Call for Papers
Reconstructing the Social Sciences and Humanities: Antenor Firmin, Western Intellectual Tradition, and Black Atlantic Thought and Culture
Editors: Celucien L. Joseph, PhD, Paul Mocombe, PhD
Joseph Antenor Firmin (1850-1911) was the reigning public intellectual and political critic in Haiti in the nineteenth-century. Firmin was the first “Black anthropologist” and “Black Egyptologist” to deconstruct Western interpretation of global history and challenge the ideological construction of human nature and theories of knowledge in Western social sciences and the humanities—through his interdisciplinary tour-de-force De l’égalité des races humaines (anthropologie positive) (1885), translated in the English language as The Equality of the Human Races: Positivist Anthropology (2002) by Asselin Charles. In this seminal monograph, Firmin interrogated the conventional boundaries of research methods in the social sciences and humanities in the eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century, respectively—although the social sciences came to be recognized as distinct disciplines of thought until the nineteenth-century. His research was influenced by the philosophy of positivism, grounded in the ideas of the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857), to critique the traditional approaches to and the contemporary theories of human origin, civilization, history, culture, and research representation. As the 18th-century Scottish empiricist David Hume, Firmin was correspondingly concerned about the “relations of ideas” in the scientific inquiry and the underlying fundamental notions and objectives of various fields or disciplines of knowledge of that era. His political theory about the constitution of the nation-states and the formation of modern societies were equally driven by the political and sociological methods and theories of that period; yet, Firmin was discontent about the ideological impulses and epistemological presuppositions of these cultural-political phenomena and dynamics.
Through his other intellectual, political, and diplomatic writings and commentaries—such as Haïti au point de vue politique, administratif et économique : conférence faite au Grand cercle de Paris (1891), Haïti et la France (1891), Une défense (1892), Diplomate et diplomatie : lettre ouverte à M. Solon Ménos (1899), M. Roosevelt, président des États-Unis et la République d’Haïti (1905), Lettres de Saint Thomas. Études sociologiques, historiques et littéraires (1910), and L’effort dans le mal (1911) — Firmin’s intellectual motif was animated by a spirit of dispassionate and rational inquiry. He articulated an alternative way to study global historical trajectories, the political life, human societies and interactions, and the diplomatic relations and dynamics between the nations and the races. The sociological dimension of Firmin’s thought not only reassesses the history of the social thought of his period, but stresses the complex factors and forces that contributed to the (economic) development of human societies and cultures, and the concept of advanced and less-advanced civilizations in the modern world. For example, Firmin’s revisionist history makes a clarion call to acknowledge the “Black Genesis” of human origin and the manifold contribution of pre-colonial Africa to universal civilization and human flourishing, in both ancient history and modern history. The Firminian turn in social sciences and the humanities, and in anthropology in particular was a discursive discourse that questioned the ideological premises of theories of knowledge and the myth of a “superior race,” and the logic of Western interpretation of global history and the historical narrative about ancient African history and culture.
This Call for Papers is an attempt to meditate intellectually on the intellectual life, writings, and the legacy of Joseph Antenor Firmin. This project not only presents Firmin as a deconstructionist of the social sciences and humanities and theories of knowledge articulated in Western history of ideas and social thought of his era; it also accentuates his manifold contribution to these distinct fields of thought. As an anti-racist intellectual and cosmopolitan thinker, Firmin challenges Western idea of the colonial subject, race achievement, and modernity’s imagination of a linear narrative of progress and reason based on the false premises of social evolution and development, colonial history and epistemology, and the intellectual evolution of the Aryan-White race. For Firmin, these Western-European fault-lines and intellectual transgressions had deferred the work of universal progress, the international alliance between the nations, peoples, and the races of the world, and the cosmopolitan orientation toward phileo love and mutual respect. Firmin anticipates the de-colonial option as a potential remedy to cure the shortcomings of (Western) modernity and the intellectual decadence in Western interpretation of human nature and society, history, and development.
For Firmin, the remapping of the geography of reason and the intellectual reconfigurations of epistemology could be the veritable solution to the problems of social sciences and the humanities, and to the race question in the modern world—leading to an ethics of cosmopolitan humanism and the possibility of living together as members of one human race. Subsequently, in his work, Firmin projects a two-fold objective presented as a concurrent intellectual event: (1) to deconstruct the conventional contours of social sciences and the humanities and the theories of knowledge about the races and peoples in the modern world for the advancement of the human race, and (2) to reconstruct race and articulate a more accurate narrative of societal development and human evolution, from a post-colonial imagination resulting into a new positive narrative of human societies, global history, and human understanding—toward the common good.
Firmin’s revisionist approach to anthropology, sociology, and ancient and modern history was motivated by a genuine desire to correct European perspective on the idea of a “single modernity;” by consequence, he suggested both parallel and alternative modernities and corresponding civilizations. The Firminian project of creative deconstruction, positivism, and reconstruction of human historical narrative and theories of knowledge anticipates the renewal of humanity and the possibilities of imagining future possibilities with an emancipative hope and intent. Firmin’s primary argument is that the history of the world, in the strictest sense of the term, is not a racial accomplishment, the accomplishment of whiteness. In response, Firmin proposed alternative modernities whose foundations and ethical frameworks are non-European and pre-Western.
