Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 105–137 | Cite as

Afro pessimism

  • Lewis R. GordonEmail author
  • Annie Menzel
  • George Shulman
  • Jasmine Syedullah
Critical Exchange

Thoughts on Afropessimism

“Afropessimism” came out of “Afro-pessimism.” The elimination of the hyphen is an important development, since it dispels ambiguity and in effect announces a specific mode of thought. Should the hyphen remain, the ambiguity would be between pessimistic people of African descent and theoretical pessimism. The conjoined, theoretical term is what proponents often have in mind in their diagnosis of what I shall call “the black condition.” The appeal to a black condition is peculiarly existential. Existentialists reject notions of human “nature” on the grounds that human beings live in worlds they also construct; they produce their so-called essence. That does not mean, however, human beings lack anchorage. Everyone has to start from somewhere. Existentialists call that somewhere a condition or conditions for these reasons, and the world human beings produce or through which we live is sometimes called “human reality.”

Critics of existentialism often reject its human...


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lewis R. Gordon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Annie Menzel
    • 2
  • George Shulman
    • 3
  • Jasmine Syedullah
    • 4
  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Vassar CollegePoughkeepsieUSA

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