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Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh)

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Abstract

In taking up the profound and necessary challenge of Afro-pessimism, scholars engaged in black study must not only attend to the relation between blackness and nothingness that Frank B. Wilderson III and Jared Sexton elaborate in their encounter with the work of Frantz Fanon but must also investigate the resonance, presence, and topography of blackness in and as nothingness that is manifest at the intersection of mysticism and logic in black study. This essay is an attempt to contribute to that investigation.

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... The scientific and educational preference for closed systems positions bioinformatics in diametric opposition to Moten's (2013) idea of a para-ontology. We anticipate that bioinformatics premised on closed systems will employ education and educational governance as the primary means to extend the idea of a productive body, particularly within the economic processes of racialized optimization and accumulation. ...
... As such, a decoloniality of bioinformatics should account for the dissipative structures and thanatropic regressions of open systems, and accelerate machinic contagions and virtuality released from these reproductive functions. What Moten (2013) discussed as an ontology of disorder, then, is oriented towards proliferating disequilibrium, and dehisence, and is 'dangerously ' contingent, dissident, indeterminate, incalculable, uncertain, and unbinding. Our decolonial bioinformatics follows Colebrook's (2011) reading of Deleuze that it if the self-efficient human organism were to be 'radically recalibrated' in the future, it is possible to live outside the confines of closed systems and develop injunctions to biopolitical and educational control. ...
... The scientific and educational preference for closed systems positions bioinformatics in diametric opposition to Moten's (2013) idea of a para-ontology. We anticipate that bioinformatics premised on closed systems will employ education and educational governance as the primary means to extend the idea of a productive body, particularly within the economic processes of racialized optimization and accumulation. ...
... As such, a decoloniality of bioinformatics should account for the dissipative structures and thanatropic regressions of open systems, and accelerate machinic contagions and virtuality released from these reproductive functions. What Moten (2013) discussed as an ontology of disorder, then, is oriented towards proliferating disequilibrium, and dehisence, and is 'dangerously ' contingent, dissident, indeterminate, incalculable, uncertain, and unbinding. Our decolonial bioinformatics follows Colebrook's (2011) reading of Deleuze that it if the self-efficient human organism were to be 'radically recalibrated' in the future, it is possible to live outside the confines of closed systems and develop injunctions to biopolitical and educational control. ...
... The scientific and educational preference for closed systems positions bioinformatics in diametric opposition to Moten's (2013) idea of a para-ontology. We anticipate that bioinformatics premised on closed systems will employ education and educational governance as the primary means to extend the idea of a productive body, particularly within the economic processes of racialized optimization and accumulation. ...
... As such, a decoloniality of bioinformatics should account for the dissipative structures and thanatropic regressions of open systems, and accelerate machinic contagions and virtuality released from these reproductive functions. What Moten (2013) discussed as an ontology of disorder, then, is oriented towards proliferating disequilibrium, and dehisence, and is 'dangerously ' contingent, dissident, indeterminate, incalculable, uncertain, and unbinding. Our decolonial bioinformatics follows Colebrook's (2011) reading of Deleuze that it if the self-efficient human organism were to be 'radically recalibrated' in the future, it is possible to live outside the confines of closed systems and develop injunctions to biopolitical and educational control. ...
... 6) that always already circumscribes black life, the animal gaze in Peele's films makes possible a fleeting and ephemeral moment of escape, locating black social and/as material life, following Jared Sexton's speculative reasoning, "not in the world that the world lives in, but… underground, in outer space" (p. 28); that is to say, not in the human world or in the world of the mis-en-scene, but in what Fred Moten (2013) describes as an "elsewhere and elsewhen" (p. 746)-an underground pr "undercommons" (Moten & Harney 2013) outside of the probing, phallic gaze of those who need to know. ...
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... For Spillers (2003, 205), preservation becomes a form of celebration transforming the body in demise into a 'hieroglyphics of the flesh'. For Moten (2013), degenerative and regenerative preservation is critical celebration for Blackness. Celebration as the essence of Black thought, the animation of Black operations, constitutes an 'undercommon', underground, submarine sociality (Moten 2013, 742). ...
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... There is nothing "universal" about it; therefore, the only way to make it intelligible is to leave out the parts that may only be accepted by another Black person, and even then discretely" (p. 89e90) If then, disequilibrium or "violence" must be left out of the narrative, there is no possibility of the restoration of the equilibrium, which leads scholars like Fred Moten to describe what he and others term "fugitivity" (Harney & Moten, 2013;Moten, 2013) or the lack of the possibility of homecoming. Fugitivity is therefore both destabilizing to narratives of assimilation and emancipation and difficult, if not impossible, to narrate. ...
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The strength of narrative inquiry research on teaching (NI) is that it amplifies the voice of practitioners, supports listening carefully to those who work most closely with children, and resists the way many other research paradigms function in practice as elaborate preemptory rationalizations for dismissing teachers' insights as myopic and biased. One of its limitations lies in the uncontestable fact that teachers-like everyone-dare not perfect, that the demography of the teaching profession over-represents the majority population in most nations, that all teachers work in contexts shaped by a continuing history of racism, and therefore teachers' reports on their experiences are often compromised by the institutionalized racism and settler colonialism in which they are embedded. Like other research methods, NI is vulnerable to the influence of neoliberal discourses that locate the cause of racism in individual attitudes and neglect the need for teachers to find ways to address the systemic and institutionalized forms of racism affecting children's lives. This essay examines the way NI scholars can reduce the chances of complicity with systemic racism while maintaining their core commitment to respecting teachers' experience as an important source of educational insight.
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... Antiblackness has been and continues to be central to the making of Western empire and modernity as we know it (Hartman, 1997(Hartman, , 2007T. L. King, 2019;Mbembe, 2017;McKittrick, 2006McKittrick, , 2013Moten, 2013;Sexton, 2011;Wilderson, 2010;Wynter, 2003). As Black Studies scholars Walcott (2020) and Wilderson (2010Wilderson ( , 2020 have suggested, trans-temporality forces us to contend with the who and why of antiblackness just as much as we deal with the what. ...
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Against the backdrop of the contemporary crisis of faith in modern reasoning, work on islands and with island cultures has come to the fore in the development of alternative, non-Eurocentric, non-modern, ways of being and knowing. Much attention has surrounded a wide range of critical work associated with the 'ontological' or the 'relational' turn, highlighting interstitial, entangled, post-and more-than-human creative encounters of becoming. This paper examines the emergence of what we call 'abyssal thought', a related but distinctly different analytical approach drawing largely from critical Black studies. Central to abyssal approaches is the understanding of the world as ontologically inseparable from its violent forging through antiblackness. In putting coloniality at the heart of the modernist problematic , abyssal work turns to the Caribbean in particular as a gateway, door or 'punctum', a space of 'abyssal geographies', inviting a deconstruction or unmaking of the world. Exploring how, this paper draws out three key aspects of the abyssal analytic: (1) the abyssal 'subject' forged through the ontological violence of the making of the modern world, (2) the abyssal as a refusal of impositions of spatial and temporal fixities, and (3) the methodological approach of 'paraontology'. Thus, its key concerns are those of refusal, deconstruction and 'suspension' rather than of creative becoming. In distinction to relational ontologies of interstital island work, the desire is not to save or to remake understandings of the human and the world but rather to negate them.
