Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at New York University. His new book, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity, based on his 2017 BBC Reith Lectures, will be published in August. (February 2018)

Follow Kwame Anthony Appiah on Twitter: @KAnthonyAppiah.


Surreal Anthropology

Francis Bacon: Portrait of Michel Leiris, 1976

Phantom Africa

by Michel Leiris, translated from the French by Brent Hayes Edwards
On April 15, 1931, a host of Parisian luminaries gathered to attend a boxing match showcasing “Panama” Al Brown—an Afro-Panamanian bantamweight and the sport’s first Latino world champion. If a resurrected Proust had wanted to evoke the social life of Paris at the time, he could have done worse than …

We’re Still Puzzled

President Obama at the White House, January 2012

The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House

by Edward Klein

The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

by Michael Grunwald
You know the joke. A psychiatrist shows a patient a series of inkblots. Each time, the patient sees an erotic episode. “You seem to be preoccupied with sex,” the psychiatrist concludes. The patient protests: “You’re the one with all those dirty pictures.” Ask people to read the inkblots of American political life and that result, too, is likely to tell you more about them than it does about what is really going on.

Battling with Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois, 1904; photograph by J.E. Purdy

Democracy's Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois

by Lawrie Balfour

In the Shadow of Du Bois: Afro-Modern Political Thought in America

by Robert Gooding-Williams
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois looms over the study of African-American life like a cathedral over its close. He wrote in almost every conceivable genre—autobiography, biography, criticism, drama, essays, fiction, journalism, poetry, reviews—and was a scholar in a variety of disciplines. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868, he became, …

The Apple Fell Far from the Tree

Barack Obama with his stepgrandmother, Sarah, half-sister, Auma, and stepmother, Kezia, at their homestead in Alego, Kenya

The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family

by Peter Firstbrook
Families, it sometimes seems, are just a vast web of potential embarrassments…interspersed, no doubt, with the occasional opportunity for pride. Honor and shame, as much as love or liking, are what bind us to our kith and kin. The teenager rolls her eyes as her mother gets up to dance at the wedding; grandparents flush when their friends ask about the grandson who just “came out” in Sunday school; a wife looks down disconsolately as her intoxicated husband rises to make the after-dinner speech. We can all evoke such moments.


The Achievement of Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe found a way to represent for a global Anglophone audience the diction of his Igbo homeland, allowing readers of English elsewhere to experience a particular relationship to language and the world in a way that made it seem quite natural—transparent, one might almost say. A measure of his achievement is that Achebe found an African voice in English that is so natural its artifice eludes us.