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Visiting Scholar Talk: David Hobbs, “Whose Humanity Gets to be Public? W. E.B. Du Bois, Abram L. Harris, and Harper’s”

Visiting Scholar Talk: David Hobbs, “Whose Humanity Gets to be Public? W. E.B. Du Bois, Abram L. Harris, and Harper’s” In-Person

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"The Public Humanities" has become central to recent arguments for the enduring value of studying history and philosophy, art and culture. Observing that many scholars are now publishing beyond peer-review, established Jonathans like Kramnick and Bates have celebrated what they take to be an expanding popular audience and what this “new” behavior says about the vitality of our work. This talk doesn't disagree, so much as seeks to unsettle the sense of novelty and to reveal some latent risks by turning to a similar moment in the early days of the Great Depression, when both W.E.B. Du Bois and his sometimes-protégé Abram L. Harris had articles in process at Harper’s Monthly Magazine that did not ultimately see print. Both articles were drawn from their authors’ academic research, and both were interested in economic exploitation as a global phenomenon and a vector for transnational and transracial solidarity — Du Bois sought to use Haile Selassie’s coronation as Emperor of Abyssinia as an occasion for considering the independent African republic’s vulnerability and what its protection might entail, while Harris wanted to explore “class struggle” via the uncomfortable integration efforts of some trade unions. While recovering what each article might have contributed to political discourse at the time, this talk is interested in what a failed demotic turn in a prior moment of downturn and austerity can tell us about the borders of "humanity" that matter to the public humanities, and how we might transgress them through poetry and the archive.

David B. Hobbs is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Lethbridge (Canada) where he works on 20th- and 21st-century poetry and poetics, with particular attention to intermedial aesthetics, transnationalism, Black study, and social movements. He has articles in Modernism/modernity, English Studies and elsewhere, and he writes frequently for The Nation and the Times Literary Supplement. He is currently finishing his first book, “What Can You Do Alone?”: Lyric Sociality and the Global Depression.

Location: W. E. B. Du Bois Library, Floor 22, W. E. B. Du Bois Center

Thursday, April 11, 2024
5:00pm - 6:00pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
W. E. B. Du Bois Library, W. E. B. Du Bois Center (Floor 22)
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