Over the years I have prepared and delivered various presentations on W.E.B. Du Bois. Not all of the lectures have been created to be online-accessible. On this page I provide links to my public talks on various topics relevant to Du Bois's thought and activism.
(with a list of my other presentations and publications) also are located on this website.
A Note on Presentation Formats:
Several of the talks listed below consist of a single web page whose content is presented as one long document (Items 1, 2, and 10).
The symposium commemorated the centennial of the 1906 meeting of the Niagara Movement at Harpers Ferry, WV. My focus was on Du Bois's "Address to the Country" which he wrote to express the political demands of the Movement. I interpreted the document in terms of the spatiality of politics, specifically space, place, and scale. The Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Service and the Harpers Ferry Historical Association sponsored this event. I presented on 18 August 2006.
[I posted this presentation for the 1 November 2020 update.
In February 2013 Clark Atlanta University, under the leadership of Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans, convened
the W.E.B. Du Bois 50th Anniversary Commemorative Conference. I presented a paper entitled "Embracing Philosophy: On Du Bois's 'The Individual and Social Conscience'"
. This talk is my first discussion of the IASC in a public forum. Before speaking I provided an outline to the audience. I subsequently elaborated upon that lecture, which was published in Phylon
. The amplified OUTLINE
version is housed on this site. I provide more details on the outline page.
My presentation was part of the Bennett College Faculty Lecture Series, which I delivered on 22 January 2015. I addressed the topic of "W.E.B. Du Bois and the Paradox of Democracy", focusing on "Of the Ruling of Men" (Chapter VI in his Darkwater
). I outlined Du Bois's support of extending the franchise and of widening the scope of citizen participation over large-scale industries. In my hypertext PRESENTATION
I discussed the importance of "Ruling" with regard to Du Bois's contributions to democratic theorizing, including his concept of unknowability. Note that this presentation uses an earlier version of the hypertext format and thus contains somewhat less functionality than later versions.
The Department of the Sociology and Criminal Justice at Clark Atlanta University hosted the "Symposium Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of the Atlanta Sociological Laboratory and the Work of W.E.B. Du Bois" on 25 February 2016. I titled my talk "W.E.B. Du Bois on Scientific Knowledge and Its Limits". I developed a typology of knowledge claims found in Du Bois's texts, including current and future knowledge, uncertain knowledge, and that which is fundamentally unknowable. My PRESENTATION
is available herein as a web-based hypertext.
The African American Studies and Research Center at Purdue University hosted this symposium on 1-3 December 2016. The theme of the symposium was "Exploring the 'Humanity' in the Digital Humanities". This hypertext PRESENTATION
used collation software to highlight the interconnections between two sets of Du Bois's works. I argued that his concept of humanity was not exhausted by any one text: indeed, the concept expanded its analytical and geo-historical scope in the context of world events, such as World War One. I include this lecture as part of my continuing projects on Du Bois from the perspectives of the digital humanities
Organized by the African American Intellectual History Society, this conference was held at Vanderbilt University on 24-25 March 2017. In my hypertext PRESENTATION
I argued that, for Du Bois, what we cannot know (nescience) is as important as what we can know about now or in the future. I reconstructed Du Bois's understanding of the relationship of science with nescience in terms of what we can know about and what we can know directly. I also examined the implications of DuBoisian ne/
science for scholarly research, politics, and activism.
This symposium was convened at Clark Atlanta University, on 22-23 February 2018. In my abstract I state:
Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1968 tribute, "Honoring Dr. Du Bois", praises the civil rights leader and Pan-Africanist as a champion for oppressed peoples around the world, one whose scholarship informs his pursuit of justice and peace. I wish to supplement King's cogent summary of Du Bois's research and activism by analyzing another dimension of the quest for truth.
According to Du Bois, social research faces limits on what its methods can know-about. In particular, some areas of human behavior yield uncertain knowledge or else remain unknowable in principle. For example, he indicates that some details of history are unrecoverable, and thereby unknowable. Also, we cannot know directly another's personal experiences. The types of uncertainty and unknowability delineated by him I label as nescience. For Du Bois, nescience does not prelude activism; indeed, he responds in various activist ways. Historical unknowability prompts him to write socially conscious fiction, while unknowable individuals justify his advocacy to incorporate, via suffrage, their "excluded wisdom" into governance. Thus, in addition to (social) science informing activism, Du Bois argues that what we do not know—our nescience—also must inform and motivate our struggles.
