Arendt is a Racist? Reflections on Little Rock

Reading: “Reflections on Little Rock”

Monday November 20, 2017 6-8 pm

Harold Washington Library

6th Floor North Study Room

Philosophers and Critical Theorists are familiar with issues of anti-Semitism in Heidegger’s work, and Arendt’s relationship with Heidegger has of course been part of those discussions. Hannah Arendt is widely understood to be a highly regarded Jewish intellectual and political theorist, yet this has also been generally understood to co-exist with some controversy. It has recently come to my attention that there is a body of work criticising anti-Black and event anti-Oriental racism in Arendt’s work, including her political theories.

For this meeting we will use Arendt’s “Reflections on Little Rock” to discuss racism in an American context and then work toward putting that in an international context through Arendt as a German, Jewish political thinker. Here are some questions we might consider (and please bring your own questions to the discussion if you so desire):

  • As a critical thinker, what stands out in Arendt’s reflections on the Little Rock 9?
    • Issues of white privilege?
    • Questions about social vs. political vs. private?
    • A new perspective on America’s history and current structure of racism at various levels of society?
  • Does a thinker’s racist language or beliefs affect how we read their theoretical or philosophical texts?
  • How does a critical thinker, in good faith, address issues of racism in a text or a body of work that may not be concerned with such issues when taken at face value? If that body of work in fact addresses racism explicitly?

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Arendt address criticisms of how she discusses Nazis and Jews (1hr video, but worth it to get a feeling for who Arendt was):

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