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Systems of LifeBiopolitics, Economics, and Literature on the Cusp of Modernity$
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Richard A. Barney and Warren Montag

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823281725

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823281725.001.0001

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An African Diasporic Critique of Violence

An African Diasporic Critique of Violence

(p.56) Two An African Diasporic Critique of Violence
Systems of Life

James Edward Ford III

Fordham University Press

This chapter makes a critique of violence a central heading for understanding black thought, aesthetics, and politics. This is important not only because of how the Black Radical Tradition has theorized violent oppression and insurrection, but also because of how these theorists surpass their European counterparts. In this context, Phillis Wheatley’s poem “Niobe In Distress of Her Children” receives close attention for how it anticipates and surpasses Walter Benjamin’s and Immanuel Kant’s explorations of imperial force. Wheatley rethinks Niobe as a figure who rejects the violence and guilt of imperial expansion, in contrast to the European tradition’s rendering of this figure, from Ovid up to Benjamin. This reinterpretation drastically alters Wheatley scholarship, debates on violence in political theory, and discussions of the origins of Black American letters.

Keywords:   Walter Benjamin, early American poetry, Immanuel Kant, maternity, mythic violence, Phillis Wheatley

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