Posts tagged #White Limitation

[Video] On the Occasion of Joseph Conrad's Death, Driscoll - Lecture @ FIPH

On June 13, 2017, I delivered a bit of new work to the folks at the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (FIPH), where I've been a fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. Below is the abstract for the talk, "On the Occasion of Joseph Conrad's Death: Anti-Heroes and Negative Dialectics in the Western Imagination, Still." The talk turns to some interesting data from Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford (and others) to think about Conrad's life and death as an allegory for contemporary anxieties surrounding the death or collapse of the West. Take a look here at shadesofwhite.org or at the FIPH Vimeo page (which has a lot of material you might find interesting).

“You will ask: Why death? Why not some alternative? Flight or prison? Well: prison would be an unendurable travelling through Time, flight an equally unendurable travelling through Time with Space added. Both these things are familiar: Death alone, in spite of all the experience that humanity has had of Death, is the utterly unfamiliar.” -Joseph Conrad
English Modern writer Joseph Conrad is a spectre, neither living nor dead, but a perpetual haunting for westerners in the form of his literary legacy and the anti-heroic stories he wrote, which force readers into a confrontation with the banality and smugness of western arrogance. By this reading, Conrad also serves as an analogy for western notions of loss, melancholy, and (cultural) death, writ large, today. At once alive yet under seeming threat from an “other” that over time has been rendered as “all” others, westerners – whoever we may be – might find wisdom in lamenting the death of Conrad. This lecture turns to lesser known works of Conrad just before his death (in 1924), along with fellow authors’ thoughts on Conrad’s death, to explore the relationship of anti-heroes, negative identities, and their god of death.

Thanks for taking a look!

 

Uncertain Humanism and the Water of Whiteness

HumanistJulyAugust15

IN 2005, one of today’s most revered American writers, David Foster Wallace (now deceased), delivered a commencement address to graduates of Kenyon College, titled “This Is Water.” The twenty-minute speech is worth a listen or read, freely available on YouTube and in Wallace’s eponymous 2009 collection, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Some of what he says in the address about liberal arts education is applicable to humanism. In particular, his words help to color a brand of humanism I refer to as “uncertain humanism,” a way of privileging human possibilities for flourishing that relies on an embrace of and appreciation for uncertainty—for not knowing, feeling anxious, insecure, and unsettled. Uncertain humanism is not just about how we approach “facts.” It involves how we approach our very identities and who we think we are.

Continue reading at The Humanist Magazine July/August 2015...

Hands Up!: Mountaintops and the Dawn of White Limitation

(Originally published for Marginalia Review of Books on January 19, 2015. Reprinted here in full including images that were not included in the MRB post due to permissions issues.)

The hard truth is that neither Negro nor white

has yet done enough to expect the dawn of a new day...

With these words taken from Dr. Martin Luther King’s final book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King prophetically and woefully suggests that for the dawn of a day without racism, more black blood and suffering will come hand in hand with white denial, ignorance, and indifference.

I remember well a day in middle school, during gym class. We’d just arrived to gym and were swiftly told that in lieu of P.E., we’d be attending the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly. Some students were happy, others were sad to miss the glorified recess that is junior high phys.ed. One white student, I’ll never forget, spoke up and said “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ... more like James Earl Ray day.” Amid awkward laughter from students and an even more awkward silence from the gym teacher, we walked to the auditorium. As our class sat down, my childhood emotion met with intellectual curiosity and I wondered, “Were we there to celebrate King’s life or to have our minds galvanized as to exactly what happens to those who profess to climb insurmountable mountains?