It never existed

Equestrian Oba and his attendants (1550-1680): detail of a brass plaque, one of many adorning the Court of Benin (in modern-day Nigeria), and plundered by the British Army c1892. Courtesy the Met Museum, New York The idea of a ‘precolonial’ Africa is theoretically vacuous, racist and plain wrong about the continent’s actual history by Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is professor of Africana Studies at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University in New York. He is the author of How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa (2010) and Africa Must Be Modern (2014). We should expunge, forever, the epithet ‘precolonial’ or any of its cognates from all … Continue reading It never existed

Race Is a Biological Fiction, and Potent Social Reality

Visual: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty BY CHARLES M. BLOW Science showed decades ago that race was a fiction. Has that changed anything? In his 1940 essay “Dusk of Dawn,” the renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois reflected back to his early-career appointment, some 44 years prior, as a temporary instructor at the University of Pennsylvania — a time he described as coinciding with a clarifying vision he had on America’s “race problem.” At that time, near the dawn of the 20th century, Du Bois says he believed the primary impediment to enlightenment on racial issues was “stupidity” — and the cure … Continue reading Race Is a Biological Fiction, and Potent Social Reality

What a Racist Slur Does to the Body

I cannot hear that word, used in that way, without thinking about violence. By Clint Smith Afew weeks ago, I was on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, North Carolina. Amid an airline ecosystem rife with cancellations, delays, and overbookings, I was relieved to find the trip relatively uneventful. The crew was on time, the pilots were accounted for, and the weather was clear—the sky a vast and uninterrupted blanket of blue. Charlotte is an East Coast travel hub, and when we landed, several groups of passengers had connections in the airport for flights that were already boarding. Anxious to … Continue reading What a Racist Slur Does to the Body

Collective wrongs

Even when individual perpetrators and victims are dead, states and institutions have a responsibility to make restitutions by Joshua Stein is an American philosopher working in applied ethics, including medical ethics and ethics of public policy. He is a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Calgary in Canada, and two MAs from New York University (one in bioethics; the other in science and technology studies). As a country, the United States enforced slavery and segregation, engaged in bombings that killed civilians all over the world, imprisoned alleged ‘conspirators’ under false pretences … Continue reading Collective wrongs

History by numbers

Is history a matter of individual agency and action, or of finding and quantifying underpinning structures and patterns? Claire Lemercier is a CNRS research professor of history at the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations (Sciences Po), Paris. She co-authored Quantitative Methods in the Humanities: An Introduction (2019) with Claire Zalc. Claire Zalc is a CNRS research professor and an EHESS professor of history in Paris. She co-authored Quantitative Methods in the Humanities: An Introduction (2019) with Claire Lemercier. Her latest book is Denaturalized: How Thousands Lost Their Citizenship and Lives in Vichy France (2020). At a cotton plantation in Louisiana owned by Bennet H Barrow, … Continue reading History by numbers

The ungreat replacement

Workers in the West have indeed been repressed – but not by immigrants. The policies of their own governments are to blame John Rapley is a political economist at the University of Cambridge, as well as a senior professor at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study. His latest book is Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong (2017) and his next book (with Peter Heather) is ‘Why Empires Fall: Rome, America and the Future of the West’ (forthcoming in 2023). He lives in London and Johannesburg. One summer evening in 2015, a deranged young … Continue reading The ungreat replacement

Blackness in antiquity

To truly see black people in ancient art we need to look beyond the historically recent trope of ‘Blackness = inferiority’ Sarah Derbew is an assistant professor of Classics at Stanford University in California and the author of Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity (forthcoming, June 2022). In their memo ‘On the Abolition of the English Department’ from 1968, the lecturers Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (then known as James Ngũgĩ), Henry Owuor-Anyumba and Taban lo Liyong spearheaded an educational revolution at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Eager to sweep out the vestiges of British colonialism from the university’s English Department, they proposed abolishing it, to be replaced … Continue reading Blackness in antiquity

When hope is a hindrance

For Hannah Arendt, hope is a dangerous barrier to courageous action. In dark times, the miracle that saves the world is to act Samantha Rose Hill is a senior fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and associate faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and the University of the Underground. She is the author of Hannah Arendt (2021) and Hannah Arendt’s Poems (forthcoming 2022), and her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, LitHub, OpenDemocracy, Public Seminar, Contemporary Political Theory and Theory & Event. Edited by Nigel Warburton As Hannah Arendt and her husband Heinrich Blücher waited … Continue reading When hope is a hindrance

The South African model

What the United States and other settler societies can learn from South Africa’s push to create a nonracial democracy Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University in New York City and executive director of the Makere Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda. His books include Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009) and Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (2020) Edited bySam Haselby In the course of the struggle against apartheid, South Africans did something remarkable: they tried, with incomplete success, to destroy the settler and the native by reconfiguring … Continue reading The South African model

Who counts as a victim?

Innocent, passive, apolitical: after the Holocaust, the standard for ‘true’ victimhood has worked to justify total war A Dirk Moses is Frank Porter Graham Distinguished Professor of Global Human Rights History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His latest book is The Problems of Genocide: Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression (2021). Edited by Sam Haselby In September 1945, a month after the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States issued the Charter of the Nuremberg Trials, the chief US prosecutor, Robert Jackson, wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine to explain the impending proceedings … Continue reading Who counts as a victim?