The Intimacies of Four Continents
Lisa Lowe is Professor of English and American Studies at Tufts University. She is the author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics and the coeditor of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, both also published by Duke University Press.
Freedoms Yet to Come
This chapter considers philosophies of history—in works from Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of World History and Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte to C. L. R. James’s TheBlack Jacobins and W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America—in order to discuss the adequacy of conceptions of history in historical narratives for comprehending not simply the past and present, but the complicated demands of providing for the future. If European philosophies of history resolved the contradiction of freedom and slavery through a dialectical overcoming that enacted a foreclosure of slave societies that were coeval with modern Europe, James and Du Bois reworked this narrative dialectic in their different histories of slave resistance and revolt. However, the “coloniality” forcibly forgotten in the discourse of European man cannot be accounted for with simple strategies of inclusion but require both a representation of revolutionary events that have been forgotten, and a critique of the form itself. Anticolonial history cannot simply substitute a new subject into Enlightenment history; it must offer a critical ontology of the present. Citing yet displacing the formal features of dialectical history, Black Jacobins and Black Reconstruction are not applications of European historical forms to slave revolution: both critically deconstruct the European philosophy of history by taking racial capitalism as its object.