Monday, May 18, 2009

what might a reading group start?

"Alexander and his pregnant 19-year-old wife, Renee, celebrated their wedding a week ago.

'Hey HUBBY,' Renee Alexander wrote in white chalk on the sidewalk just steps from where he was gunned down. 'Its ur wife … jus wanna say I will always love you & miss you!'"


This blog is not a meditation on police brutality, or crack cocaine, or US involvement in Haiti, or Katrina, or even "racism," although all of those events can be said to be part of it.

It's a place to meditate on the thought suppressed in the following common interaction among black people:

x: How you doing?

y: Aw, you know. Still black.

Somewhere in that simple, mundane interaction is the seed of a discussion that needs to be had among African people everywhere. On one hand, the notion that one is "still" black, implies that there is still a trial period that needs to be endured, perhaps even seeming to hold out the hope that this period will someday end. On the other hand, the answer "still black" comes in response to a question-- "How you doing?" -- so routine that its pertinence to questions of performativity may go overlooked. No matter the performance-- the "doing"-- y is acknowledging that one thing is not going away.

This blog is worthwhile if it allows a space to meditate on the things we cannot contemplate elsewhere-- to work out the thoughts that cannot be thought. It would not be necessary, but for that fact that there is no space for the afropessimist in the academy. While there is no space for us to work out the thought, there will be no space for us to turn black positionality into a set of poseable questions-- capable of being answered. This blog represents a strategic move toward that end.

The afropessimists are intellectuals of various stripes who work through the idea that the violence that creates the modern world is so powerful that it turns a planet full of people into not only the modern subject, of whom so much has been written, but also the modern object, euphemistically called the black person. In other words, they understand that a black person was not "black"-- as a noun, rather than an adjective-- before all things African became equated with slavery. And not just any kind of slavery, but a particularly brutal kind that uses the mechanisms of modern capitalism's drive toward hyperaccumulation. Modernity, the afropessimists posit, created a human who, somehow, is related to in a way that is qualitatively-- and often quantifiably-- different from the way in which other humans are related to, and that this relation is somehow necessary for the modern world/modern subject to be "itself."

A lot of questions present themselves within and about this perspective. What happens within discourse (psychoanalytic, semiotic, political) when certain subjects are not able to signify as themselves, but must (very conditionally) adopt performative characteristics of those to whom they are defined in opposition? How does afropessimism resonate with a wide variety of discourses in black culture and history? How does afropessimism resonate with a wide variety of discourses in nonblack culture and history? In this intellectual context, what does it mean to be an optimist? What about other modalities of oppression-- such as nonblack racial oppression, ethnic chauvinism, gender oppression, class and caste oppression? Et cetera.

How can a blog help?

Well, for one thing, this blog will work as a location for discussion of readings, films, art works, and other materiel that take the afropessimist viewpoint seriously.

This blog will be most effective if we make it a place where people with different amounts of familiarity with plainspeak can posit and discuss points about anything relevant-- including what is raised for discussion.

Let's work out the rest as we go along, can we?

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