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Post-Class Notes: September 21

jschlosser's picture


We had a great conversation reflecting on the past seven days: Tocqueville, research proposals, our work in the prison, the Mural Arts Tour, Eastern State, etc. I was struck by a few themes:

1. Which bodies deserve humanization and on whose terms? Here we were thinking about the potential for a #blacklivesmatter mural or the 9/11 Memorial.

2. More generally: Who is deemed deserving of art and by whom? How do these structures of deserving come into being and how can they be changed? Here we talked about the separation between "art" and "graffiti" presented on the Mural Arts Tour and questions of community, property, ownership, and legitimacy.

3. What are the politics of art? How does it become commodified (i.e. treated as an exhange item to be bought and sold)? How is it productive in non-economic ways? How is beauty and thus what we consider art informed or shaped by power relationships?

I hope that some of the experimental essay writers -- Sula, Han, Shirah, and Farida -- for next class can pick up these questions as we turn to DuBois.



The experimental essays dealing with Tocqueville and Rankine raised another set of important and interesting questions along some of these themes.

1. Forgetting and omitting: How can we track and trace the absences and omissions in Tocqueville's account? What do we gain from this?

2. Forgiving and forgetting: What does forgiveness demand and what is its relationship to forgetting? Here we talked about Rankine's poetry as a work of remembrance as well as a struggle with the unforgivable/unforgettable.

3. Free speaking and courageous speaking: What mores (beliefs, habits, customs) make free speech possible and what mores prevent or foreclose it? We talked about Tocqueville's embrace of free speech and how the response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre might have foreclosed free speaking with its refusal to criticize the martyred cartoonists and writers.

Again, these questions seem very relevant for thinking about DuBois's work, not to mention for how you all might approach your research proposals.



Turning to DuBois --

1) Here is a link to a PDF of the selections from Souls of Black Folk which we'll be reading. Be forewarned: This contains some graphic violence. We will want to talk about how Black Political Thought (and American Political Thought more broadly) has arisen out of a history of extreme violence.

2) As you read DuBois, also pay attention to how he uses music. I'm attaching an article by Alexander Weheliye, "The Grooves of Temporality", that argues that Souls is a mixed-media text. There is a sonic dimension that DuBois is seeking; He imagined his readers would be familiar with the music he includes. If you're not familiar, take some time to YouTube a few of these songs. For "Sweet Home Chariot," for instance, you might listen to Fisk Jubilee Singers, Paul Robeson, Sam Cooke, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Beyonce, Etta James, or Joan Baez. (Thank you, Internet!)

3) And as you consider DuBois as a mixed-media text, you might also get some ideas about further lines of inquiry for your own researches . . . 

PDF icon Weheliye - Grooves of Temporality.pdf155.67 KB