Black Reconstruction in Aesthetics

Debates in Aesthetics 15 (2):9-47 (2020)
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This essay uses the concept of reconstruction to make an argument and an intervention in relation to the practice and study of black aesthetics. The argument will have to do with the parochialism of John Dewey, the institutional inertia of professional philosophy, the aesthetic dimensions of the US politics of reconstruction, the centrality of reconstructionist politics to the black aesthetic tradition, and the staging of a reconstructionist argument in the film, Black Panther (Coogler 2018). The intervention aims to address the fact that arguments like these tend not to register properly because of certain reflexive and customary limits on some common forms of philosophical inquiry. The sort of professional philosophy I was raised to practise and value tends not to be particularly inclusive and open-minded, especially when it comes to subjects that bear directly on the thoughts, lives, and practices of people racialized as black. black aesthetics, by contrast, is an inherently ecumenical enterprise, reaching across disciplinary and demographic boundaries to build communities of practice and exchange. Hence the need for an intervention: to create the space for arguments and the people who work with them to function across disciplinary and demographic contexts.

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Paul C. Taylor
Vanderbilt University


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