Alumna Published in Journal of Historical Research

June 27 2017
Category: Academics

McKayla Sluga

Alumna McKayla Sluga ’17 was recently published in the May edition of History Matters: An Undergraduate Journal of Historical Research, Volume 14

Her article, titled “The Emergence of Scientific, Aesthetic Racism in Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime,” was written in Dr. Myra Glenn’s Enlightenment course during her junior year at Elmira College. This paper details the ways in which German intellectual Immanuel Kant espoused racist ideology within the context of his renowned aesthetic theory.

In Kant’s Observations (1764), he proposes a racial hierarchy based on how different nationalities feel both the beautiful and the sublime. McKayla argues that this degradation of non-white people—black people, in particular—contributed to thoughts and acts of racism in the Western world throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Situating Kant’s Observations within postcolonial revisionism, McKayla writes, “Kant’s aesthetic discourse had political, social, and cultural implications beyond being an isolated intellectual theory. Kant did this by rejecting black individuals’ intellectual ability, denying their possession of artistic genius or cultural taste, and reducing their feelings of beauty and sublimity to ridiculousness and grotesqueness.”

Despite the dominant vision that the Enlightenment was a period of tolerance, equality, and rationality, McKayla critiques this one-dimensional view to present a more historically accurate view of Kant’s Enlightenment thought and influence.

The journal, History Matters, is based at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and accepts submissions from undergraduate students engaged in historical research. A student editorial board and faculty members at Appalachian State review each submission.

McKayla’s paper was one of six articles chosen out of approximately 150 submissions and she was published alongside students from Carleton College, Appalachian State University, The University of Chicago, Brown University, and The Catholic University of America.

McKayla will continue her studies this fall as she pursues a Ph.D. in history at Michigan State University.

The current issue, and past issues of History Matters are available online