Alain Locke: Culture And The Plurality Of Black Life
Better representation of 'the black' and of 'black life' in 'public' and recognition of black culture are often assumed to be necessary parts of any political project on behalf of black people. Major black artists and black artistic movements are, therefore, commonly understood to re-represent black identity and, through their renovation of 'blackness,' to justify black participation in public life. This dissertation investigates the writings of the black philosopher and cultural critic Alain Locke. In a series of inter-related essays that both situate Locke in a particular context (by examining his relationships to his contemporaries) and bring his work into conversation with current debates in political theory (by comparing/contrasting his theorizations of race and culture with those of contemporary theorists), I suggest that Locke's critical approach to 'black' artwork was novel because it refused to demand that artwork renovate black life or reduce its variety to a black identity worthy of recognition. While Locke's refusal to pursue better representations of blackness has been, in some circles, called 'naive' and 'apolitical,' I argue that Locke's criticism of art is informed by a rich and subtle theorization of 'race' as an identity-producing center of meaning and of 'race thinking' as a particular form of 'dogmatism,' which prevents both intellectual and political democracy.
dissertation or thesis