Submitted by Kearney J. Turner on Monday, 11/14/2011, at 9:57 PM

Essentialism is the belief that a single essence is the only thing really necessary for a subject to define itself; all that matters is what remains after the subject in question is reduced to a single generalization or defining quality. This generalization creates a common thread for liberation because it represents a point of solidarity that (in the context of our course) everyone can relate to. It is the basis for establishing a voice for a group of people.  There are four different types of essentialism: strong essentialism, weak essentialism, historicist essentialism, and strategic essentialism.


Strong essentialism is the acceptance of the generalization that appears to be "natural." For instance, according to Nardarl, when women fail to be the social workers that she suggests they should be, they are unnatural and therefore do not fit in to the strong essentialist way of life.


Weak essentialism is the embracement of whichever generalization allows for the subject to be "at their best." It suggests optimal subjectivity because it allows room for variance within the generalization. 


Historicist essentialism is an essentialist point of view that is for a specific period in history. It is not an internal truth, it is there for a specific historical moment. 


Strategic essentialism denies any claim of a concrete essence, but affirms essentialist characteristics for the sake of a strategy for liberation. 




"The social is the aspect of life that interests woman first and foremost. Regarding social duty, she is man's equal. as an individual, she is also intelligent and free. But as a social being, her services are bound to humankind. Like man, she must contribute to the progress of humanity. But this service, owing to the physical and psychological differences that exist between man and woman, will be of a different kind, though not necessarily of lesser value because of its difference. In fulfilling this social obligation, she remains true to her feminine vocation." Pg. 21, Beyond Negritude: Essays from Women in the City.


Submitted by Hannah C. Costel on Friday, 11/4/2011, at 2:49 AM

Solidarity is used to explain the sense of connectivity that brings black people together, for the 1956 conference specifically, but also at a broader level. In his essay, Césaire refers to two kinds of solidarity: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal solidarity refers to the present mutual oppression/struggle that they face, while vertical solidarity traces its unity historically, to shared African origins. In Césaire’s conception of solidarity, horizontal solidarity serves to galvanize those vertical connections.


“It seems to me that this is what legitimizes our meeting here. There is a double solidarity among all those who are gathered here: first, a horizontal solidarity, a solidarity created by the colonial or semicolonial or paracolonial situation that has been imposed on us from without. And on the other hand, another solidarity that is vertical, a solidarity in time, which comes from the fact that out of an initial unity, the unity of African civilization, there has been differentiated a whole series of cultures that all owe something to that civilization.

As a result, we may consider this Congress in two different ways, both equally valid: this Congress is a return to origins [un retour aux sources] that all communities undertake at their moment of crisis, and at the same time it is an assembly bringing together men who have to grasp the same harsh reality, and hence of men fighting the same fight and sustained by the same hope.

For my part, I do not believe that there is an antinomy between the two things. I believe on the contrary that these two aspects complement one another, and that our approach, which can seem like hesitation and confusion between the past and the future, is on the contrary the most natural, inspired as it is by the idea that the shortest route to the future is always the one that involves the deepened understanding of the past.” (129-130)