Evidence of Things Not Said : James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy / Edition 1

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The Evidence of Things Not Said employs the rich essays of James Baldwin to interrogate the politics of race in American democracy. Lawrie Balfour advances the political discussion of Baldwin's work, and regards him as a powerful political thinker whose work deserves full consideration.Baldwin's essays challenge appeals to race-blindness and formal but empty guarantees of equality and freedom. They undermine white presumptions of racial innocence and simultaneously refute theories of persecution that define African Americans solely as innocent victims. Unsettling fixed categories, Baldwin's essays construct a theory of race consciousness that captures the effects of racial identity in everyday experience.Balfour persuasively reads Baldwin's work alongside that of W. E. B. Du Bois to accentuate how double consciousness works differently on either side of the color line. She contends that the allusiveness and incompleteness of Baldwin's essays sustains the tension between general claims about American racial history and the singularity of individual experiences. The Evidence of Things Not Said establishes Baldwin's contributions to democratic theory and situates him as an indispensable voice in contemporary debates about racial injustice.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Balfour. . . has written an unusual, complex analysis of novelist and essayist James Baldwin (1924-87) as a political theorist. . . intriguing."—Library Journal

"A worthy reexamination of the works of a powerful writer."—Vanessa Bush, Booklist. 12/15/2000

"Balfour focuses on Baldwin's essays. . . with the acknowledged intent of tracing the trajectory of continuity throughout. . . The first chapter serves as a lengthy background. . . Subsequent chapters. . . offer new critical insights and approaches to Baldwin's essays, a genre that many critics have labeled his best and most significant writing."—Choice, Vol. 38, No. 11, July 2001

"This examination of James Baldwin's essays explores his contribution to political theory. . . The book concludes with a discussion of Baldwin's complicated relation with language and a consideration of his significance in the political landscape of the 21st century."—Journal of Social Work Education, Spring/Summer 2001

"In asking political theorists and literary critics alike to read Baldwin as a political analyst, The Evidence of Things Not Said usefully holds a mirror to our methodologies and to their relation to racial injustice itself."—Priscilla Wald. The Review of Politics, Fall 2001

"This sensitive, superbly written book teaches that social criticism must make people face their deepest fears and renounce comfort and security as selfish illusions."— American Political Science Review, March 2003

"Lawrie Balfour's original book carefully explores James Baldwin's contribution to the democratic project as well as the unique challenges Baldwin posed to its understanding. Sure to be a classic in Baldwin studies, The Evidence of Things Not Said is a pleasure to read and an important piece of work."—Lewis Gordon, Brown University

"In The Evidence of Things Not Said, Lawrie Balfour has made a major contribution to Baldwin studies. For the first time, Baldwin's work is considered in the context of political theory and American ideals of democracy. The result is a brilliant explanation of Baldwin's relevance to the post-civil rights era."—David A. Leeming, author of James Baldwin: A Biography

"Lawrie Balfour, a rising young scholar, offers a bright new perspective on an important on-going discussion: James Baldwin's engagement in the interplay of political theory and race. The Evidence of Things Not Said is a remarkable book about America."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Library Journal
Balfour (politics, Babson Coll.) has written an unusual, complex analysis of novelist and essayist James Baldwin (1924-87) as a political theorist. Because Baldwin is not generally regarded as a theorist of any sort, Balfour is obliged to tease political meaning out of several major nonfiction pieces. Though his arguments are sometimes obscured by his postmodernist vocabulary, Balfour contends that Baldwin's focus on the personal and individual rather than the abstract should give political theorists pause when making connections between race and democracy. In his essays, Baldwin simultaneously derided white presumptions of racial innocence and perceptions of blacks that stressed only their victimization, advocating a deeper race consciousness that was rooted in concrete, everyday life. An intriguing but very difficult work, this is recommended for large public and academic libraries only.--Anthony O. Edwards, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801486982
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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