The People, Rhetoric, and Affect: On the Political Force of Du Bois' 'The Souls of Black Folk'
American Political Science Review, Vol. 106, No. 1, 2012
Posted: 8 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 8, 2012
In recent years, the concept of "the people" has received sustained theoretical attention. Unfortunately, political theorists have said very little about its explicit or implied deployment in thinking about the expansion of the American polity along racial lines. In taking up this issue, the purpose of this paper is twofold. First, to provide a substantive account of the meaning of "the people," what I call its descriptive and aspirational dimensions. And second, to use that description as the framework for understanding the rhetorical character of W. E. B. Du Bois' classic work, The Souls of Black Folk, and its relationship to what we might call the cognitive-affective dimension of judgment. In doing so, I argue that as a work of political theory, Souls draws a specific connection between rhetoric on the one hand, and emotional states such as sympathy and shame on the other to enlarge America's political and ethical imagination regarding the status of African-Americans.
Keywords: Du Bois, race, affect, the people, democracy, rhetoric, american political thought, deliberation
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