In this presentation I outline King's "Honoring Dr. Du Bois", emphasizing his discussion of the research/activism nexus. Then, I detail several of Du Bois's forms of nescience and their consequences for activism. Lastly, I illustrate the role of unknowability in recent examples of social activism, such as Black Lives Matter, Afrofuturism, and the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. I seek to highlight, ultimately, the relevance of Du Boisian nescience for 21st Century struggles against racial and economic inequalities.
I subsequently revised and published a version of this talk as an article, "M.L. King's Abiding Tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois: Research, Activism, and the Unknowable." It was published in Phylon, 56:1 (Summer 2019): 134-155.
My presentation is part of the session "The Problem of Democratic Culture in the American Pragmatist Tradition". I examine how Du Bois in the early 1900s frames chance, human agency, and Darwinian thought in terms of his understanding of Jamesian Pragmatism—a formulation by which he criticizes White supremacism and racial barriers to opportunity.
Paul Gilroy's concept of the Black Atlantic emphasizes Africana agency and subjectivity in the creation of modernity.
The concept highlights the varied sources and routes involved in the generation of culture and meaning.
I argue that there is a methodological analog to the geographical displacement expressed in the Black Atlantic concept.
I coded a browser-based application, Retextualizer, to perform textual displacement on Du Bois's 'Souls' essay (1904) [along with a small set of other essays]. Retextualizer will reconfigure the sentences of the essay as a way to emulate the multiple routes that are integral to the creation of meaning. The conference session was entitled "(Re)Envisioning Data" and I presented on 20 October 2018.
The symposium is sponsored by the Departments of Sociology and of African & African American Studies at Harvard University [website
I discuss the pragmatic aspects of Du Bois's thought (especially in terms of Du Bois mediating the pragmatism of William James with his own racial experiences), as well as the philosophical situations in which his pragmatic dimensions are textually evident (specifically, under situations of unknowability). I briefly end the talk with the relevance of a Du Boisian pragmatism for today, including the valuation of the "excluded wisdom" embodied in marginalized communities.
The panel was entitled "Du Bois and Pragmatism". Due to time constraints I coded the presentation as a short, one-page document; it is not in my usual hypertext format. I presented on 27 October 2018.
This project puts forth two goals. First, how did Du Bois conceive of the relationship between democracy and the sciences? (The latter for him include the social sciences, the natural sciences, and often history). Second, how can we approach such an interconnection of ideas within Du Bois's numerous writings?
I outline an approach called interpretive concordancing, which allows us to explore a corpus via a concordancer using specific search protocols (i.e., regexes: regular expressions). For this project I created a partial corpus of about 200 texts. Interpretive concordancing involves an analytical phase in which the texts are studied in terms of their component parts: namely, the words and their synonyms that express Du Bois's ideas. During this phase I list n-grams of 2- and 3-word phrases, as well as seek single words or phrases (called node words) within their textual contexts. Also, I conduct proximity searching for word pairs that occur a certain number of characters apart. Lastly, in the synthesizing phase of interpretive concordancing I assemble the ideas of the texts, as evidenced in the search results, into an argument that conveys Du Bois's understanding of the democracy/science relationship.
Interpretive concordancing leads me to this argument. For Du Bois, democracy and science each supports the other and each limits the other. Within a specified domain of action and policy (my phrase) one predominates due to the other's limited scope of knowledge. The sciences, by grasping the natural laws of economic production, could tell us "how" to produce and distribute goods and services, but not the "whats", the "whys", and the "how-muchs". That was the realm of citizens and democratic participation. Each generates only a portion of the overall knowledge that Du Bois considered vital for governance. [I created the document as a longish, one-page HTML file; it is not a hypertext presentation.][
I added this entry for the 1 March 2021 update.]