In The New Territory: Ralph Ellison in the Twentieth-First Century (2016), the editors claim that “Ralph Ellison has never been more relevant to American thought than he is today; indeed,
In The New Territory: Ralph Ellison in the Twentieth-First Century (2016), the editors claim that “Ralph Ellison has never been more relevant to American thought than he is today; indeed, Ellison looks more and more like the cultural prophet of twenty-first-century America” (2).Likewise, in The Cambridge Companion to Ralph Ellison Ross Posnock states that “in our global, transnational age the renewed promise of cosmopolitan democracy has emerged as an animating ideal of popular, political, and academic culture. This is a way of saying that we are only now beginning to catch up with Ralph Waldo Ellison” (1). In my talk, I want to read Ellison along similar lines, yet placing him in a specific philosophical tradition he has – somewhat surprisingly – so far not been seen in, namely the pragmatic tradition of what Cornel West calls deep democracy, a concept that according to West’sDemocracy Matters defines democracy as “not just a system of governance … but acultural way of being” (68). In doing so I firstly explore Ellison’s thinking around a pragmatism related to the struggle for disenfranchised Americans. Secondly, I also hope to show Ellison as a political thinker, one with a deep commitment to and desire for a democracy that is not merely formal but lived as an everyday practice.
Miriam Strube is Professor of American Studies at Paderborn University. She has studied American Studies, English and Philosophy at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and New York University. For her research she has received scholarships for Columbia, Princeton and Harvard University, and Tel Aviv University. She has also taught in Leeds, England and at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, China. She is author of Subjekte des Begehrens: ZursexuellenSelbstbestimmung der Frau in Literatur, Musik und visuellerKultur and co-editor of Revisiting Pragmatism: William James in the New Millennium as well as Pragmatism’s Promise. She has written articles on popular culture, feminist philosophy, modernist poetry and environmental racism. In her current scholarship and teaching, including a translation and edition of Cornel West’s anti-racist writings (Suhrkamp 2020), she focuses on social justice and radical democracy.
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