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Séminaire EHDLM – Emahunn Campbell : “W.E.B. Du Bois’s Literary Interventions on the Discourses of Black Criminality”, 11 mai 2015

La 5ème séance du séminaire du projet Sorbonne Paris Cité EHDLM (Écrire l’histoire depuis les marges : le cas des Africains Américains) se déroulera le lundi 11 mai 2015 de 17h30 à 19h, en salle 16 de l’Institut du Monde Anglophone, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, 5 rue de L’école de Médecine, 75006 Paris.

Nous recevrons Emahunn Campbell (University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Afro-American Studies) pour une communication intitulée “W.E.B. Du Bois’s Literary Interventions on the Discourses of Black Criminality” dont on trouvera un résumé ci-dessous.

Capture d’écran 2015-04-28 à 18.42.37This paper analyzes the construction of black criminality in Du Bois’s literary imagination. Most scholarship on his criminological interventions focus his on well- known works such as “The Conservation of Races” (1897), The Philadelphia Negro, and “The Spawn of Slavery: Convict Leasing in the South” (1901), among others. During the close of the nineteenth century and the inauguration of the twentieth century—the fin de siècle—specifically to about 1910, Du Bois had a sustained intellectual, scholarly, and, for the purposes of this essay, literary interest in criminality and its association to black people. Through selected unpublished short stories in the early part of his writing career, specifically “The Couple in theDrawing Room” (1906) and “The Jewel”, Du Bois,  through his blurring of crime and detective fiction, literarily challenges pervading scientific arguments that position black subjects—specifically black man subjects—as naturally predisposed to criminal behavior.These stories, often incomplete, fragmented, and underdeveloped, intervene in the sociopolitical and the politico-scientific conversations on black criminality as well as Du Bois’s corpus on the subject. Capture d’écran 2015-04-28 à 18.44.18Furthermore, and intriguingly, Du Bois, similar to famed writers Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain, incorporates forensic methods through his black protagonist. For an author who maintained fidelity to empiricism and the pursuit of “Truth” through the scientific method, associating his black protagonist with empirical capabilities performs important cultural and sociological work toward ruining baleful myths of a perpetual, inherent black criminal class by illustrating that a black working- class character is able to raise close investigative inquiries.


Organisation: Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry (Paris 3-Sorbonne nouvelle), Claire Parfait (Paris 13), Marie-Jeanne Rossignol (Paris Diderot), Matthieu Renault (Paris 13), Claire Bourhis-Mariotti (Paris 8).