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Background/Context Black people continue to be popularly imagined as lacking humanity and, as such, are often the disproportionate subjects of unceasing race-gender terror and state violence. A vast body of scholarship has documented the failure of schools to adequately serve Black youth in general, and Black boys and men in particular. There is compelling evidence, however, that consistently humanizing interactions with adults in school lead to positive relationships that in turn may protect against Black boys’ experience of school as fundamentally dehumanizing. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study This study examined the significance of positive relationships between Black boys and adults in school as they move(d) across the P–16 education pipeline. The study is guided by the following primary research question: How do young Black men and boys describe and understand their interpersonal relationships with adults in P–16 schools? Research Design A descriptive phenomenological approach was used to understand how 28 Black boys and young men discuss and describe the characteristics of relationships with adults in their school or university. Seven video- and audio-recorded focus groups were conducted. Data analysis occurred in three phases. Video clips from focus groups were analyzed in the first phase of data analysis. During the second phase of our data analysis, researchers employed critical race theory as a key analytic perspective to interpret the data for what they revealed about the ways anti-Black racism and white supremacy structured schooling experiences. The third phase of analysis centered on coding the entire data set, regardless of grade band, for three specific types of interactions: disciplinary/behavioral, social/relational, and academic. Findings/Results Key findings from the study center on (a) these participants’ keen awareness of the ways their words/behavior/actions are generally misread and misunderstood in U.S. society and (b) the significance of educators’ race-gender perceptions of them in building positive relationships that establish and sustain authentic human connections. Conclusions/Recommendations Human connection emerges over time and differentiates what our participants ultimately perceived as “good”/positive relationships from “bad”/negative relationships with educators. Recognition of the residual consequences of U.S. chattel slavery for the ways we see, know, and understand Black people and Black children is essential to cultivating positive relationships with Black boys. Although “bad” relationships are characterized by interactions reflecting racial misandry that Black boys come to expect as a normal, ordinary feature of their schooling experience, positive relationships are evidenced through consistently humanizing interpersonal interactions with adults that actively counter harmful racial scripts.
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n this chapter we are concerned with how presupposed ideas of life animate dead educational practices, often through viral racist practices. Notwithstanding the philosophical neglect that ‘life’ has received, today we grapple with new developments in bioinformatics that encourages a rethinking of what constitutes life. Rather than understanding life within humanist traditions (e.g., a contained subject position), we propose a speculative reading of bioinformatics as a particular moment of ‘excess contagion’. We argue that bioinformatics is a scientific and technological force that exceeds enclosures, but one that education will try to harness in order to widen its own limits, particularly through the optimization of human capital. If bioinformatics can simultaneously equalize and exacerbate unequal forms of life, we conclude paradoxically, that accelerating this bioinformatic moment might instantiate a ‘decoloniality of informatics’ through the proliferation of contagious, uncertain, errant, necrotic, and mutant life. Rather than reform education and its anti/racist declarations of vitalist life, we suggest an accelerated use of ‘contagious bioinformatics’ as a way to proliferate unknown becomings for new kinds of intra-connectivity, especially between human and inhuman networks of relationality.
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This essay examines the significance of time to the production of black ontology and thus to the field of black studies. It takes as its point of departure the field-changing call to think more critically about the enduring legacies of chattel slavery, particularly how this imperative has cultivated an anticipatory logic that helps to forecast the conditions of blackness and to analyze the nature of black ontology. It argues that alongside the large-scale, transhistorical modes of structural analysis that characterize this approach, attention to the more local, everyday experiences of black people—particularly their feelings—is critical to understanding the ontological conditions of blackness. Examining plays and performances by black artists and civil rights activists Lorraine Hansberry and Nina Simone, it proposes that, while fleeting and ephemeral, these feelings not only inflect black existence but also are rife with epistemic value that is as crucial to understanding black ontology as the social, political, economic, and discursive structures that underwrite the modern racial order. Critically analyzing the shifting interrelation of time, feeling, and black ontology renders the act of proclaiming who is dead or alive, free or not, a more complex and reflexive enterprise. It shows that no singular structure or network of structural relations can fully anticipate or explain away black ontology. This calculation is always and everywhere a question of time.
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The year when Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me (2015) was published has gone down as the deadliest year for black youth at the hands of policemen, with no less than 1,134 murders recorded. As he states in many interviews, this is one of the reasons that led Coates to pen his work: to publicly lament so many losses; to confront the difficulties to mourn such violent and untimely deaths; and to shed light on the murderous racist practices that black individuals deal with on a daily basis. To do so, Coates embarks on a journey through history in which he memorializes many black individuals who, until now, have lost their lives in racist violent attacks-from his friend Prince Jones and other several well-known individuals murdered in the last decades, such as Michael Brown or Sean Bell, to, as Toni Morrison puts it, "the disremembered and unaccounted for" (2010, 323). Far from only providing Coates and his son with crucial information about the sociality of blackness, witnessing the death of so many also instils in both a feeling of belonging. Coates's attempt at developing communal bonds through his narration riffs on the concept of "bottomline blackness," which Elizabeth Alexander coined amidst her analysis of the public responses to Rodney King's beating, which she regards as an incident that ended up "consolidat[ing] group affiliations" (78) and forging a "traumatized collective historical memory" (79). Drawing on Ta-Nehisi Coates's celebrated memoir, and bearing into consideration Coates's telling his son that "there is no real distance between you and Trayvon Martin" (2015, 25), this paper engages in the ongoing discussion about whether Coates's representation of racial bigotries can foster empathic relations or, on the contrary, disavow easy identification from readers.
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Departing from where Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of Martin Heidegger’s gender-neutral Dasein left off, this article argues for “ontological captivity” as a critical analytic for questioning Being under conditions of racial capitalism. Based on a broad understanding of the Black Radical tradition, the author argues for the importance of connecting the analysis of ontological difference with the political critique of concrete historical and material conditions that structurally link what it means to be human to overlapping and mutually reinforcing technologies of capture. From the slave ship, the plantation, the reservation, the prison, the detention center, the penal colony, and the concentration camp to the ways in which injurious signifiers fix the body and arrest its mobility, ontological difference should be unthinkable outside a confrontation with its material conditions of possibility and impossibility. These are the material conditions that, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s analysis of the “color-line” to Calvin Warren’s analytic of “onticide,” from Lewis Gordon’s “antiblackness” to Nelson Maldonado-Torres’s “coloniality of being,” and from Hortense Spillers’s “being for the captor” to Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s “ontological plasticization,” call for a political rather than an ethical interrogation of Being.
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This essay attempts to imagine what nonbinary gender might be through an autotheoretical and imaginative email exchange between the author, as “X,” and the author’s gender as nonbinary. Indeed, theorized conversationally throughout are the difficulties and potentialities of nonbinary gender, or nonbinariness as a refusal of gender.
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This article considers how Black culture workers engage in ongoing struggles over the meaning and value ascribed to Black lives in an anti-Black world that demands Black death. The artists explored in this article deploy modes of poetics that create possibilities for fugitivity, or escape, from the overdetermination of Black life as always, already, and only “dead.” Such fugitive poetics demonstrate the ways that blackness defies and exceeds social death, even as it is, perhaps, permanently tethered to the potential for premature Black death in an anti-Black world. The article also calls attention to how this poetics of fugitivity draws upon the cultural resources of religious language, beliefs, rituals, and practices to imagine and enact other worlds of possibility for Black futurity beyond the overdetermination of social and/or physical death.
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Recent texts in the historiography of slavery have focused on slave-owning women in an attempt to overturn the paradigm of the benevolent mistress. While “benevolence” has silenced and exceptionalized mistresses’ violence, newer interpretations draw from slave testimony to establish forms of equivalence between the power of the mistress and that of the master. Because this normalization of white women’s power nonetheless relies on standards of historiographical interpretation—the predominance of political economy, the imperatives of affect and agency—it does not sufficiently access how historiographical methods participate in stabilizing gender and pathologizing black rage. This article proposes that the difference between the mistress and master is a fantasy necessary to the circulation of the libidinal economy of slavery. In doing so, it pursues an inquiry into the pleasures of interpretation and speculates on the ways historiography invests in the white woman in order to extend its interlocutory life.
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The introduction to this special issue frames White supremacy as a central concern within linguistic anthropology, both as a focus of analysis and as a power structure that has profoundly shaped the field’s logics and demographics. We emphasize how carefully attending to language, discourse, and signs can productively illuminate White supremacy’s slippery logics, organizing principles, dynamic infrastructures, and diverse practices. Centering the role of White supremacy in constituting modern sign relations can contribute significantly to linguistic anthropologists’ efforts toward understanding historical and contemporary power structures that organize the dynamic yet systematic interplay between language and context. We hope that this special issue builds constructively on longstanding and more recent linguistic anthropological work that has led us to reconsider the fundamental relationship between language, race, and culture while also pushing our field in important new directions by reconsidering the fundamental relationship between language and racism as a strategy for understanding and contributing to efforts toward combating White supremacy.
