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Lewis R. Gordon: “Four Kinds of Invisibility from Euromodernity”

Lewis Gordon
Lewis Gordon
University of Connecticut
Peabody Hall, Room 115

*Sponsored by the Willson Center for Humanities & Arts

This talk will be in two parts outlining a consideration often overlooked in contemporary discussions of how many philosophers and social theorists talk about human invisibility. First, there is a tendency to equate "modernity" with Europe.  This renders invisible other kinds of modernities.  All modernity means is this: Through belonging to the future, one's presence becomes legitimate, which legitimates one's past.  In short, it means where humanity is going.  Where people have no future, their present lives collapse into the opposite: illegitimate, their past is transformed into a mistake.  Colonialism and racism do this through making such people "belong" to the past in the concepts of "tribe" and "primitive."

Second, at least four kinds of invisibility/erasure result: (1) racial (about quantity—there are always “too many black people”), (2) indigenous (about land and time—Native Americans ultimately “haunt” North America), (3), engendered (about voice—women, in particular, struggle to find a voice and to be heard), and (4) epistemic (about ignorance—whole areas of knowledge are presumed non existent because they supposedly cannot be).  These will be summarized, for the sake of brevity, through an example of each that I hope will be illuminating for the understanding of how invisibility functions in our contemporary discussions of norms and politics.  

Lewis R. Gordon is an Afro-Jewish philosopher, political thinker, educator, and musician (drums, other percussive instruments, and piano), who was born on the island of Jamaica and grew up in the Bronx, New York. His research in philosophy is in Africana philosophy, philosophy of existence, phenomenology, social and political philosophy, philosophy of culture, aesthetics, philosophy of education, and philosophy of science. His philosophy and social theory have been the subjects of many studies in a variety of disciplines. Though he has written on problems of method and disciplinary formation in the human sciences, Gordon has more recently devoted attention to problems in philosophy of physics, especially through a series of ongoing discussions and research projects on cosmology and what he calls multidimensional theory with Stephon Alexander, who teaches physics at Brown University. In addition to theories of social transformation, decolonization, and liberation, Gordon’s research in social and political philosophy also addresses problems of normative political concerns beyond justice.

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