SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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Caribbean Philosophical Association: Articulating ‘America’ through Global Southern Resources

Thursday, 5 March 2015
15:00 - 16:40

Ottawa Room

Panel Session: Caribbean Philosophical Association

“Articulating ‘America’ through Global Southern Resources”

Douglas Ficek, Philosophy, University of New Haven, “Epistemic Autonomy and/as Epistemic Closure: Thoughts on Alexis de Tocqueville, C.L.R. James, and Lewis R. Gordon”

ABSTRACT: Democracy in America and American Civilization both affirm, though in different ways, the autonomy of the American people. De Tocqueville stresses the epistemic independence of Americans, noting that they do not like to defer to others in matters of knowledge, and James stresses the revolutionary potential of ordinary Americans, taking the position that Americans do not need political leadership from above to educate, organize, and liberate them. His position, which is uniquely American, is that they (i.e., Americans) can “do it themselves,” that they can, to use the awful parlance of our times, “git er done.” Both de Tocqueville and James describe a kind of epistemic autonomy in their work, and it plays an important role in their rather high estimations of Americans' potential. But such an approach to knowledge – whether practical or theoretical – is not without certain pitfalls, and one of those pitfalls, it seems to me, has been and continues to be epistemic closure, which Lewis R. Gordon describes throughout his work. This pitfall is characterized by a rejection of expertise – from scientific to experiential – and it is ultimately characterized by a denial of reality itself. To understand the anti-science sentiments in this country, to say nothing of the disparity among whites and blacks concerning their views on contemporary racism, it will help to link these two phenomena: epistemic autonomy and epistemic closure.

Jane Anna Gordon, Political Science and Africana Studies, University of Connecticut, “The Ideas of Latin and Non-Latin America”

ABSTRACT: Revisiting Walter Mignolo’s The Idea of Latin America which traces the genealogy of “Latinity” to Western Europe and then its appropriation by the Creole elite of South America and the Spanish Caribbean to challenge an idea which has subdivided the Americas rendering indigenous and African descended population invisible, this paper looks at how Latinity has also been used to define a non-Latin America with implications for the present and future of “American” thought.

Yomaira Figueroa, English and African American & African Studies, Michigan State University, “Rethinking ‘American’ Exceptionalism ”

ABSTRACT: In Racial Formation, Omi and Winant argue that centuries of racial dictatorship in the U.S. have resulted in the understanding of “American identity as white.” Caribbean historians and sociocultural theorist such as Edna Acosta Belen, Juan Flores, and Jorge Duany have long critiqued the epistemic and political assumptions that conceive of America as white and the U.S. as exceptional in the Americas and the world. Theories of decoloniality further trouble these racial and spatial conceptions by thinking about the Americas through a modern/colonial lens, highlighting a hemispheric approach, and taking into account the long-durée of the colonial project from 1492. By taking this long-historical view, decolonial theorists, like Gloria Anzaldúa and Walter Mignolo, offer critical lenses through which to analyze and problematize the matrixes of power and thought that normalize violent exclusion and racial/political hierarchies.

Stephen Nathan Haymes, Departments of Educational Policy Studies and International Studies, Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Program, DePaul University, “Decolonality and Ecology from a Afro-Atlantic World Perspective”

ABSTRACT: This paper critically investigates the concept of the “Americas” from the ecological perspective of the Afro-Atlantic world. It explores how a distinctive “decolonial” Afro-Atlantic world concept of nature figured into the ethnogenesis processes of Afro-Atlantic slaves in the Americas. In this paper, I argue that (1) the Afro-Atlantic slaves’ ontological orientation towards nature, reality and the world gave birth to “Afro-Atlantic slave ecologies” and “life projects”; (2) this supported vernacular forms of “cultural refusal” against the death bounded modern racist logic of the Atlantic plantation complex in the Americas; and (3) the life projects of slave ecologies enabled enslaved Africans to enact a different set of options for life in the “modern” world. The paper concludes that the moral legacy of the ontologies of Afro-Atlantic slave ecologies, and the life projects they enacted, shaped contemporary Afro-Atlantic place-based forms of cultural refusal in both the Global South and North. These place-based options could provide a different vision of human life and happiness in the Americas.


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