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Black intellectuals in the age of crack: organic responsibility, the race-class-gender nexus, and action paralysis in the Boston Review Roundtables, 1992–1993

Slothuus, Lukas (2022) Black intellectuals in the age of crack: organic responsibility, the race-class-gender nexus, and action paralysis in the Boston Review Roundtables, 1992–1993. Global Intellectual History. ISSN 2380-1883

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Identification Number: 10.1080/23801883.2022.2116588

Abstract

The existing research on the role of intellectuals in alleviating suffering has overlooked contributions by prominent Black intellectuals from the United States in the early 1990s. Two roundtable debates co-organised under the auspices of the Boston Review at Harvard and MIT in 1992 and 1993 in response to Eugene Rivers’ essay “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals in the Age of Crack” were central to these contributions, counting a star-studded line-up of Black intellectuals including bell hooks, Cornel West, and Glenn Loury. Participants explore the role of Black intellectuals in the US, debating what they can and should do to combat oppression and domination. In this article, I recover the context of the debates, reconstruct their arguments, and make a case for their major historical and political significance. I comparatively interpret the two roundtables, identifying three major points of convergence. First, participants begin from a Gramscian conception of organic intellectuals, developing this further to defend the need for collective intellectual praxis. Second, the race-class-gender nexus plays a central role in structuring the very possibility of intellectuals affecting social change. Third, these intellectuals subscribe to a significantly pessimistic action paralysis, indicative of the relative powerlessness of intellectual debate in addressing structural oppression.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/journals/rgih20
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
E History America
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2022 14:18
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2022 08:03
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/116433

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