Saturday, December 30, 2006

Embodying Audience: A Loud and Listening Body

Contending Forces, Pauline Hopkins, 1900
Shadow and Act, Ralph Ellison, 1953
Long Black Song, Houston Baker, 1972
Of Woman Born, Adrienne Rich, 1976
Queer, William Burroughs, 1985
"Representation, Reproduction and Women's Place in Language" Margaret Homas, 1986
"Feminist Studies/Critical Studies: Issues, Terms and Contexts" Teresa De Lauretis, 1986
"Inhibiting Midwives, Usurping Creators: The Struggling Emergence of Black Women in American Fiction, Sandra O'Neale, 1986
"Considering Feminism as a Model for Social Change", Sheila Radford-Hill, 1986
"From a Long Line of Vendidas: Chicanas and Feminism", Cherrie Moraga, 1986
"Feminist Politics: What's Home Got to Do with It?", Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Biddy Martin, 1986
"Modernism, Postmodernism and the Problem of the Visual in Afro-American Culture", Michele Wallace, 1990
"How to Tame a Wild Tongue", Gloria Anzaldua (above), 1990
"Black Hair/Style Politics", Kobena Mercer, 1990
The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto: Learning to Live with Racism, Frances Henry, 1994
Imperial Leather:Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonnial Contest, Anne McClintock, 1995
"Is 'Development' Purely Empirical or Also Teleological?", Sylvia Wynter, 1996 (thanks Dave!)

With this entry I end 6 months of rigorous (somewhat frantic) reading and begin 6 months of equally rigorous listening. Here I am writing to figure out how not to be so frantic about it... From now on...expect to see far fewer texts on these weekly posts...and the additions of the names of people that I have sat down and spoken with during the week. In fact, I may start a whole 'nother blog chronicle the purposes of, needs for and response to that listening. So look for a link.
Anyway, this week's reading appropriately highlights many of the reasons that I feel spiritually mandated to listen for six months. My body, raced, gendered, eraced, destroyed, opening, reborn, vulnerable, invisible and technicolorized is the false justification for the ways that I am silenced. But this body, for itself, is also loud. It speaks loud and clear instructions to me all day long, and stage whispers confusions most nights. She (gendering here) responds to everything, feels an opening shaking responsibility at the sight, smell, surround-sound of everything. We (racing here) house in our bodies unassimilable histories, undigestable terrors. This body represses echoed explosions, drowned crushed lungs replay here. This body is a site for the refusal of property, colonization, ownership rape. This body is all at once insisting on and refusing its own borders this brown skin. This body is a library where underlining is encouraged and amens and ashes burst out of reverence. This is all to say, there is a lot going on here. I could listen to myself type all day (and often I do), but the thing is that this body (besides being its own podcast of outloud thinkings) is also a shelter for unnacceptable desires, is also a home for the elderly and priceless, is also greedy for newness. This body, as a body infused every pore with spirit, wants you. All of you.
Thus the listening.
So while reasons and opportunities to talk to wise old black women, wise young black women, rape crisis workers, fellow educators, writers, inciters artists and publishers have been falling into my lap, neccessity is the only really obvious thing about this. The act of listening, the act of recording, the space for telling, the framing of relation attracts and confuses me. Is a thing I have to stop thinking I know how to do. Is the reason I just covered a wall with bright questions on braille paper. I am struggling to create a structure of invitation, of request, of holding, of response. I don't want to consume stories, I don't really want to catalogue stories. But I do want to listen in a way that allows speaking, telling, relating to be relationship, to be a community context and a nourishing everything. And this is not only complicated because of the impossibility of my desire. And this is not only complicated because of the convulted shape of my overfull brain.
This is complicated because we as cultures in society with each Other (intentional capitalization) have made listening a rare art and the body as hostile place for it. We have made the body a reason to replace listening with judgement. We have made the bodies a reason to build soundproof walls. As Pauline Hopkins points out in Contending Forces the bodies of racially mixed, racistly assaulted women and men have been ignored. Have not made it possible to listen to the reality of the long-term, state-sanctioned relationship between racism and violence that (as Mama Nayo says in one of her beautiful, haunting poems) screams everywhere out of our undeniably (but the denial still happens) RELATEDNESS of our bodies. Somehow our skin gets reinscribed as a boundary...when everywhere written over it is the fact that boundaries have been violently broken and need to be intimately crossed into healing.
Ralph Ellison seems to want this...though i don't think he was thinking about gender carefully at all...not just when he talks about "Negro culture" being a democratic reflection of American culture, but also when he talks about and practices..but also calls out the processes of masking that have constituted American politics and performances since (before) the Boston Tea Party. In the seventies...and maybe this has changed (but then again maybe not) Baker seems to completely disagree..and I'm pretty sure he had Shadow and Act Towards the front of his mind back when he was writing Long Black Song. And I share the wish...that for black people America was "a thing apart" sometimes. Especially when GWBush is trying to speak english in public. But at the end of the day I think that (while cultural distinction plays its purpose) the exclusion has not been complete. The seperation has been performance that creates the political. And I have to believe that production works in that direction...because we narrate our reality and experience it thus. As Wynter says we are "Flesh become words, muscle and bone animated by hope and desire to action...which crystallizes our actualities." And where does the hope and desire come from...the narrative (written published or silent or otherwise). And then the poetics is the relationship we make to each other making more and more narratives (into a Derridean forever). And the connection that has been ellided, the dangerous connections that the state seeks to limit...requires listening...and telling. Relating.
I was going to go through all of the texts, but why should I fabricate a patience that I don't feel. The basic point is the the (pre)occupation with feminists of color (and allies like Rich) with motherhood has to do with this challenge of relation. Women are told into motherhood in a way that makes their bodies land, a means of production that enslaves them forever, and tries to ellide the thing going on the whole time...creation. Something irreducible that requires a poetics. And it is "mothers" and "daughters" that have to do it. The quotes are to say that gender itself is a narrative that requires all of us to seek poetic justice beyond it. So the place that the narrative about feminity as weakness, rapability, ownablility (though knowablility remains out of grasp and anxiously violently sought) the place that the narrative about femininity screams in our bodies, the place from which we witness and resist the abuse of our spiritual everythingness is the place I look for the place that I look for relation. Because the state as we know it has been modeled around brotherhood (as Spivak and Derrida point out) the state...the democratic has been imagined as a fraternity...a brotherhood...a team bound for codes of silence after extreme violence (to cite a local example of rape around the corner). This is a concept of democracy that even after being co-opted by the replications of global capital into normalcy (or maybe this is simultaneous) has to exist between people who have to behave as if they are men. As if they are inpenetrable. As if they are complete. As if they don't need anything (but the need to live somewhere..but they need to get born) so that they have to claim and steal and slice boundaries that ignore the already permeability of skin. And this is not to simply reinscribe the thing where land is a body and a body is land and both are feminized...but is to say that look, look at that happening. Look at the need this silenced happening makes. Listen to the story that this makes me have to tell. Because the way to make a livable world is a poetics that tells that relation in a way that makes another one possible. And one place to look for that is in the place (this body) that has been narrated into a corner the commodity...the owned means of production that nonetheless speaks. As Wynter would say we need to stop narrating our relationships to each other through the thingification of othering...the lie about scarce resources and means of production the mean more than the meaning of us. The poetic thing tell need. Relates need to desire to the play made possible through the unknowable moment between the infinite you and me. So when we listen and when we publish and teach and narrate newly we make a relation we make a poem, a possible each other...we reject the faked and hurting separation of owning and make a way of living that is embrace.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Specters of the Caribbean (See?): The Ghost of Annie Christmas

