Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Vergleichende Demokratieforschung und die Politischen Systeme Osteuropas

Robert F. Reid-Pharr: Equal(ity) in Paris: James Baldwin and the Politics of Exile

  • Wann 18.05.2021 von 18:15 bis 19:45
  • Wo Online
  • iCal

Re-reading James Baldwin’s writing about the nine years (1948 – 1957) that he spent in Europe, especially his 1955 essay, “Equal in Paris”, Robert Reid-Pharr argues against Baldwin’s tendency to privilege the place-based specificity of American and especially African American culture.  Baldwin regularly described himself as an alien to both Europe and Africa. Moreover, he was well aware of the criticisms of expatriate African American artists, particularly Richard Wright, that their time abroad separated them from black tradition, robbing them of their ability to represent their people’s genius. For his part, however, Reid-Pharr makes the simple counterargument that Baldwin’s career (and his worldwide success) was itself an emanation of the quick paced development of international economic, communications, and cultural structures that allowed for the birth of what has now come to be known as “World Literature”.  Further, though Baldwin writes passionately about his boyhood in Harlem, the truth is that that community, physically situated in the dead center of Manhattan Island, was—and is—itself a place of remarkable cultural exchange between many different peoples.  Indeed like the Left Bank of Paris where Baldwin spent most of his years abroad, Harlem was largely a community of travelers and immigrants (including Baldwin’s parents) who did not so much transplant an inviolate black culture from the south as fashion new forms of “world culture” that built upon traditions born in Afro-America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. 


Robert F. Reid-Pharr is Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.


The event is part of the lecture series Landscapes of Equality and is hosted in cooperation with The American Academy in Berlin. It will take place online, registration via lsi(at)




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin