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E2S3 Thomas Chatterton Williams

Thomas Chatterton Williams, the extraordinary expat writer, cultural critic, and James Baldwin scholar, has lived in Paris for a decade. Thomas grew up in the U.S. surrounded by books and liberal ideals — but in the 90s, he turned his focus to expressing his identity through hip-hop, and rejected erudition as inauthentic. In his 2010 book, Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-hop Culture, he explains that it wasn’t until he started studying at Georgetown that he began looking for a broader definition of an authentic life.

I spoke to Thomas in June, and we talked about his new book, Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race; and about Heidegger, Hegel, and the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted this summer in New York, Paris, London, and across the world, after the police killing of George Floyd. Lately, Thomas has been doing Baldwin duty –– writing essays from his desk in France for the New York Times, the Guardian and Harpers, on the pandemic, the protests, philosophy and identity. I asked him to tell me more…