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"To Certain of Our Philistines": Alain Locke and the Democratic Promise of Black Art

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
12 PM
BCRW, 101 Barnard Hall
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Sponsored by The Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Can Alain Locke, the black cultural critic and public intellectual now best known for his lifelong commitment to black art and for his editorship of the 1925 anthology, The New Negro: An Interpretation, be read as a political theorist? What would it mean to engage Locke as a political theorist instead of as a cultural critic, and his art criticism as an example of black political thought instead of as a tool in service of his alleged group partisanship? Contemporary scholarship usually treats Locke in the now-familiar terms of identity, multiculturalism, or the politics of recognition. As a consequence, black artistic production comes to be reduced to a cultural means for achieving the political end of building black identity. In this lunchtime lecture, Assistant Professor of Political Science Michelle Smith seeks to move beyond this theoretical impasse, arguing that Locke’s art criticism illuminated and sought to magnify diametrically opposed forces at the core of modernity that would disrupt the structuring hold of “race” on human relations.

Michelle R. Smith, Assistant Professor of Political Science received her BA in Africana Studies from Rutgers University, and her MA and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. Before coming to Barnard, she taught at Cornell University, at Auburn Prison as part of the Cornell Prison Education Program, and at the University of Florida. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including most recently the 2011 Western Political Science Association Best Paper in Black Politics. She published “Blackening Europe/Europeanising Blackness: Theorizing the Black Presence in Europe” in Contemporary European History Journal.

2012-04-03 12:00