Or, Passages of the Double and the Limit of World
This chapter provides both a critique and a way beyond the central theoretical approaches that dominated the social scientific study of the cultural provenance of the social and historical practices of African American for most of the second half of the twentieth century and remains a powerful central discourse. Those approaches conceptualized African American matters as always derivative from a pre-formed American culture. This essay offers instead the idea that the problematic African American of historicity is exemplary of how one should understand American culture possibility in general -- as formed out of multiple sources and motifs, yet comprising a distinctive ensemblic whole. W. E. B. Du Bois’ s thought of the African American as configured as an historical subject of at least double reference - a kind of “double-consciousness” - is the central theoretical guide here. In addition, the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, Eugene Genovese, Ranajit Guha, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Hortense Spillers are guiding, if at times critically engaged, references. The eighteenth century narrative of Olaudah Equiano is considered at length.
Keywords: historicity, historiography of slavery, history of social sciences, African American studies, concept of culture, “double-consciousness”, origin, habitus, displacement, originary displacement, America, W. E. B. Du Bois, Olaudah Equiano, Hortense Spillers
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