1 minute read

Black Atlantic

Intellectual Impact

The concept of the Black Atlantic has been enormously influential. Gilroy's focus on the heterogeneous nature of black expressive culture has significantly broadened the field of cultural studies, forcing it beyond its parochial concern with either the cultures of working class Anglo-Saxons or European high culture. The manner in which Gilroy places slavery at the center of Western modernity, racializing and thus fundamentally transforming Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's rendering of the master-slave dialectic has, likewise, been enormously influential in the field of philosophy.

Gilroy's particular focus on the revolutionary struggles of African-descended peoples has also been enormously influential in the field of labor history, broadening it to examine the histories of the struggles of those other than white European or American working people. His focus on music as a modality through which cultural memories are retained and passed on (in form if not in content) has also been influential in the field of history, opening up new possibilities for uncovering the histories of cultures that place a higher priority on oral, rather than written, forms of communication.

The ideas that underlie the notion of the Black Atlantic have also been enormously important in the emerging field of transnational cultural studies. Scholars like Arjun Appadurai, George Lipsitz, and Donna Haraway have furthered Gilroy's emphasis on the intersections between local and global cultural dynamics, examining the global circulation of ideologies, people, technology, capital, and culture. Gilroy's work also played an important role in the emergence of postcolonial studies, much of which took a transnational analysis of the idea of race as its central theoretical concern. Thus, the influence of Gilroy can be seen in the work of scholars like Anne McClintock, David Theo Goldberg, Jean and John Comaroff, Catherine Hall, and Anne Laura Stoler, whose work examines the intertwined histories of colony and metropole and the ways in which ideas about gender, race, and class emerged both transnationally and dialectically. Gilroy has also provided an important challenge to dominant ways of thinking within the field of African-American studies. His critique of essentialist thinking about race has proved to be particularly challenging to devotees of Afrocentrism.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Bilateral symmetry to Boolean algebraBlack Atlantic - Intellectual Antecedents, Intellectual Impact, Critiques, Bibliography