AJC: Theorist or Not?

It is without question that Anna Julia Cooper led a remarkable life centered around service to her community and the betterment of her people, but after reading some of her work I would not classify her as a social theorist. As a sociologist, yes.  As a social activist, yes again. Cooper certainly lead her life in an admirable way, but from my experience with her I do not see a clear enough development of theory to classify her as a classical sociological theorist.

My major problem with classifying Cooper as a social theorist is that she seems to lack a centralized theme or concept that ties her writing together. She certainly deals with issues of race and gender, but there is no umbrella concept that ties the writings in her critical  “Our Raison d’Etre” together with her reflections in “Sketches from a Teacher’s Notebook”. I think that this was well illustrated when our class tried to highlight her key concepts during discussion and had a very difficult time doing so.

I think Anna Julia Cooper’s work served to reflect upon society’s injustices and proposed solutions to these injustices, but I don’t think that it contributed as much to theoretical perspectives as the other theorists we have studied this semester. What Cooper did was important and admirable, but was it theory? I personally don’t think so.

One Response to “AJC: Theorist or Not?”

  1. Dr. M says:

    Her key theoretical contribution was as the first systematic treatment of the intersection of race and gender–the double-bind facing black women. She pointed out that feminist critiques of society assume white women; race theory takes black men as the normative category. That is, black women are rendered invisible in both these critiques of dominant society. This is early feminist race theory–no less.
    (Though I commend you for taking a stand!!!)

    I also can’t help but wonder if she had been included more routinely in theory books and there was a tradition of secondary writings and introductions to her work (an Edles and Appelrouth introduction to Anna Julia Cooper) then would we more readily see her contribution to theory? It’s harder to see it when we have to pull it out of a body of writing. And Lemert’s introduction was an overview of literary criticism, not a simple summary of her contribution.