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Black PrometheusRace and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery$
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Jared Hickman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190272586

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190272586.001.0001

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Africa versus the Absolute

Africa versus the Absolute

Idealism and Its Others

(p.117) 3 Africa versus the Absolute
Black Prometheus

Jared Hickman

Oxford University Press

The different deployments of the Prometheus figure by G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Frederick Douglass in the middle third of the nineteenth century function as a useful map of Atlantic radicalism. Hegel opposes freedom to immature forms of religion such as the Prometheus cult and African fetishism, which, in his view, lack an Absolute. Marx inverted Hegel by relocating the Absolute to the material rather than ideal realm but largely failed to undo Hegel’s opposition of the Absolute to Africa. Douglass inverted Hegel by opposing the Absolute from the position of the African. Under the sign of Prometheus, Marx developed an apotheosizing atheism that reflected rather than challenged the cosmic status quo of a global modernity in which Euro-Americans were the godlike actors; whereas Douglass moved toward a detranscendentalizing anti-theism that confronted the racialization of the divine and rejected divine racism as a condition of belief.

Keywords:   Karl Marx, G. W. F. Hegel, Frederick Douglass, idealism, materialism, dialectic, race, slavery, theism, fetishism

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