Du Bois’s International Thought: Empire, Race, and Political Economy

On March 24th, the Network welcomes Prof. Jennifer Pitts from the University of Chicago to discuss W.E.B. Du Bois’s views on the “world shadow” cast by democratic despotism. The talk draws upon Prof. Pitts’s recent edited volume W. E. B. Du Bois: International Thought (2022, Cambridge University Press, with Adom Getachew). Prof. David Singh Grewal (Berkeley Law) will serve as discussant.

About the Talk: W.E.B. Du Bois understood the modern world as structured by a racial capitalism, rooted in slavery and imperial commerce, that had taken a distinctive democratic form in the late nineteenth century. He revealed the many dimensions of the “world shadow” cast by what he called democratic despotism: protean forms of exploitation of land and labor, world war, and the complicity of seemingly emancipatory movements in domination. Du Bois remains among our most profound guides to the epistemic pitfalls of standard accounts of the international order and to theorizing global justice and democratic futures from a global present still shaped by empire.

About the Speaker: Jennifer Pitts is Professor of Political Science and the Committee on Social Thought. She is the author of Boundaries of the International (Harvard 2018), which explores European debates over legal relations with extra-European societies during the eighteenth. She is also author of A Turn to Empire: the rise of imperial liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton 2005); co-editor of The Law of Nations in Global History (Oxford 2017); and editor and translator of Alexis de Tocqueville: writings on empire and slavery (Johns Hopkins 2001). Her research interests lie in the fields of modern political and international thought, particularly British and French thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; empire; the history of international law; and global justice. 

NOTE: This is a hybrid event and will be held in person in the Social Science Matrix (8th floor of the Social Science Building) with an option to join by Zoom. In person attendance is warmly encouraged, but please be sure to familiarized yourself with campus COVID protocols.

Location: Social Science Matrix (8th Floor of the Social Science Building) and Hybrid through Zoom

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