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This article attempts to analyse mapping practices at the intersection of geography, black studies and literary studies, in order to reassess the political and pedagogical possibilities of mapping under late capitalism. I turn to Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved to track black cartographic practices otherwise obscured or, as Katherine McKittrick writes, “rendered ungeographic”. The novel offers a hidden and unauthorised archive for the often clandestine geographic practices that make possible fugitivity from the mechanics of “slaveholding agro‐capitalism” and its ongoing legacy. As an unofficial archive of black geographic practice, Morrison’s novel might itself be thought of as a map: a contemporary mode of memorialising the depth of place, relation, and navigation—a depth no two‐dimensional map can accommodate. Finally, this article demonstrates the valuable interventions that black studies and black creative production can make within the subfields of critical cartography and critical geography.
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The essay suggests that Frantz Fanon's French term damnés has very different existentialist and political meanings than those conveyed by the English word wretched. Fanon's conception of the damned was highly influenced by the revolutionary modernist political imagination of black militant poets such as Jacques Roumain and Aimé Césaire, especially by Roumain's poem "Sales négres." Fanon's damned hence cannot be considered as a mere sociological category. Reading The Wretched of the Earth through Giorgio Agamben's ideas on the modernist meanings of the witness and the remnants, I finally argue that what is lost in translation is the apocalyptical, messianic, and redemptive langue of Fanon's damned.
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Off the coast of Ireland As our ship passed by We saw a line of Ashing ships Etched against the sky Off the coast of England As we rode the foam We saw an Indian merchantman Coming home. "Seascape" Langston Hughes Time the destroyer is time the preserver, Like the river with its cargo of dead Negroes, cows, and chicken coops, The bitter apple and the bite in the apple. "Dry Salvages" T.S. Eliot I HAVE CALLED THIS ESSAY "All the Atlantic Mountains Shook" because I wish to suggest profound and hemispheric events that originate beneath the surface of things and which are not confined to any particular nation but arise from all four corners of the Atlantic — North and South America, Europe, and Africa. Appearing at the beginning of book two of William Blake's poem, "Jerusalem," it is a phrase of the revolutionary two decades ending the eigh-teenth and beginning the nineteenth centuries when those events were adumbra-ted in social practice. In his prophetic poem, "America," etched in 1793, the year that the British military made an armed bid to crush Toussaint L'Ouver-ture and the Dominican slave rebellion, Blake envisioned an Atlantic Utopia: On those vast shady hills between America & Albion's shore, Now barr'd out by the Atlantic sea, call'd atlantean hills, Because from their bright summits you may pass to the Golden world, An ancient palace, archetype of mighty Emperies, Rears it immortal pinnacles, built in the forest of God. Peter Linebaugh. "All The Atlantic Mountains Shook," Labourite Travailleur, 10 (Autumn 1982), 87-121.
