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Sally2sal

Wilderson‘s critique of humanism and Hartman‘s definition of empathy

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Hey,

I want to understand Wilderson‘s critique of Humanism and thus why slaves are excluded by this term. Moreover, I have difficulties to understand Hartman and her theory of empathy.

thanks

Edited by Sally2sal

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I'm probably not the most qualified to tell you about this but I'll try

Humanism isn't great because the notion of the human is necessarily exclusionary. The concept of the human was first created by straight white European Christian explorers who found people that didn't look or act like them and had to codify their supposed superiority, so they invented the category of the human to include themselves and exclude others. The category of the human is usually exclusionary because it always assumes the traits that a "human" has to have, and there will always be someone who doesn't have these traits, so they can't be included as "human". 

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3 hours ago, BatailleLives said:

I'm probably not the most qualified to tell you about this but I'll try

Humanism isn't great because the notion of the human is necessarily exclusionary. The concept of the human was first created by straight white European Christian explorers who found people that didn't look or act like them and had to codify their supposed superiority, so they invented the category of the human to include themselves and exclude others. The category of the human is usually exclusionary because it always assumes the traits that a "human" has to have, and there will always be someone who doesn't have these traits, so they can't be included as "human". 

not too big on hartman but i can build off of this and tell you about wilderson. 

afropessimist literature argues that blackness is ontological. blackness isn't just being black-- it is a (non)positionality. the middle passage created this (non)positionality, where the slave ship rendered africans black. being african is not the same as being black. i would argue that being african still retains natality to the homeland while being black means being natally alienated (one of the pillars of social death). there is a distinction with a difference.

blackness is written on flesh-- the physical being-- and on the body-- the being. from this, wilderson argues that black people are not human. they occupy the positionality of nonpositionality-- the ontology of nonontology. black people are the structural antagonism to the entirety of society. identity, and by extension humanity, is constructed in opposition to them.

in addition, wilderson argues that two structural antagonisms-- or oppositions that structure society-- created the status quo ("modernity writ large"). the first is black violence, based off of the structure of the master and the slave. the second is "red" violence, based off of the structure of the settler and "savage" (this is how wilderson explains it-- he uses these exact words so pls dont kill me). wilderson argues that, given these two structural antagonisms, modernity cannot exist or continue without genocide and slavery. the constant, ongoing erasure, genocide, and settling of native land, and the constant, ongoing labor and creation of the slave (chattel slavery might be "over" but it sure as hell is replicated within the modern prison system).

idk if any of this makes sense so feel free to ask questions bc i can't form a coherent sentence. also read red, white, and black (the free pdf should be floating around somewhere but if you need it i can dm it)!! i recommend reading the introduction to see if that answers your question better than i can.

 

edit: idk what you mean by empathy but you might be talking about the ruse of analogy/chain of equivalence. this concept argues that comparing violences to antiblack violence (or comparing something to blackness) renders blackness fungible. that is, to "thingify" it. it simplifies hundreds of years of antiblack violence, something that structures and undergirds modernity, to something that can be compared. antiblackness is incomparable to other forms of violence. antiblack violence is antiblack violence. so therefore empathy (i don't know hartman very well so i'm interpreting empathy as being able to place yourself in other people's shoes) creates a chain of equivalence to blackness. people cannot and should not empathize with antiblack violence if they have not experienced it firsthand as a black person.

Edited by queenofdisaster

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What Baitalle wrote ^ quality user.

 

To add onto this, and connect humanism and Hartman's thoughts, Hartman believes that "empathy" is created when people view the spectacle of Black violence and slavery. Hartman, argues that people who view documentaries of slavery and violence begin to feel for themselves rather than the genocide(d?) peoples. This "ease of empathetic identification" as Hartman puts it “requires that the white body be positioned in the place of the black body in order to make this suffering visible and intelligible”, meaning the space isn't expanded, merely the suffering is reenacted, arguing that there is a "sadistic pleasure" to be gained from watching Black genocide. She equates spectators to witnesses (although she does acknowledge there is a slight difference). I'd suggest reading Hartman, while also having a background in liberalism. She makes a lot of arguments applying facets of liberalism usually applied to the general "other" to the black body, and it's probably a pretty valuable read for antiblackness debaters. It'll give you hella links, at the very least.

Edited by OutKTheK
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