This paper undertakes an analysis of Jean Paul Sartre’s “Black Orpheus” in context of the Négritude movement to understand its impact on creating a distinct identity for Africa and its diaspora. The extant literature surrounding the subject has raised questions about the impetus for the stirring of Négritude; the pre-colonial representation of Africa that the poets and political leaders of the time wanted to revolt against. The movement was not only philosophical but also had literary underpinnings, creating questions about the role and personal vested interests of French-assimilated poets, politicians and thinkers. Criticisms of Négritude are in abundance. However, a gap exists in identifying the central disparities within popular works of literature of the movement, especially the literature that was considered to be the foundation of the movement. One of these was "Black Orpheus", a foreword to Léopold Sédar Senghor’s anthology of poems by the most renowned writers of Négritude. This article undertakes a rhetorical criticism, textual analysis and discourse analysis to study Sartre’s text. Sartre’s work is considered an important contribution, however, contrary to existing research, Sartre’s work subverts the paradigm he set out to dispute. He attempts to place Négritude within the larger class struggle in Europe and is on a quest for a concise definition of the movement. Frantz Fanon and Wole Soyinka, other prominent Black thinkers and theorists of the time, dispute Sartre’s romantic descriptions of the struggles and history of Africa. Upon further analysis, Senghor’s poetry also reveals themes of evoking Africa’s traditional mystical past, thus harping on Sartre’s sentimental commentary. A culmination of study of these thinkers concludes that “Black Orpheus” falls into the same trap of homogenizing Africa while remaining ignorant of its intellectual capacities and contributions.
Keywords: Négritude, African Identity, Existentialism, Post-colonialism, Eurocentrism, Diaspora
How to Cite:
Mathur, A., (2021) “Politics of Identity Formation: Impact Of Jean Paul Sartre’s Criticism Of Négritude Philosophy”, Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 21(1), 63-82. doi: https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569X.1571
Rights: Copyright © 2021 Ankita Mathur.