Community-Engaged Humanities Workshops

When: March 11, 2020 | 4:00pm to 6:00pm
Where: JHB100, 170 St. George Street, Toronto


Lewis Gordon portrait
Lewis Gordon in India, 2019


This talk will offer a critique of the tendency to seek past solutions to 21st century problems by exploring the idea of a shrinking planet premised on increasing human populations alongside technologies of traversing space over shorter periods of time. The discussion will be linked to the meaning of "public" in this context and the communicative significance of "power."

Lewis Gordon is a world-leading public intellectual who affirms that philosophy is for everyone, and everyone does philosophy. He has a doctorate in philosophy from Yale, teaches in the philosophy department at UConn-Storrs, and holds visiting appointments in philosophy at Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès in France, the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica, and the university currently known as Rhodes in South Africa. He has also produced a series of books – including Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism, and Fanon and the Crisis of European Man, which will appear in 25th-anniversary editions in 2020 – that are instances of new philosophy.

However, as he noted in a recent conversation with the feminist writer and independent scholar Sara Ahmed, Lewis does not take philosophy too seriously. He is not a philosophical nationalist. His work calls for a ‘teleological suspension of disciplinarity’ – a willingness to go beyond one’s discipline for the sake of a relationship with reality greater than oneself – and bookstores place his books in Africana and Black studies, psychology, sociology, education, religion, anthropology, and politics as well as philosophy.

"When asked about his work, Gordon usually says that he studies the complexity of the human being’s relationship with reality. Racism, sexism, and other forms of human degradation affect this relationship, which is why he studies them, in addition to his commitments to fight against dehumanization and cruelty. He also studies positive forms of human relationships with reality such as artistic expression and what he calls the decolonization of normative life and science, which has taken him into studies of law, history and quantum physics” (danielle davis, Introduction to Black Existentialism: Essays on the Transformative Thought of Lewis R. Gordon).

In short, Lewis reflects the ambitions of the circle of fellows at the JHI to think beyond disciplinary assumptions to the wider goal of how their project addresses the Humanities as a whole. We are honoured to host him at the JHI and support a community-engaged humanities workshop in which he will bring humanities research out of the classroom and university press, and into the broader public realm for discussion, debate, and examination.

Above text by Daniel McNeil, JHI's 2019-2020 Visiting Public Humanities Faculty Fellow