William R. Scott Brown Bag Series: Dr. Saladin Ambar

Thursday, February 16, 2017 -
12:00pm to 1:00pm
Williams Hall, Room 341
"Seeing Double in the 'Hidden Self': Musings on Consciousness in W.E. B. Du Bois and William James" 
Dr. Saladin Ambar
Associate Professor, Political Science (Chairperson) and Africana Studies

This talk seeks to illuminate the intellectual ties between two of the most important figures in American political thought: the pragmatist philosopher William James, and the pioneering civil rights leader and intellectual, W.E.B. Du Bois. As Harvard’s first African American PhD, Du Bois was a critical figure in theorizing about American race and identity. His innovative take on double consciousness has often been attributed to his contact with James who was one of Du Bois’ most critical graduate professors. But how precisely did James influence Du Bois’ thinking? How did modern psychology direct Du Bois’ attitudes and scholarship on race? And, how did the friendship between these two men shape the nature of discourse on race and civil rights at the beginning of the 20th century? This talk examines some of the connections between Du Bois and James by exploring James's 1890 article on The Hidden Self, as a route to thinking about Du Boisian double consciousness.