Du Bois and Dark, Wild Hope in an Age of Environmental and Political Catastrophe
The question of hope and its relation to despair looms all around us—in private conversation and in public discourse. In Environmental Humanities and the Literary Arts, one finds a pervasive pessimism as these fields grapple with such catastrophes as climate change and white nationalism. In this article, I investigate and critically appropriate W. E. B. Du Bois’ notion of a dark, wild hope, suggesting that this particular form of hope is needful as we confront various environmental and political crises. I begin the article by exploring a form of hope that sustained Du Bois in the face of persistent racism—including environmental racism. Next, I argue that Du Bois’ dark, wild hope can help us think about forms of hope appropriate for our own time. Du Bois’ response to the catastrophes that he faced is instructive as we attempt to respond robustly to our current catastrophes. Resilience and vulnerability, resistance and uncertainty, transformation and constraints—these aspects of the human drama informed Du Bois’ dark, wild hope. And this hope—not sunny and Pollyannaish, but rather rooted in suffering, trial, and grief—is a powerful resource for us today.
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