Blackhood as a category in contemporary discourses on Black Studies : an existentialist philosophical defence

19 October 2022

Background: An era and academic milieu that clamour at post-racialist and globalist theoretical frameworks juxtaposed with evidence of growing anti-black dehumanizing racism, and the persistence of psycho-social alienation of black learners in multi-racial educational institutions. Aim: To engage in a critical philosophical–phenomenological and political review of the experience of being-black-in-the-world as a factor that justifies the establishment and maintenance of Black Studies programmes. The article seeks to contribute to the debate on the vagaries accompanying the institutionalisation of culturo-epistemic exclusive spaces for socially suppressed selfhoods in a postmodern academy. Setting: Racialised social environments as affecting Higher Education, with post-apartheid South Africa as a case. Methods: Existential Philosophy, Black Consciousness and Paulo Freire’s philosophy of education. Results: The category of blackness as derived from a Fanonian existential phenomenology and Steve Biko’s perspective, contrasted against Achille Mbembe’s semiological–hermeneutic and cosmopolitan treatment of blackness, is an existential–ontological reality that should function as a cardinal category in educational planning, justifying specialised learning and knowledgeexchange spaces for the re-humanisation of black existence. Conclusion: The experience of black existential reality, conceived from blackhood as an external recognition and an internally self-negotiated consciousness within the social immanence of whiteness, justifies the institutionalisation of learning spaces and programmes that are aimed at nurturing antiracist black self-realisation, namely Black Studies.