The Veil, the Cave and the Fire-Bringer
- 16 Downloads
The Veil – W. E. B. Du Bois’s term to describe the impediment to racial harmony in America – has long been recognized as one of his most important images for explaining the politics of race. Howard Winant, a sociologist and leading theorist of race, describes Du Bois’s discussions of the Veil in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) as ‘the most nuanced and powerful theory of race and racism ever developed.’1 Classicists, too, have highlighted the importance of the Veil and explored some of the Greek and Roman models that inform Du Bois’s use of this term.2 Yet more remains to be said, and I will here argue that Du Bois’s Veil owes more to Plato’s Cave than has been previously recognized and that in the shift from Cave to Veil, Du Bois reprocesses Plato’s pedagogical–metaphysical image into a more pliable and dialectical sociological concept. Although the main focus here will be on connections between Plato’s Cave and the Veil as it is presented in Souls, I will also draw upon Du Bois’s...
I am immensely grateful to Harriet Fertik and Mathias Hanses, who have been affable, generous, and visionary editors, and to Julia Nelson Hawkins, Denise McCoskey and Anna Peterson, for conversations and feedback that have refined and improved my ideas about Du Bois.