Sociology professor Tukufu Zuberi criticized W.E.B. DuBois' sociological examination of the "Philadelphia Negro" last night as part of the Provost's Lecture Series in the Amado Recital Hall in Irvine Auditorium.
Zuberi, who is also the director of the Center for Africana Studies at Penn, challenged DuBois' call for integration into American society as the solution to blacks' pervasive problems of marginalization.
Further, Zuberi emphasized the need to look critically at DuBois' sociology.
DuBois' research for The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study was conducted at Penn in the late 1800s.
Zuberi said he has always felt that his work in many ways parallels that of DuBois. However, while he has "always worked in the shadow of W.E.B. DuBois ... being critical is more important than just learning something."
"Regurgitation is not something I'm interested in, but standing on his shoulders to get somewhere else is," Zuberi said.
He also criticized DuBois' argument that inclusion in society would solve blacks' problems of marginalization, adding that DuBois did not recognize the need for a fundamental change to the social system that exists in American culture.
Zuberi suggested that the main problem with DuBois' sociology lay in the fact that he believed that American society had already achieved the highest level of civilization.
In fact, the Sociology professor emphasized, America was and continues to be "plagued by the persistence of ... racial problems."
DuBois' greatness lay "in bringing science to the study" of blacks. His weakness was his failure to critique the structures of American society, according to Zuberi.
DuBois' suggestion that blacks needed to transform in order to fit into pre-existing structures was "a kind of social conservatism" that contradicted his activism.
Though DuBois' book was published in 1899, many found relevance in the subject even today.
"DuBois' sociology ... teaches us quite a bit about understanding our world," Zuberi said.
"The University could do a lot more to address the problems we have regarding race," Zuberi said. He noted, however, that Penn had made a lot of progress through its recognition of the importance of bringing black students and faculty to the University.
However, "integration does not necessarily result in a transformation of what the space is," he added.
College junior Talia Stinson said that the lecture was "key to starting to spur some conversation. ... The University should make a bigger effort to expose the issues" surrounding race.
The attendants generally lauded Zuberi's presentation.
"The lecture was excellent," School of Dental Medicine professor Ann Slaughter said. It was "timely and very profound," and a valuable way to "raise our personal social consciousness."Comments powered by Disqus
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