During the antebellum period, slave owners weaponized southern Black joy to argue for enslavement, propagating images of “happy darkies.” In contrast, abolitionists wielded sorrow by emphasizing racial oppression. Both arguments were so effective that a political uneasiness on the subject still lingers. In The Politics of Black Joy, Lindsey Stewart wades into these uncomfortable waters by analyzing Zora Neale Hurston’s uses of the concept of Black southern joy.
Stewart develops Hurston’s contributions to political theory and philosophy of race by introducing the politics of joy as a refusal of neo-abolitionism, a political tradition that reduces southern Black life to tragedy or social death. To develop the politics of joy, Stewart draws upon Zora Neale Hurston’s essays, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and figures across several disciplines including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Saidiya Hartman, Imani Perry, Eddie Glaude, and Audra Simpson. The politics of joy offers insights that are crucial for forming needed new paths in our current moment. For those interested in examining popular conceptions of Black political agency at the intersection of geography, gender, class, and Black spirituality, The Politics of Black Joy is essential reading.
Acknowledgments Introduction: The Trouble of Black Southern Joy Scene 1: “I Ain’t Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” Chapter 1: “Sing[ing] a Song to the Morning”: The Politics of Joy Scene 2: “The Past and the Future Merge to Meet us Here” Chapter 2: “An Object of Pity”: Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and the Rise of Abolitionism Scene 3: “She Don’t Gotta Give It Up, She Professional” Chapter 3: “Tak[ing] the Indian Position”: Hurston within and against the Abolitionist Tradition Scene 4: “Slay Trick, or You Get Eliminated” Chapter 4: “Winning [Our] War from Within”: Moving beyond Resistance Conclusion: The Politics of Joy in the Time of the Coronavirus Notes Bibliography Index
LINDSEY STEWART is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis.
“The Politics of Black Joy cracks open the complexities of southern Blackness by offering an intriguing and underutilized approach—Black joy—to address how the South sits at the crux of racial performance, agency, and gender. At the center of Lindsey Stewart's theorization is Zora Neale Hurston, a southern literary and cultural icon whose genius is revisited every generation. Stewart not only demonstrates a mastery of scholarship about Hurston’s life and writing but also ties it together with her own analysis to create a work that refreshes criticism surrounding Hurston and her contemporaries to gain a better understanding of southern Black life and culture.” —Regina N. Bradley, author of Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South
An electronic version of this book is freely available, thanks to the support of libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched. KU is a collaborative initiative designed to make high-quality books open access for the public good. More information about the initiative and links to the open-access version can be found at www.knowledgeunlatched.org.