“The Martyr and the Trickster: Ralph Ellison’s Repertoire of Agency,” Colloquium with KICD Postdoc Ferris Lupino


To kick off our Spring 2022 Friday Colloquium Series, Kinder Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Ferris Lupino will present a portion of his doctoral research, arguing for the need for a new model for understanding protest and political action in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (see abstract below). The talk will be held online on January 28 at 3:30pm.Use this link, or the Meeting ID 993 6652 1687, to join the Zoom.


Political theorists read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as prefiguring the nonviolent protests of the 50s and 60s by heightening the contradictions between racial violence and liberal democratic principles. This reading, I argue, incorrectly gleans from Ellison a martyr strategy for racial equality. By tracing Ellison’s allusions to Homer, I find an alternative model for political action: the trickster. Unlike the martyr, the trickster offers a figure of action that does not rely on suffering loss. While political theorists today celebrate martyrdom as the exemplary form of protest, the figure of the trickster encourages us to consider other forms.


Ferris Lupino holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Washington and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Brown University. His manuscript project, American Stasis: Conflict, Order, and Leadership in Black Political Thought looks to the canon of black political thought to find ways of rethinking democratic politics and conflict and outlines how post-civil rights thinkers’ uses of classical materials provide alternatives to the assimilationist and separatist paradigms in U.S. racial politics. From 2020-2021, he taught as a Lecturer at Seattle University. He joins the Kinder Institute as a Postdoctoral Fellow in American Political Thought and Constitutionalism.