James Baldwin Lecture - 2008-09
The annual James Baldwin Lecture celebrates the scholarship of a distinguished Princeton faculty member and provides an occasion for our intellectual community to reflect on the issue of race and American culture. The complexities of race in the United States demand the insightful work both of experts in the field and of all who share a genuine commitment to the well-being of our society. The Baldwin Lecture Series presents Princeton scholars, accomplished in their respective fields, with the opportunity to think carefully with others about race in America.
The Baldwin lectures also honor the extraordinary legacy of the late James Baldwin (1924-1987). One of America’s most powerful cultural critics and essayists, Baldwin exemplified ways in which we might remain critically focused upon and engaged with the relationship of race to democracy in American society.
The lecture titled “Race in the Renaissance?” was delivered by Anthony T. Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History, on March 30, 2009, at 5:30 p.m., McCormick 101.
In this lecture, Professor Grafton will look at what has traditionally been seen as the first modern western culture — that of Western Europe in the Renaissance — through the prism of race. He will examine the thought and practices of European artists, scholars, and officials, as they encountered people who were not European or Christian, both in Europe and around the world; tried to understand where they came from and who they were; and drew practical consequences, which were often — but not always — harsh and tragic from their assumptions about the origins and nature of the peoples of the world (who included, they thought, everything from monsters and beings condemned by their nature to servitude to non-Christians of great wisdom and virtue). The lecture will pay special attention to Christian views of the Jews, strangers who lived in large numbers inside Europe, but will also examine European responses to many other groups.