Dr. Ronald Judy will deliver 26th annual Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies
January 14, 2020 | Sophia Ramos
Dr. Ronald “R.A” Judy, a professor in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh, will deliver the 26th Annual Mary Stevens Reckford Memorial Lecture in European Studies, entitled “On the Question of Beloved Community: Revisiting W. E. B. Du Bois’s Critique of the Teutonic Strongman.” The lecture is free and open to the public. RSVPs are encouraged but not required — please click here to RSVP.
R.A. Judy is a professor of critical and cultural Studies in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Editorial Collective of boundary 2, an international journal of literature and culture. Having done undergraduate studies in Islamic studies and Arabic literature at al-Azhar University, Cairo Egypt, he received his bachelor’s degree in Islamic philosophy and culture from the University of Minnesota in 1982, and his Ph.D. in comparative literature in 1990. A recipient of prestigious honors from the Ford and Mellon Foundations, he was a Fulbright Fellow at the Institut Bourguiba des Langues Vivantes, Université de Tunis I, in Tunis, Tunisia from 1998-99, and has traveled extensively in the Middle East and North Africa. Professor Judy is the author of (Dis)forming the American Canon: The Vernacular of African Arabic American Slave Narrative (1992), and numerous essays in the areas of philosophy, contemporary Islamic philosophy, literary/cultural theory, music, and Arabic and American literatures. Notable among these are “Restless Flying, A Black study of Revolutionary Humanism,” “For Dignity: Tunisia and the Poetry of Emergent Democratic Humanism,” “The Question of Nigga Authenticity,” “The New Black Aesthetic and W.E.B. Du Bois, or Hephaestus, Limping,” and “Kant and the Negro.” He has also edited numerous special issues and dossiers for boundary 2, including Tunisia Dossier (2012), Ralph Ellison: The Next Fifty Years (2003), and Sociology Hesitant: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Dynamic Thinking (2001). His latest book, Sentient Flesh: Thinking in Disorder, Poiēsis in Black, is forthcoming from Duke University Press in September 2020.
On the Question of Beloved Community: Revisiting W. E. B. Du Bois’s critique of the Teutonic Strongman
Among the pressing issues of our moment is the continuing appeal of the authoritarian strong man. The why and how of that appeal relates to the fundamental ethical propositions of society as much as it is does the political and economic factors associated with globalization. Those propositions and factors were very much at the forefront of W. E. B. Du Bois’s thinking when he gave his famous 1890 Harvard University Commencement address, “Jefferson Davis as a Representative of Civilization,” as well as the equally important but less celebrated 1899 address to the American Negro Academy, “The Present Outlook for the Dark Races of Mankind.” This talk considers the relationship between those two addresses, highlighting the centrality in Du Bois’s thinking and work of the question: What is the most viable concept of the human on which to base a sustainable global civilization? A corollary question Du Bois also posed is whether or not there can be a worldly human community based on love. This talk explores how these two questions are related through carefully considering what Du Bois called his “Gospel of Sacrifice,” which entails a discourse of love that not only challenges the strong man paradigm of civilization, but also the proposition that caritas, “charity,” is the basis for a viably just worldly community of humankind.
Du Bois calls us to embrace the very love Nietzsche attributes to aristocratic virtue, the love of living, of fulfillment in community of the living; but without the proprietary force Nietzsche gives it. The sacrifice Du Bois advocates does not stem from a love of that which is mine through force of arms or will, or which I can assimilate to myself in mimicry. It is what we might call, carefully, knowing there is need for considerable elucidation, love-improper.