Reconstructing the Social Sciences and Humanities is a special volume on Joseph Antenor Firmin that reexamines the importance of his thought and legacy, and the relevance of his ideas for contemporary social sciences and the humanities in the academia, the twenty-first century’s culture of humanism, and the continuing challenge of race and racism. This volume seeks to fill in the intellectual gaps of Firmin’s work in the Anglophone world. Modern scholarship on the writings of Firmin is scarce in the Anglophone world, and as the “first black anthropologist” in the Western world, contemporary anthropology, both in the United States and elsewhere in the Anglophone community, has not given serious attention to the importance and complexity of his ideas in the discipline and its cognates. Firmin’s contribution to the discipline of anthropology, sociology, political theory, history, and comparative study has been overlooked by both American and European thinkers. The reexamination of Firmin’s thought is significant for contemporary research in both social sciences and the humanities, ancient history, Black and Pan-African Studies, ancient African history, and particularly, the renewed scholarly interests in Haiti and Haitian Studies in North America. This volume explores various dimensions in Joseph Antenor Firmin’s thought and his role as theorist, anthropologist, cultural critic, public intellectual, diplomat, political scientist, pan-Africanist, and humanist.
If you would like to contribute a book chapter to this important volume, along with your CV, please submit a 300-word abstract by Wednesday, June 27, 2018, to Dr. Celucien Joseph @ firstname.lastname@example.org, and Dr. Paul Mocombe @ email@example.com
Successful applicants will be notified of acceptance on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. The first chapter draft is due Wednesday, November 28, 2018. The 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is required. We are looking for original and unpublished essays for this book. Translations of Firmin’s writings in the English language are also welcome. Potential topics to be addressed include (but are not limited to) the following:
- The Person, Choices, and Ideas of Joseph Antenor Firmin
- The Education of Joseph Antenor Firmin
- The (Scientific) Ideas of Joseph Antenor Firmin
- The intellectual life of Joseph Antenor Firmin
- Firmin and the Scientific Method of the nineteenth-century
- Firmin as (Black) Anthropologist
- Firmin as Humanist and Cosmopolitan
- Firmin as Agnostic
- Firmin as Theorist
- Firmin as Positivist thinker
- The political philosophy and democratic ideas of Joseph Firmin
- The ethical and moral worldview of Joseph Firmin
- Firmin & Haiti
- Firmin in Haitian History and Politics
- Firmin in Haitian Intellectual Tradition
- Firmin’s interpretation of Haitian intellectual history
- Haitian heroes and heroines in the writings of Firmin
- Haitian exceptionalism in the writings of Firmin
- The Education of the Haitian people in the writings of Firmin
- Firm and the economic development of Haiti
- The Political career of Antenor Firmin
- Haitian Nationalism and Patriotism in Firmin’s thought
- Firmin and the future of Haiti in the twenty-first century
- Firmin, Africa, and the African Diaspora
- Firmin in Africana and Black Intellectual Tradition
- Firmin in Caribbean Politics and History
- Africa in the work of Firmin
- Firmin and Pan-Africanism
- Firmin and Afrocentrism
- Firmin and Ancient Egyptian Civilization (Egyptology)
- Firmin and the education and miseducation of Blacks
- Firmin and the concept of “Black progress”
- Firmin and the Future of the Africa and African Diaspora in the twenty-first century
- The Vindication and Rehabilitation of the Black Race
- The Role and Contributions of Pre-colonial African civilizations to world civilizations
- Firmin, Social Sciences, and the Western World
- Firmin and Western History of Ideas
- Firmin, modernity, and the European Enlightenment
- Firmin and Scientific Racism of the Nineteenth-century
- Firmin’s critique of Wester Epistemology
- Firmin and the discipline of Anthropology
- Firmin and the discipline of History
- Firmin and the discipline of Sociology
- Firmin and the discipline of Philosophy
- The influence of Auguste Compte’s positivism on Firmin
- The Concept of human progress in Firmin
- Firmin and Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau
- Firmin and European Philosophical Tradition
- Firmin and European Racism
- Firmin and Western Imperialism
- Firmin and Revisionist History
- Firmin and the Logic of human history
- Firmin and Marxism
- Firmin, the Humanities, and the World
- Firmin and theories of knowledge
- The concept of human nature in Firmin
- The “race question” in the work of Firmin
- Firmin and the Theology of race
- Firmin and the concept of culture
- “Vindication” as an intellectual method in Firmin
- The religious traditions in the work of Antenor Firmin
- The concept of science in the work of Antenor Firmin
- Firmin and the equality of the human races
- Firmin and American diplomatic politics and relations
- Firmin and the Decolonial Method
- Firmin and the Postcolonial theory
- Firmin and Critical Race Theory
- Firmin and the Problem of Imperialism
- Firmin and the Pitfalls of Capitalism
We look forward to receiving your abstract and collaborating with you in this important project.
Celucien L. Joseph, PhD.
Paul Mocombe, PhD.
About the editors
Celucien L. Joseph (PhD., University of Texas at Dallas; PhD., University of Pretoria) is Professor of English at Indian River State College. His recent books include Thinking in Public: Faith, Secular Humanism, and Development in Jacques Roumain (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017), and Between Two Worlds: Jean Price-Mars, Haiti, and Africa (Lexington Books, 2018), which he co-edited with Jean Eddy Saint Paul and Glodel Mezilas.
Paul C. Mocombe (PhD., Florida Atlantic University) is former Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Sociology at Bethune Cookman University and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Sociology at West Virginia State University and the President/CEO of The Mocombeian Foundation, Inc. A social theorist interested in the application of social theory to contemporary issues such as race, class, and capitalism (globalization), he is the author of, Jesus and the Streets; Race and Class Distinctions Within Black Communities; Language, Literacy, and Pedagogy in Postindustrial Societies; A labor Approach to the Development of the Self or Modern Personality: The Case of Public Education, Education in Globalization; Mocombe’s Reading Room Series; and The Mocombeian Strategy: The Reason for, and Answer to Black Failure in Capitalist Education.