In Conversation: On Afropessimism

In Afropessimism, award-winning author, poet, and scholar Frank B. Wilderson III draws from autobiographical stories as well as works of philosophy, literature, film, and critical theory as he looks at […]


In Conversation: On Afropessimism

Authors:Robert Weil, Frank B. Wilderson, III


In Afropessimism, award-winning author, poet, and scholar Frank B. Wilderson III draws from autobiographical stories as well as works of philosophy, literature, film, and critical theory as he looks at Blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. As he discusses how race seems to color almost every feature of our moral and political universe, Wilderson also wonders why anti-Black violence remains such a predominant feature of day-to-day society, not only in the United States, but around the world. He is speaking with his editor, Robert Weil, editor-in-chief and publishing director of publishing imprint W.W. Norton/Liveright.

Robert Weil

Robert Weil is the Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W.W. Norton. Over the course of his career, Weil has published numerous National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists. In 2017, he was awarded the fourth annual Bio Editorial Excellence Award. 

Frank B. Wilderson, III

Frank B. Wilderson, III is an award-winning writer, poet, scholar, activist and emerging filmmaker. Wilderson spent five years in South Africa as an elected official in the African National Congress during the country’s transition from apartheid and was a member of the ANC’s armed wing uMkhonto we Sizwe. His books include Incognegro: a Memoir of Exile and Apartheid, and Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. In  Afropessimism (Liveright) Dr. Wilderson combines trenchant philosophy with lyrical memoir, in an unparalleled account of Blackness. Why does race seem to color almost every feature of our moral and political universe? Why does a perpetual cycle of slavery―in all its political, intellectual, and cultural forms―continue to define the Black experience? Drawing from autobiographical stories, as well as works of philosophy, literature, film, and critical theory, he shows that the social construct of slavery, as seen through pervasive anti-Black subjugation and violence, is hardly a relic of the past but the very engine that powers our civilization, and that without this master-slave dynamic, the calculus bolstering world civilization would collapse. Afropessimism provides no restorative solution to the hatred that abounds; rather, Wilderson believes that acknowledging these historical and social conditions will result in personal enlightenment about the reality of our racialized existence. Publishers Weekly called his writing ” powerful, nuanced, and lyrical. [His] passionate account of racism’s malevolent influence is engrossing.”

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