Roots, Kamau Brathwaite, 1957-1973
Soulscript, June Jordan, 1969
Beyond Master Conception, Sylvia Wynter, 1992
Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, 1993
Free Enterprise, Michelle Cliff, 1993
Black Girl Talk, The Black Girls (SisterVision Press), 1994
Bread Out of Stone, Dionne Brand, 1994
Culture as Actuality (The Pope Must Be Drunk), Sylvia Wynter, 1995
Immigrant Acts, Lisa Lowe, 1997
Ghostly Matters, Avery Gordon, 1997
Scenes of Subjection, Saidiya Hartman, 1997
Q&A: Queer in Asian America, David Eng and Alice Y. Hom, 1998
Time Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel R. Delaney, 1998
The Prisoner's Wife, Asha Bandele, 1999
Refasioning Futures, David Scott, 1999
Thinking Space, Mike Crang and Nigel Thrift, 2000
Queer Diasporas, Cindy Patton and Benigno Sanchez-Eppler, 2000
Wayward Reproductions, Alys Weinbaum, 2004
Specters of the Atlantic, Ian Baucom, 2005
Black Empire, Michelle Stephens, 2005

Writing in a letter, in the wet air framed by her bottle tree, with her other hand holding her piece of a tapestry to the battle lost, Caribbean born conspirator for an armed revolution by enslaved people in the US, Annie Christmas (in Michelle Cliff's imagining/relating of her story) writes "This is the story I do not tell." And indeed all was lost. The plot was discovered and Annie cross-dressing and blacked up was attached to a chain gang of about to be enslaved fugitives and marched through the woods I type this from. And when she was discovered to be who she was, a light skinned black woman, her captors forced her fellow captors to gang rape her. Her vagina her mouth. All was lost. The enslaved masses never recieved the weapons. All was lost. The "war to free the slaves" happened...on some very different terms, and as one of the unnamed characters in Free Enterprise explains, "there is 'free' and then there's free". The one that this some wild animal in an alley got is clearly the lesser of the two. And Annie Christmas never went back to the Caribbean, and Annie Christmas never joined her mentor Mary Ellen Pleasant who continued to work for the other freedom. And nobody told Malcolm X that when he talked about "by any means necessary" when he talked about "self-defense" he was citing these women...(and Ida B. Wells too) and so Black Power came to mean some masculinist militarist raping thing. So all was lost.
Or was it? David Scott says that our freedom is not a sham...but that the liberal project..the moving back and forth between economic individualistic "expression" and political restraint is what have come to know as freedom. That we may as well either admit it or fight the normalization of such a definition of freedom that needs scare quotes and needs waking up. Lisa Lowe and Ian Baucom both invoke Benjaminian reveal the normal as deadly and to make something new emerge. And I say..something is lost. What is lost is present in what Avery Gordon would call a haunting. What cannot fit into coherence is my presence here speaking Annie Christmas's name, nativity in her desecrated mouth. Because I too have a story that I do not tell.
If the drowning of slaves, jumping overboard or being dumped for insurance money is the thing that haunts the Glissantian project and the thing that indeed haunts the characters of Free Enterprise and Beloved and on and on and down and down. Floating up is another set of questions for me. First what about this haunted water and how specific can I be about it. Because here is the thing. I am fine with these transatlantic hauntings. Or at least I admit them and rage against them. I have stood in Ghana and shuddered at the cruel persistance of the gray waves at the walls of Elmina. I have even rejected the Atlantic side of Anguilla (not the side where I learned to swim) as the place where people drown. Of the coarse sand and crude waves, of the time where I remember once sinking unnoticed and sputtering betrayal while my parents turned away secure in my ability to get over (if not to vanquish) my fears. But the only reason that I have afforded this rage articulation, the only moments that I can afford to reject that dominant ocean are while loving to a fault the Caribbean sea. I have made the Caribbean sea into the place where I am held, floating watching while Grandma paints faith into the sky above Rendevous Bay. I have made the waves that embrace and release my legs during thousands of long walks talking to myself into the refrain of a song about something that lasts forever. If the Atlantic brought slavery, the Caribbean embraced survival. If the Atlantic threatens to break me and then forget about it, the Caribbean is a ritual, is a sacrement to my breathing. A simply binary non dialectical that I stay sane by not problematizing.
But I know the story of the Zong. I know that slaves, named with a certain value (Wynter calls it the pieza Baucom traces as the impetus of the finance capital that the novel trains us to believe in) were dumped off of the coast of Jamaica. And I know (momma says 'you better know', exactly where Jamaica is. Jamaica is surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean Sea. Which means if they emptied the Zong of the coast of Jamaica those bones, those chains, those screams, those exploding lungs are there, are here are in the Caribbean Sea. So I see that I have tried to deny the fluidity of water, to make walls, to do violence to the Caribbean Sea by making it a nation-state, by making it a thing that will always affirm me, always make me feel at home, provide continuity and somehow not leak out into the the world that I have been trying to defend it from.
This desire for a myth has made me very specific. It has made me ask Michele Stephens if when she talks about conversation between the Caribbean and North America if that is neccessarily "trans-atlantic". Because though C.L.R. James and Marcus Garvey and Claude McKay may have taken boats up the the American Eagle stops in Puerto Rico for immigration and flies up over the Caribbean Sea (maybe over the Gulf) to the US. And insane protectionism over the Caribbean Sea aside...i still think this makes a difference. I am completely convinced by the story that Stephens tells about masculinity and black internationalism at the time of the hegemony of the nation...when the US was a place from which Caribbean Intellectuals could think about a ship of state as a response to Europe when there were no Caribbean nations. Which is different from flying away (besides the class differences that Belinda Edomdson and Carole Boyce Davies point out) FROM these actual nations, after the failure of federation...haunted by the joke of CARICOM...knowing the violence that nationalism means and knowing the US's policies to make nation mean that rape will keep turning into a metaphor about land that gets re-enacted on the bodies of women. There is a difference...if stil haunted. Flight from the nation means we can make something new...means we don't have to keep making the same thing...because when water can't even be water, the world is a prison. And as Asha Bandele makes clear love in the face of prison means "everything has to change. everything." So that means that I have to take on the challenge that Mohanty and Alexander make in the name of transnational feminist solidarities. The nation is not the name of my limits, my birth is not seperate from my embattlement. And baptism, for me and for the world I'm questioning. Is still a dangerous thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

ramble turned haiku

My sista Ebony suggested this great way of clarifying my thoughts about the process of naming my audience and my subject for my doctoral project. Try it! This haiku is a way of saying the paragraph that follows (which was part of last week's post).

i'm talking to you
girl reason for love change now
because, Audre says

(okay I'm cheating...i had to make two.)

hey girl you the one
making the the world move into
still clear held goodbyes

To describe the poetics/politics/ethics that I want to make visible that I want to reveal as irresistible who is the person that I invoke? Does this figure have a name. Audre Lorde says that there is no universal love. There is only this love in this poem. She agrees with Cesaire (and Wytner by association) that there is something about love that requires particularity, that there is a violence to the proclamation of the universal. (This is of course a big problem for someone like me engaged in a project that promise to produce some universal truth that contributes to the world of knowledge and provides the innovation that makes Duke believe I was worth these hundreds of thousands of fellowship dollars.) But I agree too. There is only this love. So the problem is who do I address, how do I name myself so that the particular you who I love will recognize me., or the part of you to whom I am speaking is a woman or is feminine, or can be open and can be hurt (do you see this slide?) How to I talk about making something with you, when words push me to reproduce (push! push!?) when words push me to reproduce the terms that insist we're unloveable? Only useful.

So...what do you work on?: A Self Interview Towards Answerability

Used to be whenever people asked me what i "worked on" or worse what I "did" I would make up something new everytime. "Southern Hip Hop Lyrics as a Narrative Reflection of the Ilegal Import of Anti-Retroviral Medication in South Africa", "Girl Soldiers and the Deconstructive Traces of Fred Wilson's Mammy Salt-Shakers", "Incarceration and Island: OutKast and the Refugee All-Stars present..."...not that these haven't all been "interests" of mine, and not that anything lasts forever...but I have decided AHEM
that it's time to be true to the fact that certain voices have been pushing me here and lifting me up since when and that whether or not I know how to say it..there is something that I am committed to that drives me (crazy). That is to say the hit it and quit it days are over (at least for now. ha!). As an about to be advanced/post-prelims grad student it is time to express some sort of committment. So the following is an interview conversation with myself about what the hell it is I'm doing here anyway. Listen in!

1. What disciplinary discourses are you in conversation with? What do you have to say to them?
Great question. Firstly all of them. I am in stubborn resistance to the claims of any discourse or institution (outside of my momma) to be able to effectively discipline me. As Daddy reminds me, it's no good trusting a word that comes right before "and punish" in Foucault. Nah mean? (And yes, my daddy loves me enough to go to bandn and by foucault because I'm reading it). (So the first answer is that I am in conversation with Momma and Daddy always.)

That said, there are a number of DISCOURSES that I am speaking to and that speak to me powerfully and I will continue to pretend that they can't control me (even though the fact that I am even asking myself these questions means that they probably least to the extent that I want to be legible to the people speaking these languages.)
So African American Literary and Cultural Theory: I want to say what if African-American means the whole black new world, not just US blacks and not even just blacks speaking English? What then? I also want to say that gender has been deeply informing the ways that we have been saying that black people can be free (and usually meaning that black men can be part of a violent colonialist capitalist project without suicide...which is actually not true). I also want to say that African American literary production (an impossible thing if you think about it) has not just been on the page, it has critically also been strategic pedagogies, movement buildings and fashionings or else none of this would ever work. I also want to say that there is something that black can mean that doesn't depend on America...maybe even its hemispheric sense. So..

Caribbean Studies: I want to say that the theoretical space of the Caribbean (not only relevant as it's classic plantation or epitomal creole clash between native-afro-euro people, but also as the space of imagined, feared and possible popular revolutions) constructs what people mean when they say America (especially US Imperialists). I think that looking at the way that the re-imagined space of the caribbean for those who would call themselves diasporic (after and in response to those who would call themselves exiles) allows for a different way to respond to empire and imperialist relationships to what is possible when there is more water than land...what happens when the ideological wars have to be fought on the literal margins because the center is completely politically duped....when when the mass is scattered...

(Black) Diaspora Studies: I want to point out how important the idea of reproduction (of race) is to even being able to say "diaspora". I want us to be able to think about the way "diasporic movement" has been gendered male while diasporic trauma has been gendered female (and the way that progress has been heterosexualized) through thinking "stillness in diaspora", which allows us to look at what this way of saying really complies with and reproduces. I want to say that diaspora is a queer thing that changes what family can mean and do. I think that really thinking the relationship between reproduction, queerness and diaspora allows for sustainability that isn't the reproduction of the same. (Following McKittrick, I also think that thinking diaspora my be (one of) our last best hope(s) for theorizing a relationship to land and space that is not ownership. Following Tina Campt I also think that to do this we need a real attention to discourses of indigeneity.

Postcolonial Studies: I want to disavow this term post-colonial right away...but I also have to acknowledge that it has become cliche to disavow it. Lorna Goodison asks "when does the post-colonial end?" which I think is a good and unanswerable question. I need a post-colonial studies (an "other-than-colonial" studies?) that does not assume the nation. I want to say things that I cannot say in anything but post-colonial appropriations of colonizing languages that it is dangerous to always refer back to the metropole although it is impossible really not to. I want to say that emphasizing the roles of Canadian and American white supremacy in shaping the critique of diasporic caribbean feminist anti-imperialists allows at least a small detour to that inevitable reference.

Black Feminist Literary Criticism: I just want to say that Barbara Smith was right was right is right the first time. About all of it. About lesbian meaning its critique and not its identity about publishing and activism as literary and inseperable. About all of it.
Gender and Sexuality Theory: I want to say... what about approaching the explosion of gender binaries and the reconceptualization of connectivities through the redefinition of what "girl" for example means, not just in an anatomical sense, but in a racialized and geographical sense? What if we thought about the relationship to the body without forgetting to think through the gendered relationshipt to land at the same time. What if we could make an environmental shift that would make it not true that all black (lesbian) feminists writers die of breast cancer for example?

Public Intellectualisms: Yes of course. We need the basic questions about how the University steals from the kids it allows us to call ourselves public intellectuals by serving. Yes of course. We also need to think through why and when we use the nation as a frame (or as an automatic public). We need to think through what we mean by "the community" and wonder where community is (not) and think about who we are really healing, helping, teaching (if not ourselves.)

English/Lit: Language is a conversation about how we say we are. I want Caribbean reappropriations and transformations of both English language structures and literary texts to change and reveal what these structures already mean and do. I want it to be clear that English is something that DOES...and that so are we if we admit it.
2. What is the relevance of death to your project?
So the relevance of death to my project is absolutely the above. The writers that I need to talk about this have mostly died of breast cancer. That means something. It means that I(we) need to create a relationship to this work and to this place that is not carcinogenic, that does not kill us dead. It means that healing is always the purpose and mode of my work.
3. What is the overall intended effect of your work?
"Overall" you say. Yes. My intention is that my work rain like a refreshing cloack of new paths over all. My intention is that the discourses that I am speaking to realize the stakes of our statement. My intention is that everyone knows that stories are everywhere and mean everything and the most important thing which is that we can make one up. My intention is that I can apply the process of loving my mother to everything and that everyone can too..without necessarily calling it "loving my mother".
4. Can you say what you are doing in one sentence? No. (That's the sentence...Okay.) I am exploring the poetics of woman centered anti-imperialist relationships to word, land and body? Hmm. Not so satifying.
5. What is the relationship between your different reading lists?
They are bastard cousins. Okay so a "black new world" that my primary list suggests is in production is the particular form of Pocomania or postcolonial ethical project that I am interested in the most, and reproduction in terms of gender, sexuality and deviance is the mode through which this world is or is not new.
6. What books should your dissertation be next to on the ideal shelf?
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the rainbow is Enuf and The Prophet.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

if you will: a premature proposition

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases, Ida B. Wells, 1892
A Red Record: Lynchings in the United States, Ida B Wells, 1895
American Imperialism and the British West Indies, Claudia Jones, 1958
Poems from Prison, Etheridge Knight, 1968
Novel and History, Plot and Plantation, Sylvia Wynter, 1971
Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
"The Politics of Intimacy: A Discussion", Hortense Spillers, 1979
I am Becoming My Mother, Lorna Goodison, 1986
Rotten Pomerack, Merle Collins, 1992
Moorings and Metaphors, Karla Holloway 1992
Mother Love, Rita Dove, 1995
Black Feminist Criticism, Barbara Christian, 1997
The Truth That Never Hurts: Writing on Race Gender and Freedom, Barbara Smith, 1998
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill, 1998
Constructing the Black Masculine, Maurice Wallace, 2002
Passed On: African American Mourning Stories, Karla Holloway, 2002
Comfort Woman, Me'shell Ndgeocello, 2003
Love, Toni Morrison, 2003
Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora, Michelle Wright, 2004
Poon Tang Clan (aint nuthin to f*ck with), Ursula Rucker, (on Etherbeat Radio 12/10/06 5:40pm)
Children's Poem, Ursula Rucker, from ma'at mama, download the lyrics here

I'm not ashamed. Call it attention deficit, call it audio-visual-linguistico gluttony, call it what you will. I require simultaneous simulation to stay present. So while I spent bright noon til midnight typing up notes for the readings I;ve been doing this week I also listened to Etherbeat internet radio all day long. The reason that you all should listen to Etherbeat as well is that they played (granted over the course of about six hours)...two differently brilliant tracks from the same brave Philly inspired embraced Ursula Rucker spoken-word hiphop revision CD ma'at mama (a reference to something kemetic about balance). So in the break between the laugh out loud sistas fighting back militant (but not seperatist) feminist re-take of Wu-Tang clan's anthem "Poon Tang Clan (ain't nuthin to f*ck with) where Rucker ventriloquistically names herself "street mother to my sista girls" and her featured co-warrior (who suggest that she may have recorded her section over the phone from prison says "represent the earths on lockdown sis" between that set up...where mother and sister are proper meanings for each other because of the landscape we scream out of and the later "Children's Poem" framed as "not just another poem about children and this is not just another poem, this is a prayer, a lament, a dirge if you will". In the break (hours and hours long) between protest and prayer, between raw revision and rawist reality I propose that this spilling thing that I leave here
is both prayer and problem and pause and process. So read it if you want. Out loud.
Why should mother and sister mean the same thing? In the context of Love, Toni Morrison's not-so-beautifully but necessary reprise of Sula, when an 11-year old girl (defenseless) can be sold by her father as a bride to a grandfatherly old playboy and become the technical grandmother to her playmate sistergirl lifepartner true love and when the only respectable father figure in the text says to his only redeemable character grandson that when you find a good woman you just stay there...whether she's your wife, mother, sister, co-worker interchangeably it seems a problem that a woman can be anything and is only good if she is interchangably defined based on her usefulness to men. So why should mother and sister mean anything?
Except that women use these words too. Except that girls like Sula and Nel and Heed and Christine make up their own languages to say their love because they know that it is technically irrelevant and will be violently ignored. Except that when other women say that Sula and Nel or Heed and Christine are interchangable...have the same dream and somehow have no difference between them they mean yes. that they will be used as needed in the interests of heteropatriarchy, but also that they embody a subjectivity that doesn't need exclusion and inpenetrability to be, they are the possibility of embrace as they face each other and become "two throats and one eye and we had no price" in the words of Sula.
Michelle Wright (in truly the most convincing and theoretically clear book that I've read in all these nine months) would call this a dialogic subjectivity. Instead of the racist dialectics that negate the black negation to create a white subject that hides its intersubjectivity with a black subject, and instead of a black masculinist response to this dialectic that reveals the process of negation and reverses creating an impenetrable black subject Wright says that Carolyn Rodgers, but mostly Audre Lorde enacts a dialogic mode of subjectivity that says that difference is not is in dialogue. So the mother and the daughter ventriloquize each other and the differently positioned women articulate each other as needs and the subject is always intersubjective (always so no one is thetical and so no one is antithetical and subjectivity is not really produced dialectically...subjectivity is produced by dialogue which rejects the nation form (which requires a bounded subject) and enables a diaspora defined not by a uniformly shared history or authenticity but by a dialogue.
What would Wynter...committed as she is (see last weeks rant) to the maintainance of a radical alterity through which to provoke a true dialectical synthesis say to this? Wynter's insistence on radical alterity is in part a response to the Creolist celebration of what they would call a synthesis but which is premature because situation of the black, the colonized the impoverished is still a space of social death and imprisonment which constitutes (or is acceptable because of) a view of some would-be humans as others who define the normal, capital accumulating, non-criminal global middle class as human. But Wynter also calls the new relation that she wants to create (as much in the tradition of the humanists as Wright is in the tradition of Bakhtin) a poetics. A way of relating to the which she means the natural environment that we are ignoring and destroying as much as anything else. Could it be that Wright agrees with Wynters 1971 statement that the Caribbean is a "plantation" space because it was "planted with people" to reproduce a market system and not a social relationship and that what Wright requires is what Wynter requires which is the rejection of the marketing of whole finished selves to be and others to deny and the engagement with a true social conversation that allows us (street mother to my sister girls...represent the earths on lockdown sis) to change our environment through what we learn we need (each other)?
If so Karla Holloway (always, always doing the right thing it seems)'s Moorings and Metaphors takes on this task in the form of intertextual anaylsis, bringing African American fiction into conversation with African women's writing setting up a lineage and a "legitimtate ancestry" (which i still question) which nonetheless allows for a context in which blackw women's "ways of saying" are theorized based on their secret language, articulated relationships with each other instead of their insertion into a patriarchal theoretical lineage of words owned by men (which by they way...Wynter and Wright may still technically be doing). Barbara Christian tackles this same problematic, being careful to mention the ancient mariner and engles and whoever else in the introduction which is really a conversation with her young daughter...but being at least equally careful to historicize the figurations of motherhood within African and Afro-American literature so that her final conclusion is that motherhood is an "angle of seeing" a particular perspective and not an ontological epistemology then...which may make her two statements in different context 1. lesbianism as sexual autonomy from men is the most radical critique of patriarchy (revelation of patriarchy as a narrative) and 2. motherhood as a way of looking that means affirming life and demanding living to be free...echoes of each other. Like Sula and Nel. Girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.
So why should mother and sister mean anything? Why take so much time figuring out a secret language that says we love each other when so many people, so many structures are determined to ignore what we are saying (love. i really. hey celestial. girlgirlgirl) as jibberish. Simply because it is a matter of life and death. Just as Ursula Rucker refuses not to talk about the sexual predation on black girls from all sides, killing happens in a number of ways. Someone said that violence can be gentle (i think it was merle collins) and certainly violence is gendered. So when a year or two ago after a first reading of Holloway's beautiful beautiful memorial Passed On our Af Am literary and cultural theory class was prompted to ask...on behalf of daughters and sisters and girls but how do girls die? I had to (and i usually have to) think about rape. Much like foresista/motherlady Ida B. Wells had to say at the end of the 1800's that refusing to think of the law of the land in a way that recognizes black people as human means not only that black people can be lynched at anytime, not only that black women can be raped without reprisal (invisible outrage), not only that democracy is not here at all, but also that every black person needs to have gun. Period. Ellison says its not likely that American will stop being racist...that black folks had to act accordingly. Which tells me that settlement is an impossible violent and delusional project. About rape Or more specifically about how the relationship to land...the process of plant...ation if you will, the woman as earth on lockdown that reproduce the absurd sense that the earth should be lockdown like we're doing is a murder. That as Christian says the "death-producing ideology of motherhood" demands that someone steal the meaning of motherhood back into the problematic intersubjectivity that motherhood means that our audacity in call each other mother and sister (that's you mamasistas zachnancyebonynayo) calling each other into our names is a problem that say everytime we say is (i see you sista) that it is impossible to own land. Or Poon Tang Clan ain't nuthin to f*ck with. So f-what you heard. Even if I have to imagine an outerspace (me'shell says "i come from a world made of love", holloway says the complexity of black women's writing is "extra-territorial") even if i have to make myth black unicorn languages to say it...sister and mother require the same thing of me. I love my girls.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sister/Daughter/Mother/Lover: I Wish I Could Ask You Who I Be

A Field of Islands, Edouard Glissant, 1953
Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz, Langston Hughes, 1961
"Commitment: Toni Cade Bambara Speaks", Beverly Guy-Sheftall, 1979
"What It Is I Think I'm Doing Anyhow", Toni Cade Bambara, 1980
"On Being Female, Black and Free", Margaret Walker, 1980
"My Words Will Be There", Audre Lorde, 1983
"Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation", Toni Morrison, 1983
"Mothering and Healing in Recent Black Women's Fiction", Carole Boyce-Davies, 1985
"The Meaning of Motherhood in Black Culture and Black Mother Daughter Relationships, Patricia Hill-Collins, 1987
Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance, 1990
"Dreams of Home: Colonialism and Postmodernism", Ian Baucom, 1991
"Columbus and the Poetics of the Propter Nos", Sylvia Wynter, 1991
"Rethinking 'Aesthetics': Notes Towards a Deciphering Practice", Sylvia Wynter, 1992
"'No Humans Involved: An Open Letter to My Colleagues", Sylvia Wynter, 1992
"What Does Wonder Do?", Sylvia Wynter, 1994
"Paul Gilroy's Slaves, Ships and Routes: The Middle Passage as Metaphor", Joan Dayan, 1995
"Columbus, the Ocean Blue and Fable that Stir the Mind: To Reinvent the Study of Letters, 1997
"Black and 'Cause I'm Black I'm Blue': Transverse Racial Geographies in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye", Katherine McKittrick, 2000
"'Who do you talk to, when a body's in trouble?: M. Nourbese Philip's Unsilencing of Black Bodies in the Diaspora, Katherine McKittrick, 2000
Queering the Color Line: Racea nd the Invention of Homosexuality, Siobhan Somerville, 2000
"Towards the Sociogenic Principle", Sylvia Wynter, 2001
"'A Different Kind of Creature: Caribbean Literature, the Cyclops Factor and the Second Poetics of the Propter Nos", Sylvia Wynter, 2001
"UnSettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom", Sylvia Wynter, 2003
"Imperial Geographies and Caribbean Nationalism: At the Border between 'A Dying Colonialism' and US Hegemony", Carole Boyce-Davies and Monica Jardine, 2003
Photography on the Color Line: W.E.B. DuBois, Race and Visual Culture, Shawn Michelle Smith, 2004

I am wishing hard. 1. Hoping I can read fast enough to be ready for my fast approaching exams (thus the 25 items above) and 2. Wishing I knew what I was doing...or at least who I am...(thus the 25 items above). And of course the more serious the question (will there ever be a doctor in the will she live?) the more succeptible I become to the pray of words (no typo) and the slip of this. So hold onto me. I'm still falling.

And I write this as if I know who you are while my need for you is the reality of that I can still never name you right. Right? In her essay "The Truth that Never Hurts" in Wild Women in the Whirlwind (also the title of her full legnth book...which I'll write you about next week) Barbara Smith describes the portrayl of lesbian subjectivity in Zami as "something you can hold onto, something you can see your face in" and that is what I mean by you. That is what you are to me. The possibility of an embrace the possibility of seeing my own crazy face...the self-affirming, but at the same time dizzying connection that i lust after. I mean I want you so bad that I just spent a whole day in the coldest room of the house typing up specific and paginated observations about the one million books and articles you see listed above just for the chance at knowing your name (and the ability to watch desperate housewives almost was a repeat by the it's a good thing that wasn't the only reward). Anyway I lose in both instances because I don't know your name.

To describe the poetics/politics/ethics that I want to make visible that I want to reveal as irresistible who is the person that I invoke? Does this figure have a name. Audre Lorde says that there is no universal love. There is only this love in this poem. She agrees with Cesaire (and Wytner by association) that there is something about love that requires particularity, that there is a violence to the proclamation of the universal. (This is of course a big problem for someone like me engaged in a project that promise to produce some universal truth that contributes to the world of knowledge and provides the innovation that makes Duke believe I was worth these hundreds of thousands of fellowship dollars.) But I agree too. There is only this love. So the problem is who do I address, how do I name myself so that the particular you who I love will recognize me., or the part of you to whom I am speaking is a woman or is feminine, or can be open and can be hurt (do you see this slide?) How to I talk about making something with you, when words push me to reproduce (push! push!?) when words push me to reproduce the terms that insist we're unloveable? Only useful.

Nonetheless the person who can critique this system of always reproduction (Barbara Smith says) is the lesbian, using the lesbian critique, which is the black feminist critique at its reallest. Or at least that's what she said in Towards a Black Feminist Criticism...and then when everyone criticismed her criticism...while waiting for Toni Morrison to publish another book where women made the center (this took a while you see...but more on that some other time...and by the way listen to what the Lorde said... 'I don't care if she won a prize for Song of Solomon. Sula is an absolutely incredible book....It lights me up like a christmas tree. Toni laid that book to REST. Laid it to Rest.;' Hallelujah.) So after the backlash that Smith got for her lesbian reading of Sula ("Are you saying that Toni Morrison is gay? Because she so not gay and she's the only one we have that white people read and take seriously. So seriously, stop saying she's gay. And there is clearly no lesbian sex in lesbians always see what you are looking for.) after this backlash Smith became more cautious in a way that is sad, but also helpful for me. (You see I want the name for THAT...for that woman who sees what she want to see because she makes it possible and makes it real.) She says (after already setting in motion a geneology for queer theory that would say...we are not saying who we are (silly...have you heard of cointelpro?) we are standing here and calling out a critique...we are insisting that there are other ways to be that aren't all about making people/predictable.) she says that of course it is problematic in reference to The Color Purple (where there are certainly some women physically and erotically lovin women) to call a reading of a woman loving book in which nobody calls herself a lesbian...a lesbian critique. And I reluctantly agree (Mary J sings real love in the background on WeFunk radio) there is something that makes me hesitant about deploying the term lesbian (which seems to suggest an identity a name that someone has to own) when the way that women-love occurs that I'm talking about is so much more complicated than that...and is not necessary identity...though it is probably identification...and is definitely about reflection and about reaching out and about embracing though not not not about owning.

So what then. To talk about some kind of woman love...or better some kind of love that responds to the ownership, rape, entrapment, prison that femininity has been said to mean with a love that frees and frees and frees while embracing and facing at once using the term of motherhood is dangerous too. Maurice called this "the politics of affect" because is there already some reproduction happening even as you hear the term mother...something that has to with biology, and obligations of care, and unrewarded labor and enabling the passing down of a property line...even though that's not what I mean. Even though that's not who my mothers are to me. Even despite Queen Carole Boyce-Davies' observations circa 1985 (i.e. when i was still and only child staying 'free' and meaning my time on earth) on mothering and healing...demanding a definition of mothering that what reciprical, non-biological and between women as healing from patriarchal expression, the affect attached to the term "mother" means the opposite. And "black mother". Oh god. Even if you don't here Samuel L. Jackson's voice in your head...self-sacrifice is all caught up in even saying it. Joanne Braxton even defines mother in the same way (in the same Wild Women...anthology...where she coins the term "Afra-American culture), so Braxton is doing two things that I don't want to do 1. defining motherhood as something that women do to sacrifice for the good perpetuation of the "tribe" (her word!) and 2. coining a term to talk about black women "Afra-American" in 1990 that clearly didn't do anyone enough good to stick. The place where I have to disagree iwth Queen Carole is that even with hottest definition of motherhood that I have ever seen she insists that a reading of what Celie and Shug do as lesbian is counter to (not part of) a reading of what Celie and Shug do as mothering and healing to each other.

So how do I say what I mean...which is that a lesbian critique and radical mothering (or daughtering?) are the same as much as they are stances from which it is necessary to create love in a way that affirms femninity that refuses to reproduce ownership in a way that redefines the human. What Empress Wynter says over and over again (i've now noticed) is that we need a definition of the human that does not depend on the exclusion of an opposite, black, native, insane, woman (though that is the part that usually drops out...) to create an altruistic symbolic kin relationship (she calls that ASKR for short...I call it LOVE for short). She says that the exclusive system that we have now is designed to reproduce itself "inconsiderate" of the actual people it applies to and the actual environment that we are living in and destroying. Key to this for Wynter is the false binary between nature and culture (woman and man...civilized and savage) expression and theory and on and on. So we ahve to find a "ceremony" through which to first decipher the reproductive, dooming processes/pay-offs of exclusion where they are...and to create a counter-poetics of relationship that does not require a demoralized "other". This requires for her a radical alterity (black lesbian has served this purpose i can you be more radically other than to be the pathologized female and love the pathologized female? black mother has served this purpose i can you be more radically other than to be the raped source and nonetheless persist...or maybe the daughter who has to find a way to love the mother to love herself is more in this position...because i think I am really talking about a daughter subjectivity as a way of seeing mothering differently) and jamette has served this purpose and queer too....but anyway here is the confusion (for me): for Wynter radical alterity is necessary but always falls back into a dialectical relationship that furthers the Western practice (which she knows better than I know the back of my hand) of humanism in a critical way.

