The problem of antiblack racism has a long history in the world, with as long a history of thinkers writing and theorizing against it. Few philosophers have opposed institutionalized racialism as vehemently as Jean-Paul Sartre, both in his intellectual work and in his political action.
This book argues that not only does a relationship exists between Sartre’s existentialist philosophy and antiracism but also, more profoundly, that it is precisely his existential ontology that informs his anti-racist social and political commitments. He sought to examine the complexity of our existence as conscious bodies and thus provides the ontological basis for understanding the situation of a black person in an antiblack world.
This book is about how Sartre’s philosophy – especially his early writings – can be applied to address the problem of racism against black people. It argues that among the many concepts in Sartre’s work that are useful in understanding the problem of racism against black people, the philosophical notion of contingency is one of the most significant. Contingency in Sartre is the view that whatever exists, need not exist, and that therefore it can be changed; that the fact that one is born white or black without their choice, has no moral weight at all in treating others as though they are responsible for what they are. In this book Mabogo More contends that through Sartre’s philosophical notion of contingency, he provides us with the ammunition to understand and deal with racism broadly, and antiblack racism in particular.
Mabogo Percy More is a former professor of philosophy at the University of the North, University of Durban-Westville, University of KwaZulu-Natal, all in South Africa, and is currently associate researcher at the University of Limpopo, South Africa. He has authored many journal articles and two books: Biko: Philosophy, Identity and Liberation and Looking Through Philosophy in Black.
This is the book on Sartre’s philosophy that many of us from the global south who found inspiration and solidarity from his thought have been waiting for. Through focusing on the problem of contingency, Mabogo More, South Africa’s most eminent living existential philosopher, brings to the fore the centrality of existence preceding essence and the gravity of its reversal in the ongoing, pernicious phenomenon of racism. It is a tour de force reflection from a philosopher who lived through the horrors of apartheid and who now, facing the challenges of its reassertion among other forms of oppression by other means in the twenty-first century, reminds us of the value of committed liberatory praxis. In true existential fashion, More is not trapped in exegesis but places Sartre’s thought, instead, as an ally in conversation with Black existential philosophy from Fanon to Biko to contemporary Africana existential philosophers, wherein the political imperatives of solidarity and struggle are conditions for dignity, freedom, and—as is increasingly clear—breath and life.
Sartre on Contingency is an exceptional examination and articulation of antiblack racism as an imposed reality of black people whose only ‘mistake’ was to be born black. Mabogo Percy More offers a seamless and timely analysis of the illogical and immoral expectation, created by whiteness in its god complex, for black people to legitimize their (incontrovertible) humanity in a bid to liberate themselves from racial oppression. More asks us to see through the contingency of antiblack racism and reject whiteness as the true humanity with the help of the Sartrean ontological framework.
Sartre on Contingency provides a cogent argument of Sartre’s relevance in contemporary debates around anti-racist praxis. More makes a convincing case for why everyone fighting against anti-Black racism today ought to read and engage with Sartre’s complex thought. The way in which More clarifies and guides the reader through Sartre’s immense oeuvre for established and new scholars approaching this canonical thinker from a variety of methodological and disciplinary schools of thought is a significant achievement.