I remember this book very well from my childhood. My brother and I thought it was hilarious as well as another book called Amelia Bedelia about a youn...moreI remember this book very well from my childhood. My brother and I thought it was hilarious as well as another book called Amelia Bedelia about a young (white) maid who similarly took instructions literally with disastrous results. Both of these were favorite characters we often talked about. These stories draw on a long folk tradition of numbskull tales that can be found in many parts of the world (such as the Scandinavian Ole and Lena stories on a Prairie Home Companion). The comments about whether this book is "racist" or "not racist" or "politically incorrect" seem to be barking up the wrong tree. Racial inequality is a undeniable fact both now and in 1907 when Epaminondas was first published. Statistics on racial inequality in arrests, sentencing, incarceration, poverty, wealth, health, education, home ownership, etc demonstrate this beyond dispute. The question is then, how is racial inequality created and reproduced? Is it only passed on to children intentionally and explicitly by white supremacist parents or also unintentionally and implicitly by books depicting black children as intellectually deficient or by even more subtle portrayals of white people as "nice," "hardworking" or "trustworthy" and blacks as lacking these qualities? In 1907, Indiana was the first state to pass a eugenics law to sterilize the "feeble minded." Such laws became prevalent across the US and were later adopted by the Nazis. The majority of the people targeted for coercive sterilization in the US were black and native american. Some physicians at the time even endorsed the "black extinction thesis" arguing that black people were genetically weak and would naturally die out. So the 1907 story of a black boy with a weak intellect perfectly reflects the scientific racism of the time and could be seen as a justification for a real historical program of racial genocide. And it can also be seen as an innocent and funny traditional story. Or it could be seen as an opportunity to talk about race. If we label the book as "racist" or as "not racist," we shut down the discussion we need to have about racial inequality in the US today. The lesson of Epanimondas is not to jump to a literal conclusion then follow it through despite conflicting evidence. To declare this book "racist" or "not racist" is to be even more foolish than Epaminondas.(less)
re-read this after reading Dreyfus and Kelly's All Things Shining. D amd K point out the radical difference between the concept of self/agency during...morere-read this after reading Dreyfus and Kelly's All Things Shining. D amd K point out the radical difference between the concept of self/agency during Homer's time and that of our own; how living in a polytheistic world enables one to be caught up in the mood of a god or goddess(less)
I'm currently re-reading this with my students in Religion and Anthropology. After the theory I made them read they're sinking their teeth into EP's e...moreI'm currently re-reading this with my students in Religion and Anthropology. After the theory I made them read they're sinking their teeth into EP's ethnographic treatment of Zande reasoning about witchcraft and defense against it. When first published, this text confronted colonial era assumptions about the intellectual capacities of colonized people. (less)
A fascinating early engagement with the (post-classical) idea of a republic (as state without monarch), not towards perfection or universal rules but...moreA fascinating early engagement with the (post-classical) idea of a republic (as state without monarch), not towards perfection or universal rules but on the benefits of popular tumult as a guard against tyranny and virtue not as a set of rules but how one responds to the accidents of history and social life. While this might sound like the opposite of The Prince, both books rather elucidate different tendencies in Machiavelli's thought (and were probably written for different audiences/patrons).(less)
Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 work, The Crowd, portrayed the massed public as pathologically irrational, its members incapable of thinking or acting as indivi...moreGustave Le Bon’s 1895 work, The Crowd, portrayed the massed public as pathologically irrational, its members incapable of thinking or acting as individuals: “…by the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation” (12). While acknowledging that crowds are sometimes virtuous and heroic, Le Bon emphasized their destructive capacity and their threat to the hierarchies of established order. The Crowd was used as a guide by Hitler and Mussolini to develop strategies of propaganda and mass control, (Mussolini reportedly kept a copy of The Crowd at his bedside, see Alex Steiner), and Le Bon’s work laid the groundwork for theories of media and advertising. Le Bon identified the imagination of crowds as the source of their susceptibility to fanaticism and violence, in that in the crowd mind, the hallucinatory flow of images displaced what he assumed were otherwise purely rational processes of deliberation.
Reacting to revolutionary movements, Le Bon saw the rise of the crowd in historic terms: “it is possible that the advent to power of the masses marks one of the last stages of Western civilisation, a complete return to those periods of confused anarchy which seem always destined to precede the birth of every new society. But may this result be prevented!” (xviii). Lamenting the end of the entitlements of the aristocratic class, Le Bon made clear that he opposed mass power not simply because it is disorderly, but because it is destructive of the established order of elite control. While an affect of disgust towards the aesthetics of the crowd is at play, Le Bon’s core concern is power. One can also discern from the foregoing quote and Le Bon’s emphasis on the role of imagination that the gathering crowd also forms a sort of heterotopia implicated in the founding of a new transcendent entity, a new society. (less)