PT Colloquium 22-23

Presenter Name: 
Kai Parker
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Assistant Professor, University of Virginia
Title of talk: 
Bucket on the Mountaintop: The Civil Rights Movement, Gandhian Nonviolence, and the Sociology of Caste
Abstract/Description: 
The standard historical account of the rise and fall of Jim Crow views the Black struggle for civil rights as in no small part a struggle to overcome the accommodation of racial segregation promoted by Booker T. Washington, most seminally through his 1895 formulation, "cast down your bucket where you are." However, this paper argues that Bookerism was in fact integral to the intellectual and religious framework of the civil rights movement because Bookerism facilitated the incorporation of caste ideology into the thought of some of the movement's key architects. I call the incorporation of caste ideology into a formulation or program "caste-thinking." Focusing on Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr., I show how the caste-thinking in the civil rights movement derived from American academic sociology, which shaped Thurman's and King's conceptualizations of the American racial order; and from Gandhian nonviolence, which Thurman and King came to see as essential for overcoming American racism. The modern mainstream American sociology of race developed by conceptualizing caste in India as a model for maintaining white supremacy in America without “race friction” between Blacks and whites. Gandhi sought to cleanse untouchability from caste while affirming caste as the stabilizer of Indian society. Both sociology and Gandhi utilized Bookerism to legitimize the notion that caste, in its ideal form, was an acceptable way of managing social hierarchy with malice toward none and mutual benefit for all in a society. To both, Washington's efforts to deter racial violence by accommodating Jim Crow, especially Jim Crow’s expropriation of Black manual labor, showed how the oppressed could thrive peacefully under caste hierarchy. Bookerism thereby authorized the mobilization of caste ideology on behalf of those subjugated through caste. Bookerism was the felt but seldom seen bucket in which Black Gandhians carried sediments of caste-thinking from the intellectual streambeds of sociology and Gandhian nonviolence into the fight against segregation. Caste-thinking obscured Dalit and anti-caste movements from the view of Black Gandhian theory and praxis, even as Black Gandhians identified deeply with Dalits when visiting India. It inhibited Black Gandhian attempts to develop effective nonviolent alternatives to forms of Black militancy that rejected the caste-thinking imperative of affirming and redeeming institutions of social control. Ultimately, King cast down the bucket, with its sediments of caste-thinking, on what he famously called the “mountaintop” of civil rights achievement.
Image: 
Date and Time: 
Friday, September 2, 2022 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Danielle Charette
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Title of talk: 
David Hume on Slavery
Image: 
Date and Time: 
Friday, September 9, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Vijay Phulwani
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Visiting Professor, University of Virginia
Title of talk: 
How to Kill a Mortal God: Hobbes on the Theory and Practice of Rebellion
Abstract/Description: 
This article uses Hobbes’s discussions of rebellions—what they are and how they are started—to illuminate what I refer to as his theory of political organizing, his views about the processes through which collective political agents can be created and structured. While there is perhaps no more famous representation of collective agency than the image of the sovereign commonwealth on the frontispiece to Leviathan, my argument is that the state was not the only mortal god in Hobbes’s thought. Throughout his career, Hobbes also frequently described rebellions as collective bodies that could also exercise tremendous power. I trace the changing ways Hobbes tried to understand rebellion as he moved from what I call the incipient states model of The Elements of Law and De Cive to the political monstrosity model of Leviathan and Behemoth. In the former model, rebellions have roughly the same organization structure as states, though their existence is contrary to law. In the latter model, rebellions are still collective agents, but unlike the sovereign state, which gains its power from the consent of individuals uniting themselves into a single entity, rebellions are created by joining other artificial persons and corporate agents into a single monstrous body. By drawing on popular 16th century ideas about monsters, Hobbes was able to portray this powerful form of political agency as dangerously unstable. Finally, I show how this image of rebellion as a monstrous, compound collective agent plays a crucial role in shaping Hobbes’s practical and strategic political advice. Simply put, Hobbes insisted that the sovereign must also be an organizer, someone with the power to reorganize the social relationships, collective agents, and political institutions from which rebellions emerge in order to reinforce, rather than undermine, sovereign authority.
Image: 
Date and Time: 
Friday, October 21, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Erin Pineda
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Professor, Smith College
Image: 
Date and Time: 
Friday, December 2, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Academic Year: