The soul; a study and an argument (1903)

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A brief resume of that interpretive record follows.

Bruce Jr. Bruce []: An early appearance of the term in the Medical Repository in Mitchill named the condition of a Mary Reynolds, who, for a period of about fifteen years beginning in her nineteenth, alternately lived two distinct lives, with wholly different personalities, uncognizant of and inaccessible to each other. Bruce comments that. This paper was later reprinted as the first chapter of Studies on Hysteria , published in In this case, the new context is one upon which is inscribed the problem of the twentieth century: the problem of the color line.

Her reading identifies other borrowings from German Idealism, noting along the way that.

W.E.B. Du Bois

He points to the. He concludes that. Reed argues that an emphasis on double-consciousness comes to the fore in Du Bois interpretation only after the s, when it supplants critical attention to the critique of Booker T. Ernest Allen Jr. Gooding-Williams finds two sources for the idea of second sight—one in African-American folklore, and one in the nineteenth-century literature on animal magnetism.

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Both these present it as a capacity for a sort of extra-sensory perception e. This eventuality, neither inevitable nor unattainable, is consequently a prime object of the Du Boisian political project. Gooding-Williams concludes that the overcoming of double-consciousness is a necessary and sufficient condition for the achievement of reciprocal recognition and full equality, since the struggle for full equality grounded in reciprocal recognition cannot be won without eradicating the basis for double-consciousness. Gooding-Williams argues finally that Du Bois was concerned with double-consciousness not only as a correlate of the disenfranchised condition that constitutes the so-called Negro problem, but also as a crucial test of the effectiveness of the struggle for the overcoming of that condition itself.

In his discussions of Booker T. Washington and Alexander Crummell in chapters III and XII of Souls , Du Bois makes a case that both these leaders fell victim to a double-consciousness, vitiating their effectiveness as leaders of the emancipation struggle. Amour-propre is a purely social sort of anti-solidarity, pitting one against another on grounds of comparative measures of worth.

Both these arise from the felt need to. Being of two conflicting minds or being two-faced are the outcomes of the compromise to the hazards accompanying their aspirations for esteem. Cornel West extends the analytic grasp of the concept as part of a critical discussion of double-consciousness in his first book, Prophecy Deliverance! Du Bois overlooked the broader dialectic of being American yet feeling European, of being provincial but yearning for British cosmopolitanism, of being at once incompletely civilized and materially prosperous, a genteel Brahmin amid uncouth conditions.

W.E.B. DuBois Critiques Booker T. Washington

Black Americans labored rather under the burden of a triple crisis of self-consciousness. Their cultural predicament was comprised of African appearance and unconscious cultural mores, involuntary displacement to America without American status, and American alienation from the European ethos complicated through domination by incompletely European Americans.

It would follow that, as Africans in America became educated in the European-American cultural milieu, their awareness and sensitivity to the anxieties of generic American self-awareness might be more fully reflected in their own self-understandings. Du Bois figures prominently in that argument, and Gilroy extends Du Boisian double-consciousness both beyond the American context and at odds with an essentialist understanding of race.


Gilroy also identifies that ambivalence as a stable and pronounced tendency in diasporic black cultures and political debates generally. Henry cites the Rastafarians as an example of this route to potentiated second sight. An alternate route to potentiated second sight is through an individually acquired independent standpoint on the world of the agents of white supremacy, and here Henry cites Du Bois himself as an exemplar.

Several pages later, Fanon observes that. The effective disalienation of the black man entails an immediate recognition of social and economic realities. If there is an inferiority complex, it is the outcome of a double process: primarily, economic; subsequently, the internalization—or better, the epidermalization—of this inferiority. Referring to his native land, Fanon writes. The latter became more invisible as Africans were transformed into negroes and niggers in the minds of Europeans. This racial violence shattered the cultural foundations of the African self…. Race became the primary signifier of Europeans and Africans and of the differences between them.

Closely related to this is an exclusionary account of citizenship, relegating the black person to the status of noncitizen or a lesser, second class citizen. This, Gordon writes, is the second, doubling consciousness in its affirmative, fully realized manifestation. Here we briefly recapitulate several of those questions. And if not, how can the account he presents be taken as veridical? Although Du Bois never explicitly makes the claim that he himself is free from double-consciousness, he does seem to have written as though his theoretical vision was relatively unclouded by an internal soul-struggle.

And yet Du Bois also clearly introduces his conception of double-consciousness in the context of an account of his own personal experience and as, in part, based on that experience. Gooding-Williams argues that this paradox can be overcome by distinguishing the narrative authority of Souls from the historical author of the text. It is the narrator of Souls , and not Du Bois himself, who has escaped double-consciousness.

This returns us to the question of the scope of double-consciousness, a question raised most insistently by Allen.

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Du Bois also devotes several chapters in Souls to detailed characterizations of the inner soul struggles of those, both actual and fictional, who would be or were in fact leaders of their people—Washington, Crummell, and the fictional John Jones. Some recent commentators have rejected the claim that double-consciousness, in the sense of internalized disparagement or a self-perception of inferiority, has been a universal feature of black life in America.

Molefi Kete Asante, discussing his own experience growing up in and around the small town of Valdosta, Georgia, in the s, writes that.

The Souls of Black Folk

There existed no reference points outside of ourselves despite the economic and psychological poverty of our situation. He does go on to acknowledge the special circumstances of his experience:. It might have been another matter if I had gone to school and to church with whites when I was younger. I might have suffered confusion, double-consciousness, but I did not. Du Bois never explicitly clarifies the relation between double-consciousness and two-ness in his texts.

The Du Boisian conception has been criticized as well for oversimplifying the complexity and multidimensionality of contemporary selves, for expressing a nostalgia for a unitary and integral self that may never have existed, is an illusion, an unachievable ideal. Thus Darlene Clark Hine suggests that.

Hines That the text is masculinist seems undeniable.

His conception was an attempt to capture something about the lived experience of black folk as black folk in the United States under conditions of Jim Crow and white supremacy. It would be wholly consistent with the point of his conception if, added to the doubling of consciousness consequent upon racially oppressive social conditions, other forms of psychic doubling or fragmentation, responses to other forms of inequality, might arise. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Double consciousness, once a disorder, is now the cure. Sometimes they are deemed weak or inferior just because they are mixed , as Naomi Zack documents in her Race and Mixed-Race chapters 11, Indeed, Du Bois was himself personally deeply familiar with this issue, as he relates, for instance, from his university days in Berlin.

Sie fuhlen sich niedrig! However my presence or absence would have made no difference to him. He was given to making extraordinary assertions out of a clear sky and evidently believing just what he said. My fellow students gave no evidence of connecting what he said with me. Du Bois There is virtually no consideration of such issues in Souls.

The Souls of Black Folk Summary

Racial designation at that time was determined primarily through hypodescent, and the citizenship status of black folk was impugned by Plessy v. Ferguson and Jim Crow. That does not mean he abandons the concept, of course, but most of the commentary on his employment of the concept focuses on the treatment of the issues it names in Souls. There have been some attempts to interpret various of his other works in terms of the conception, but these tend to focus on his fictional writings, and the use made of these is not primarily to develop the conception but rather to show its uses by Du Bois in other contexts.

More than one writer has asserted that the passage in which Du Bois presents the term is the most-referenced text in all African-American letters.

It seems problematic, however, to pin a full-blown account of and theoretical reconstruction on one passage in one work, however seminal or influential it may have been. There are discussions in later texts that seem to involve aspects, at least, of the conception. Du Bois seems to make a claim for a special kind of knowledge of the psychology of white people. After specifying that his knowledge is not that of the foreigner, nor of the servant or the worker, he writes:.

I see these souls undressed and from the back and sides. I see the working of their entrails. I know their thoughts and they know that I know. But what Du Bois claims here also seems to go beyond the conception, since that conception did not specifically and explicitly refer to knowledge of the souls of white folks. We looked at him clearly, with world-old eyes, and saw simply a human being, weak and pitiable and cruel, even as we are and were. Du Bois is here considering the ideology of white supremacy, tracing out the historical conditions of its development and some of the psychological consequences it has for whites who accept it and live in and on the basis of it.

To the extent that whites accept the premises of white supremacy, and live and act upon them, they are deceived about themselves and act out a deception that the blacks who are subject to them are in a position to see through. This interpretation is brought out in Henry, Gordon, and Kirkland as well.

For what Du Bois presents in this chapter is a critical analysis of the American ideology of white supremacy that is informed by historical understanding and backed up by social-scientific data. There is another passage later in Darkwater that bears, if somewhat indirectly, on the notion of double-consciousness:. Pessimism is cowardice. And both things are true and both belong to this our world, and neither can be denied.

This passage is surely aimed against the debilitating effects of the facts of life for Black folk in the Jim-Crow south. And that is resistance to the pernicious double consciousness that would bury our intimate self-understanding under a dominant white supremacist rationalization of racial inequality.

This exaggerates, at once, the secret shame of being identified with such people and the anomaly of insisting that the physical characteristics of these folk which the upper class shares, are not the stigmata of degradation. He also reiterates a theme that was apparent from the very beginning of his thinking about double-consciousness—its close connection to divergent personal as well as political strategies for managing, and working to transform, the conditions giving rise to it.

But also, by this time, his conception of race itself has opened up even further beyond that of any linear historical development. It had as I have tried to show all kinds of illogical trends and irreconcilable tendencies.

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A number of things change in the account given by Du Bois in Dusk of Dawn of the phenomena that, in Souls , are brought under the sign of double-consciousness. The Negro American has for his environment not only the white surrounding world, but also, and touching him usually much more nearly and compellingly, is the environment furnished by his own colored group. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the rule. The American Negro, therefore, is surrounded and conditioned by the concept which he has of white people and he is treated in accordance with the concept they have of him.

On the other hand, so far as his own people are concerned, he is in direct contact with individuals and facts. He fits into this environment more or less willingly. It gives him a social world and mental peace.