"Becoming Black" is a powerful theorization of Black subjectivity
throughout the African diaspora. In this unique comparative study,
Michelle M. Wright discusses the commonalties and differences in
how Black writers and thinkers from the United States, the
Caribbean, Africa, France, Great Britain, and Germany have
responded to white European and American claims about Black
consciousness. As Wright traces more than a century of debate on
Black subjectivity between intellectuals of African descent and
white philosophers, she also highlights how feminist writers have
challenged patriarchal theories of Black identity.
Wright argues that three nineteenth-century American and
European works addressing race--Thomas Jefferson's "Notes on the
State of Virginia," G. W. F. Hegel's "Philosophy of History, " and
Count Arthur de Gobineau's "Essay on the Inequality of the Human
Races"--were particularly influential in shaping twentieth-century
ideas about Black subjectivity. She considers these treatises in
depth and describes how the revolutionary Black thinkers W. E. B.
Du Bois, Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Frantz Fanon
countered the theories they promulgated. She explains that while Du
Bois, Cesaire, Senghor, and Fanon rejected the racist ideologies of
Jefferson, Hegel, and Gobineau, for the most part they did so
within what remained a nationalist, patriarchal framework. Such
persistent nationalist and sexist ideologies were later subverted,
Wright shows, in the work of Black women writers including Carolyn
Rodgers and Audre Lorde and, more recently, the British novelists
Joan Riley, Naomi King, Jo Hodges, and Andrea Levy. By considering
diasporic writing ranging from Du Bois to Lorde to the contemporary
African novelists Simon Njami and Daniel Biyaoula, Wright reveals
Black subjectivity as rich, varied, and always evolving.
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