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Anti-Racism and Existential Philosophy

An interview with Kathryn Sophia Bell

Kathryn Sophia Belle and Edward O’Byrn

Kathryn Sophia Belle’s (formerly Kathryn T. Gines’) publications engaged in this interview:

2003 (Fanon/Sartre 50 yrs) “Sartre and Fanon Fifty Years Later: To Retain or Reject the Concept of Race,” Sartre Studies International, Vol. 9, Issue 2 (2003): 55-67, https://doi.org/10.3167/135715503781800213.

2010 (Convergences) “Sartre, Beauvoir, and the Race/Gender Analogy: A Case for Black Feminist Philosophy” in Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy, pages 35-51. Eds. Maria Davidson, Kathryn T. Gines, Donna Dale Marcano. New York: SUNY, 2010.

2011 (Wright/Legacy) “The Man Who Lived Underground: Jean-Paul Sartre and the Philosophical Legacy of Richard Wright,” Sartre Studies International, Vol. 17, Issue 2 (2011): 42-59, https://doi.org/10.3167/ssi.2011.170204.

2012 (Reflections) “Reflections on the Legacy and Future of Continental Philosophy with Regard to Critical Philosophy of Race,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 50, Issue 2 (June 2012): 329-344, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2041-6962.2012.00109.x.

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Emma McNicol

The analogy Simone de Beauvoir draws between “les femmes” and “des Noirs d’Amérique” is a key part of the intersectional critique of The Second Sex. Intersectional critics persuasively argue that Beauvoir’s analogy reveals the white, middle-class identity of The Second Sex's ostensibly universal “woman”, emphasizing the fact that the text does not account for the experiences of black, Jewish, proletariat or indigenous women. In this essay, I point to multiple instances in The Second Sex in which Beauvoir endorses a coalition between workers black and white, male and female. When Beauvoir writes on economic injustice, she advocates for an inclusive workers party where racial and sexual differences become immaterial as workers come together in a collective struggle. I thus propose that Beauvoir’s Marxism is an overlooked, yet important, counterpoint to the intersectional critique of The Second Sex.

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Decolonization as Existential Paradox

Lewis Gordon’s Political Commitment to Thinking Otherwise and Setting Afoot a New Humanity

Justin Fugo

This article offers a critical analysis of Euromodernity through an engagement with the Africana existentialism of Lewis R. Gordon. Drawing on Gordon’s recent work Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization (Routledge, 2021) as well as Frantz Fanon, the author argues for the need to decolonize modernity by decoupling Europe and reason, freedom, knowledge, and power. Understanding what it means to be a human being involves an ongoing commitment understanding its relationship to the larger structures of reality, including social reality.

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Sue Stedman-Jones

This article concerns Émile Durkheim’s critique of the Action Française as expressed in his seminal articles of 1898, which was an important moment in the Dreyfus Affair, where Durkheim’s active engagement serves to challenge a still widespread view of him as a latter day traditionalist and positivist, He developed epistemological and political arguments against this proto-fascist movement, which have implications for his accounts of nationalism and internationalism.

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Thomas Meagher

This article explores Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis as a phenomenological method for apprehending the fundamental project of the existent through an examination of the anonymous features of human desire. In grasping the anonymity underlying the “I want,” existential psychoanalysis seeks the meaning of freedom from a standpoint of alterity. I then analyze Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks as a work of existential psychoanalysis which hinges on his use of “sociogeny” to diagnose the alienation of Black existents. Finally, I conclude by examining the implications of a Fanonian existential psychoanalysis for anti-racism through a discussion of Michael Monahan’s critical reflections on the notion of being nonracist.

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T Storm Heter

This special issue explores how existential thinking can be a living, global force that opposes racist praxis and thought. We are used to hearing that the “heyday” of existentialism was the middle of the twentieth century. In truth, because existential thought is future-oriented, the heyday of existentialism may be yet to come.

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Frenchman, Jew, Positivist

Reading the Rules and Mapping Émile Durkheim in Germany

Wiebke Keim

This article investigates German-speaking scholarship’s reception of the programme of scientific sociology that Durkheim presented in The Rules of Sociological Method. It highlights intra-European historical dynamics and academic hierarchies. References to national, cultural, disciplinary and theoretical frames of reference are clearly discernible in the ways the Rules have been read and Durkheim has been mapped. First, his reception was embedded in a complex geometry of power between two nation states during a historical period of competitive nationalism. Second, it was affected by the way he was perceived within networks of academics who occupied unequal geo-cultural positions inside and across nation states. At times, the special location assigned to him as a Jewish intellectual played an important role. Third, his positioning as a positivist within the specific epistemological structuring of sociology is key to understanding how he was perceived east of the Rhine.

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From Neo-Kantianism to Durkheimian Sociology

Hermann Cohen and the Problem of Sacrifice

Stephen Turner

The phenomenon of sacrifice was a major problem in nineteenth-century social thought about religion for a variety of reasons. These surfaced in a spectacular way in a German trial in which the most prominent Jewish philosopher of the century, the neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen, was asked to be an expert witness. The text he produced on the nature of Judaism was widely circulated and influential. It presents what can be taken as the neo-Kantian approach to understanding ritual. But it also reveals the ways in which neo-Kantianism avoided becoming relativistic social science. In this case, it came to the edge and stopped. Cohen’s account is compared to the similar, but ‘empirical’, account of the same material in Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert, which completed the transition.

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Henrik Egbert

This article illustrates how social structures and behaviours of scientists in the societal sub-system of open science resemble patterns analysed in The Gift, an essay written by Marcel Mauss nearly 100 years ago. The presented analysis goes beyond existing interpretations of gift-giving in science. The latter has mainly focussed on the exchange of knowledge and citations. I argue that The Gift explains also identity, competition, co-opetition, rituals and punishment. Mauss’s Gift is seen as a complementary model to existing economic and sociological approaches regularly used to analyse structures and behaviours in open science. By accentuating such an anthropological approach, I conclude that the Gift provides explanations for the stability and the expansion of the open science community.

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The Gift of The Nation

Marcel Mauss and the Intersocial Turn of Sociology

Francesco Callegaro

In order to question the modernist common sense of mainstream sociology, epitomised today by the charge of methodological nationalism, this article offers an overall reading of Marcel Mauss’s The Nation. Conceived during the Great War and written mainly in 1920, Mauss’s work radically re-examined both the nation and nationalism from a regenerated sociological viewpoint centered on the relations between societies. Distinguishing between partial relations of exchange and total relations of encounter, Mauss came to discover the gift as a total social fact, seeing it as the traditional unconscious spring of the federative dynamics that had to be reactivated in Europe to associate its nations in a great ‘Inter-nation’ and avoid the risk of a new total war. The Nation, by reviving the original ambition of Émile Durkheim’s sociology to be a way rethinking and reshaping the concepts and institutions of modernity, helps us explore the contradictions and pathologies involved in the concept and history of the nation, in a situation currently marked by the return of nationalism and the quest for a social Europe.