A Black Existentialist Asks What It Means to Be Human in a Society That Demonizes You


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Today’s guest is Nathalie Etoke, a professor of French at the Graduate Center, CUNY, who specializes in literature and cinema of Francophone sub-Saharan Africa, Black French studies, queer studies in Africa and the Caribbean, and Africana existential thought. She is the author of three books: Writing the Woman's Body in Francophone Sub Saharan Literature; Melancholia: Africana the Indispensable Overcoming of the Black Condition, which won the Frantz Fanon Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association; and her most recent book, Shades of Black, which was published in April 2021 by Seagull Books. She is working on her next book, Black Existential Freedom, which will be published in June 2022 by Rowman and Littlefield. In this wide-ranging conversation, Etoke elaborates on how her research was shaped by her experience of having lived two lives, as an African woman who studied in France and came to the U.S. where she was exposed to the Black radical tradition and the Black intellectual tradition. She sees Black existentialism in both traditions, and, in her own work, she questions, What does it mean to be a human being in a society that demonizes you? Etoke recently appeared on CBS News to discuss how the Black Lives Matter movement precipitated an international movement following the death of George Floyd. She observed that Black Lives Matter provides a grammar for race, racism, and liberation that doesn’t exist in places like France where the stains of enslavement and colonization occurred outside of the continent and were easier to erase. She elaborates on these ideas and more in this episode of The Thought Project.

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