The double-consciousness: W. E. B. Du Bois
in Beginning classical social theory
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William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, one of the pioneers of sociology in the USA, formulated in his The Souls of Black Folk (1903) a powerful argument on identity in modern society. He describes post-emancipation Afro-Americans as ‘born with a veil’ as they are only indirectly able to gain consciousness of themselves, namely through the eyes of the others who despise them; at the same time, though, the resulting ‘double consciousness’ of being both of and not of this society, can be turned into an advantage: the broken, indirect and precarious vision may see more and deeper. Du Bois talks about more than cognition and epistemology, though: both the African and the American strive to be ‘co-workers’ in the ‘kingdom of culture’. Overcoming ‘the color-line’ is indispensable to the creation of a better, modern, human and humane civilization.


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