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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities



Theorizing the Black Charismatic: Aesthetics, Hermeneutics, and the Politics of Affect

Garry Bertholf • Wesleyan University 

November 28th @ 6pm at Daniel Family Commons

Tavis Smiley’s yearly “State of the Black Union” address remains an important touchstone for thinking about the practice of affective (commonly called “charismatic”) black political leadership. It is also an important historical site for thinking about the unintended consequences of substituting affect for political action. Indeed, what are the potential perils of a politics that results in ephemeral catharsis without dangerous political consequences? And how might the black charismatic threaten to undermine the political opportunities afforded by the success of the modern civil rights movement? This lecture will generalize out from the brief history of Smiley’s televised event in order to form broader conclusions about the new liberalism of black politics and the attendant crisis of the black public intellectual in the post-civil rights era.

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