noire, which won the 2012 Frantz Fanon Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association. In 2011, she directed Afro Diasporic French Identities, a documentary on race, identity and citizenship in contemporary France.

Lewis R. Gordon co-edits Rowman & Littlefield International’s Global Critical Caribbean Thought series.  He is Professor of Philosophy at UCONN-Storrs; Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies; the 2018–2019 Boaventura de Sousa Santos Chair in Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra, Portugal; and Chair of Global Collaborations for the Caribbean Philosophical Association.  His public Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/LewisGordonPhilosopher/ and he is on Twitter @lewgord.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is Professor and Chair of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University and recipient of the Edouard Glissant Prize. He is the author of Boole, l’oiseau de nuit en plein jour (a book on Boolean algebra); Islam and the Open Society: Fidelity and Movement in the Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal; African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude; The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa; and Open to Reason: Muslim Philosophers in Conversation with Western Tradition. An English version of his book, Bergson postcolonial: L’élan vital dans la pensée de Senghor et de Mohamed Iqbal, which was awarded the Dagnan-Bouveret prize by the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences for 2011, is forthcoming with Fordham University Press.

All tickets are sliding scale

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Caribbean Literature: Breaking bonds before and after betrayed revolutions

10 Weeks beginning October 12 through December 21

A reading and discussion group with the Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group

During this term we will begin with Aimé Césaire’s cultural statement from the 30s, issued from the Caribbean to all those colonized by the capitalist powers, primarily of Europe. Following our discourse on his groundbreaking discourse we will consider three novels on the colonized Caribbean, long engaged in revolutionary struggle with just as long gains towards liberation and the centuries long experiences of counter-revolution, and the consequences of compromise and collaboration with former colonizers and the colossus US that treats the Caribbean like a backyard swimming pool and those of the islands, whether local agent of capital or exploited worker, as servants by that pool.

“I admit that it is a good thing to place different civilizations in contact with each other that it is an excellent thing to blend different worlds; that whatever its own particular genius may be, a civilization that withdraws into itself atrophies; that for civilizations, exchange is oxygen; that the great good fortune of Europe is to have been a crossroads, and that because it was the locus of all ideas, the receptacle of all philosophies, the meeting place of all sentiments, it was the best center for the redistribution of energy.
But then I ask the following question: has colonization really placed civilizations in contact? Or, if you prefer, of all the ways of establishing contact, was it the best?
“I answer no.
“And I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.”
` —Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism

Discourse on Colonialism
Aimé Fernand David Césaire
This classic work, first published in France in 1955, profoundly influenced the generation of scholars and activists at the forefront of liberation struggles in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Nearly twenty years later, when published for the first time in English, Discourse on Colonialism inspired a new generation engaged in the Civil Rights and Black Power and anti-war movements.

All Souls Rising
Madison Smartt Bell
1995
The slave uprising in Haiti was a momentous contribution to the tide of revolution that swept over the Western world at the end of the 1700s. A brutal rebellion that strove to overturn a vicious system of slavery, the uprising successfully transformed Haiti from a European colony to the world’s first Black republic. From the center of this horrific maelstrom, the heroic figure of Toussaint Louverture–a loyal, literate slave and both a devout Catholic and Vodouisant–emerges as the man who will take the merciless fires of violence and vengeance and forge a revolutionary war fueled by liberty and equality.

A Small Place
Jamaica Kincaid
Antigua, 2000
In A Small Place, Kincaid calls attention to the fact that in many ways, conditions in Antigua worsened with the achievement of independence; she communicates her frustration with her people and capitalism. In a nation free from colonialism, Antiguans “do to [themselves] the very things [colonists] used to do to [them]”. Through her critique of colonialism and the development of an exploitative tourist industry in A Small Place, Kincaid addresses several other major themes which include the influence of homeland on identity, culture, and the desire for independence.

A Brief History of Seven Killings
Marlon James
Jamaica, 2014
Winner of the Man Booker Prize
The first part of the novel is set in Kingston, Jamaica, in the build-up to the Smile Jamaica Concert, and describes politically motivated violence between gangs associated with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP), especially in the West Kingston neighborhoods of Tivoli Gardens and Mathews Lane (renamed in the novel as Copenhagen City and Eight Lanes), including involvement of the CIA in the Jamaican politics of the time. As well as Marley (who is referred to as “the Singer” throughout), other real life characters depicted or fictionalized in the book include Kingston gangsters Winston “Burry Boy” Blake and George “Feathermop” Spence, Claude Massop and Lester Lloyd Coke (Jim Brown) of the JLP and Aston Thomson (Buckie Marshall) of the PNP.

The Indigenous Peoples’s Reading Group, which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

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