The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: John Drabinski

John DrabinskiJohn Drabinski teaches widely in the Caribbean and African-American intellectual traditions at Amherst College, with special emphasis on francophone critical theory. As well, he is interested in Paul Gilroy's work as a way of thinking about transnational cultural contact and cultural production in the African diaspora. His orientation is resolutely philosophical, in part because that is his character as a thinker and person, but more emphatically because he thinks it is important to attend to the unique philosophical voice in African-American and Caribbean intellectual life.

Those Fascist Elites

Fascism, so far as I can tell, pretty much means everything, yet still means nothing these days. Trying to fish a theory of fascism out of the random, often hateful commentator rants (right and left) strikes me as foolish. Hardly interested in history and historical examples, that usage of the term aims to win a sentiment and rally passions, not make a point about the nature of governing, the governing personality, and ideas.


Real Estate Intervention, Capitalist Ultimatum

We flirted with buying a house this summer. We didn’t, but that’s another story. The process of looking and thinking and scheming got me interested in the meaning and value of real estate for the first time, really, though all of us already know too much about loans, sub-prime, collapsed economies, and so on. At the same time, and of course not unrelated, I started watching HGTV’s show Real Estate Intervention.


The Story and the Self

I loved books as a kid. But one of the strange things about loving books as I did is that I somehow managed to not read most of the grade school kid classics. I'm thinking of stuff like Wrinkle in Time, that Lion, Witch, Wardrobe thingy, Lord of the Rings, and all of those kinds of books that for kids today seem to just go by the name "Harry Potter." Those books were on my shelves at home.


Freaks and Other Others

The phrase "binary thinking" is a curious one. Even just the sound of it is unpleasant, hardly inviting or comfortable – I mean, really, who is in favor of something called "binary"? Well, perhaps we should understand the term a bit. For all the ways that it fits our world and all of those examples of its usefulness, it harms our collective life.Binary is a dictionary word.


Ideologically Thomas

If you have a little boy or girl, then you probably know about Thomas the Tank Engine. No, I don't mean a character. And I don't even mean a show. And, no, I don't even mean a merchandise aisle at Target. I mean what becomes, so very easily, an entire way of being. What is it about trains in general, and Thomas the Tank Engine in particular, that get inside little people's brains?


The Obama Campaign and the Possibility of Fear without Loathing

It is always a nice thing to see Socrates made contemporary. Or at least have something to say about about contemporary things, so I’m just so pleased to see Robert Meagher write this piece about fear and hope. The range – and so the possibilities – of human emotion is one of those perennial philosophical issues. And too much evidence points to the constant presence of fear, too little presence of hope.


Our Worthy Adversaries – Friends

I’ve been teaching about friendship for the past couple of weeks – Jacques Derrida’s utterly enigmatic Politics of Friendship, to be specific – so I was thrilled to read a reflection by my cross-campus colleague Robert Meagher on where friendship might lead us. There is much to say about friendship. Most of it, if we read the canonical texts on friendship in the Western tradition, places an insanely high standard on "true" friendship.


Philosophy in Pop

There is this thing about lefty theory and activism that has always bothered me: implicit, even explicit, contempt for the very people with whom those theorists and activists consider themselves in solidarity. I would say the same, if not more, about academics. Don’t get me wrong. I love my people. But I’ve always been confused by the simultaneous claim to be working toward knowledge of the world, understanding it in all its texture and contours, and seeing everyday culture as empty or shallow or unengaged with the very same existential, metaphysical, and ethical questions.


A Philosopher’s Calling Card

Every profession gets a standard response. You know, the response you get when you mention your work. Lawyers get the eye-roll. Doctors get the question aboutsore elbows and the like. Teachers get the nod of approval, then expressions of regret at how they’re not valued. I’m a philosophy professor. The response to me? "What do you DO with philosophy, anyway?" I’ve heard it so many times.