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Building on Achille Mbembe’s A Critique of Black Reason and Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic, emerging respectively from a francophone and anglophone tradition of Black critique, this chapter focuses on the profound importance of Blackness in the history of globalisation. Both writers argue Blackness needs to be understood in ‘worlded’ terms, with transnational dimensions and local inscriptions, and an emphasis on the interrelatedness of the world – its ‘systematic’ character. Moreover, each recognizes that in its engagement with imperialism, racialization, and the radical redefinition of subjectivity effected by capitalist modernity, Black writing pre-emptively grasps the spirit of globalization. As with the ‘one and unequal’ world literary system, Blackness shares a common basis in European colonialism and transatlantic slavery, but is also uneven, context-specific and immensely mutable, prohibiting any ‘total’ comprehension. Distilling a complex history into certain key topic areas, the chapter examines the significant international dimension of Black literary movements; the worlded and anti-colonial articulations of Blackness found in Négritude and the writing of Frantz Fanon; shifting Blackness in a neoliberal global order; and the afterlife and representational challenges of the foundational ‘world-system’ of slavery.
This chapter looks at the spread of global history globally and the abandonment of historiographical nationalism. It examines the long practice of comparative, transnational and global history writing since the Enlightenments. It also looks at the construction of peculiarities and exceptionalisms through comparison as well as their critique. It distinguishes between comparative and global history and links the rise of both to the renewed crisis of historicism since the 1980s. It also discusses the controvery between comparative historians and historians of cultural transfer, arguing that both approaches need to be united. The chapter highlights the idea of circulations and examines the explosion of global history around particular themes. It also underlines its usefulness in overcoming Western-centric models of development and questioning universalisms. Transnational, comparative and global histories have all contributed to decentring collective identity constructions and making historians more aware of the ways in which historical writing has been connected to the construction of such collective identities. This is shown in relation to spatial boundaries, be they national or supra-national, but also in relation to class, racial and gender identities. Postcolonial perspectives on global history have been particularly adept at questioning the Western-centrism of historical writing and understanding diverse regimes of colonialism. It has also made transnational global history more aware of its own temptation to further global identities.
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