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The cultural and political discourse on black pathology has been so pervasive that it could be said to constitute the background against which all representations of blacks, blackness, or (the color) black take place. Its manifestations have changed over the years, though it has always been poised between the realms of the pseudo-social scientific, the birth of new sciences, and the normative impulse that is at the heart of—but that strains against—the black radicalism that strains against it. From the origins of the critical philosophy in the assertion of its extra-rational foundations in teleological principle; to the advent and solidification of empiricist human biology that moves out of the convergence of phrenology, criminology, and eugenics; to the maturation of (American) sociology in the oscillation between good-and bad-faith attendance to "the negro problem"; to the analysis of and discourse on psychopathology and the deployment of these in both colonial oppression and anticolonial resistance; to the regulatory metaphysics that undergirds interlocking notions of sound and color in aesthetic theory: blackness has been associated with a certain sense of decay, even when that decay is invoked in the name of a certain (fetishization of) vitality. Black radical discourse has often taken up, and held itself within, the stance of the pathologist. Going back to David Walker, at least, black radicalism is animated by the question, What's wrong with black folk? The extent to which radicalism (here understood as the performance of a general critique of the proper) is a fundamental and enduring force in the black public sphere—so much so that even black "conservatives" are always constrained to begin by defining themselves in relation to it—is all but self-evident. Less self-evident is the normative striving against the grain of the very radicalism from which the desire for norms is derived. Such striving is directed toward those lived experiences of blackness that are, on the one hand, aligned with what has been called radical and, on the other hand, aligned not so much with a kind of being-toward-death but with something that has been understood as a deathly or death-driven nonbeing. This strife between normativity and the deconstruction of norms is essential not only to contemporary black academic discourse but also to the discourses of the barbershop, the beauty shop, and the bookstore. I'll begin with a thought that doesn't come from any of these zones, though it's felt in them, strangely, since it posits the being of, and being in, these zones as an ensemble of specific impossibilities: As long as the black man is among his own, he will have no occasion, except in minor internal conflicts, to experience his being through others. There is of course the moment of "being for others," of which Hegel speaks, but every ontology is made unattainable in a colonized and civilized society. It would seem that this fact has not been given enough attention by those who have discussed the question. In the Weltanschauung of a colonized people there is an impurity, a flaw, that outlaws [interdit] any ontological explanation. Someone may object that this is the case with every individual, but such an objection merely conceals a basic problem. Ontology—once it is finally admitted as leaving existence by the wayside—does not permit us to understand the being of the black man. For not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man. Some critics will take it upon themselves to remind us that the proposition has a converse. I say that this is false. The black man has no ontological resistance in the eyes of the white man.1 This passage, and the ontological (absence of) drama it represents, leads us to a set of fundamental questions. How do we think the possibility and the law of outlawed, impossible things? And if, as Frantz Fanon suggests, the black cannot be an other for another black, if the black can only be an other for a white, then is there ever anything called black social life? Is the designation of this or that thing as lawless, and...
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In order to elucidate some of the ways in which critique and subjectivity become inextricably linked in Foucault’s oeuvre, the paper proceeds first by briefly discussing the concept of critique as limit-attitude as it appears in some of Foucault’s methodological writings. Subsequently, the main tenets of Judith Butler’s commentary on the essay ‘What is Critique?’ will be summarized, concentrating on the image of the virtuous, self-making subject that the author’s interpretation brings out of Foucault’s original text. The second part of the paper aims to develop an alternative reading of Foucault’s notion of critique by looking at the ways in which the notion of space operates as an underlying perspective in his archaeological analysis. Ultimately, it will be shown how the spatial implications of Foucault’s early works and a more passive form of subjectivity as unfolding from his discussion of the ‘author function’ and his own methodological reflections coalesce into a form of practical critique, which, as wished by the author, may take ‘the form of a possible transgression’ (Foucault 1984a, p. 45). KeywordsArchaeology–Butler–Critique–Foucault–Non-human becoming–Space–Subjectivity–Thought of the outside
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What would it mean for both queer and African diaspora studies to theorize that the black Atlantic has always been a queer Atlantic? What new geography—or better, oceanography—of sexual, gendered, transnational, and racial identities might emerge through a queer reading of transoceanic dislocations between Africa and the Caribbean? This article examines canonical African diaspora and queer theoretical texts in dialogue with recently published creative texts that imagine queer relationships between African kidnapees in slave ships' holds. These creative texts, I argue, more expansively theorize conceptual space both to rethink submerged sexual, racial histories and to comment on the intersections between African diaspora and queer experiences in a contemporary era of Haitian refugees, transnational Dominican laborers, and international West Indian “gay” activists. Texts examined include Paul Gilroy's Black Atlantic (1993), Judith Butler's Gender Trouble (1990), Ana-Maurine Lara's Erzulie's Skirt (2006), and Dionne Brand's Map to the Door of No Return (2001).