Tricia Rose: Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the ‘Illegible’ Politics of (Inter)personal Justice

The 1959 theatrical poster for "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberryshows the face of African American actor Sidney Poitier highlighted in a white circle on a golden yellow ba

Tricia Rose: Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the ‘Illegible’ Politics of (Inter)personal Justice

 
In a recent conversation about Black radical artist and thinkers, Gwendolyn Brooks and Lorraine Hansberry, on their weekly program, The Tight Rope, Cornel West and Tricia Rose note that the work of these two revolutionary artists is often misunderstood and stripped of radical political content and possibility.
 
During the  March 11, 2021 program, Dr. Tricia Rose argues (50:23) that their work reflects a seldomly discussed and underappreciated facet of Black radical tradition, particularly the intellectual and creative work within private, domestic space. In her article, “Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the ‘Illegible’ Politics of (Inter)personal Justice,” Rose names this work (inter)personal justice: work that attends to the crucial role of intimate relationships and community formations in producing or suffocating social justice movements or other forms of radical resistance…and emphasizes the impact of structural forms of inequality on interpersonal dynamics and how these dynamics can influence the quality and sustainability of political thought and action (Rose, 7). Dr. Rose goes on to discuss this concept more extensively:

“Hansberry’s entire play, but especially its dramatic resolution, illuminates the significant role of interpersonal relationships in negotiating, fending off, and challenging structural oppression and the distorted worldview and despair it cultivates. Hansberry consistently seems to argue that political possibility and perceptions of impossibility are nurtured or starved in the intimate and interpersonal sphere among those who encourage us to choose how to respond to the psychic and emotional violence wrought by structural oppression.

Hansberry’s Raisin is a deeply political play, but its domestic setting rendered it vulnerable to the normalized sexist political reasoning that devalues domesticity, which likely obscured a core facet of its political vision. Despite the fact that nearly all so-called public-sphere assaults on Black citizenship and normalcy relied (and continue to rely) on the pathologization of Black private-sphere relations, gendered identities, family, and cultural formations, many analysts located the real politics of Raisin solely in the public sphere matter of desegregating housing. For them, Hansberry’s dramatic depiction of combating housing segregation was unfortunately located in a domicile.

For Hansberry—and many feminist thinkers and artists—the home, literally and metaphorically, is a crucial locus for the development and nurturance of political possibility itself; it is an anchor for emergent political consciousness, community vision, and survival. In short, the Youngers’ apartment is at the political heart of the play.” (32)

From Tricia Rose, "Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and the 'Illegible' Politics of (Inter)personal Justice." Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies Vol.1 No. 1 (2014). The March 11 episode of The Tightrope, "Lorraine Hansberry and Gwendolyn Brooks: Darlings of the white liberal establishment?" can be found here, with full captions and a transcript.
 
Tricia Rose is the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University. Rose authored Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994), Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk about Sexuality and Intimacy (2003), and The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop and Why It Matters (2008).

Image Information: 

Theatrical poster for the 1959 Brodway presentation of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry at the Barrymore Theater.

Date: 
Monday, March 22, 2021