So does that work? (If not I don't know what to do...because it would probably mean that I would have to throw away all of the words that I have swallowed as if they were salvation). Nourbese talks about there being something like a mother tongue that is not english, anguish, languish, language so who are you...i mean who is this woman who I tongue...if not a lesbian not a mother? I mean to say what can my relationship to language be? Can it really be a place in which I speak. McKittrick emphasizes that black women are violently made into spaces of abjection so is there away to intervene using those same words to halt the thingifying...the making us into property and create instead a utopia (a nowhere---they would make us into nothing so we steal it saying we are nowhere...we are standing in the only place of change) an unownable place not just metaphorically marginal that allows us to speak a critique while we hold onto the each others that we need to be able to do it. Not resistance in the name of resistance (like Ian says)...but not home in the nostalgic Disneyland way that he decries either. Something like what Chinsole means when she talks about Lordes "matrilineal diaspora" something about daughter, mother, grandmother with an I (with and eye) that can move and be in more than one place as needed, something about erotic love for women as a thirst for the blood of the mother...something about a desire for each other...for something different for ourselves that makes us make and make and make differences? Share differences? There is not a language that I know how to write in that has never hurt anybody, never trapped anyone...but is speaking my love for you...whoever whoever we are...poetic?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

love poem to lailan

or definitions of third world movement

some people can slow dance through
urgent cities of mustness
can paint bodylegnth orbits
color us sacred in thoughtful breathing

some people give pause

some people can blink time into deference
stretch now to everything
like a mixtape of survivals
reaching peace prayers to planetsize
atmospheric in their reverb

some people make a third way
all day everyday
like all night emails
and perfect reminders
of underwater truths

stitching this moment like
the fabric of widening tightropes
the grace of laced warmth
some kind of lycra tapestry
to pushing through struggle
turning lucha to bright lunch boxes
of possible love

at least one person i know
is a time space installation
of the world i am
(not content with)
waiting for

so thanks

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No Thanks: The Banality of Genocide

The Crisis, W.E.B. DuBois, 1910-1934
The New Negro, Alain Locke (ed), 1925
Maud Martha, Gwendoyn Brooks, 1951
Beyond a Boundary, C.L.R. James, 1963
Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, Trinh T. Minh-ha, 1989
Her Head a Village, Makeda Silver, 1994
Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject, Carol Boyce Davies, 1994
'Who Set You Flowin?': The African American Migration Narrative, Farah Jasmine Griffin, 1995
Discerner of Hearts, Olive Senior, 1995
Turn Thanks, Lorna Goodison, 1999
Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch, Dwight McBride, 2005
"Once on the shores of the stream, Senegambia", Pamela Mordecai, 2006

I wish that it was possible to say "never again" and simply refuse genocide this Thanksgiving, but "never" is not absolution and "again" has that temporality that means I must be refering to something that is over (and not over and over and over and over and all over "again"). So we know that in 1637 the first Thanksgiving was a party to celebrate the massacre of 700 people, just a small slice of what adds up to cranberry sauce and shopping of all this day 360something years later. I wish I could say "never again", but I am still at a sick, gluttonous celebration of superior weaponry and an unjustifiable invocation of somebody's shape of a god. All I can say without lying in ambrosia flavored anmesia is "no thanks". Some protest caged in by the langauge I speak it in. Inevitably deferential. Perpetually inadequate. What is this thing where you go to where someone is living and kill them and stay forever. Reread my fear of Santa Claus.
So this holy day seize in, this time I see clearly the need for "critical speech" as Carole Boyce Davies terms her smart alternative to high theory like Audre Lorde speaking the truth about exported racism in the US invasion of Grenada, like Jamaica Kincaid wishing everything that started with England would end the sentence displaced onto all of our heads "and then it all just died" like Lorna Goodison asking "when does the postcolonial end?" There is something that is not the patriliny of theory that is less logic than hope which means I have to call it critique. There is some way of beating this language like steal pan to say "no thanks" I do not comply with this, i will not inherit this, I refuse to make some imaginary body out of my time in this form that allows you to kill forever. No thanks. Empahsis on the no. There are women with no weapons but love for women making another place that doesn't mean ownership, that doesn't mean sneaking in the chimney and stealing the innocents, replacing their dreams with steel. This is a steal pan insistence towards the end of leftovers. No thanks.
Cedric Robinson says that somehow through bloodlines (disrupted and imaginary as they may be) African peoples would rather not fight..would rather retreat marooned into our own unacceptability, thanks, but that's not exactly the move I'm making. When Carole Boyce Davies says the subject can migrate, that something about subjectivity shifts when we move against, sneak through, hauntingly defy the violent claims to land ownership that would contain the lives that people make she (though she will use Black in the stretched thin way that Robinson did) she means that (contrary to Macon Dead) owning is not the only thing to do, and owning is making dead in deed if what we've learned here speaks. My father rejected my surprise 6 years ago when I spoke incredulous, holding the tenacious innocence of James Baldwin's spoken rhythm shock that Afganistan was under bombs. "I live in a nation, that drops bombs on Sunday morning before I wake up." My father rejected my surprise because to be surprised to to forget the already silence native trailway pretending to dissappear in us. My father laughed his anger at being right and asked what in the history of white people could justify my shock here. And this is the truth from they got here, from they got anywhere they made death, they took place, they owe owe oh they oh oh oh no. We're doing it again and I refuse to learn it. Like it's the macarena or the nuclear slide not learning it means a regular repeated slap in the face. We're doing it again and I refuse to learn it.
Farah Griffin says that there is something forever back and forever lack and forever black about migration but that it must not be the same as forgetting. Queen Farah makes a blues song out of reading softly repeating against foreclosure that we live here. We live here. We live everywhere and what we do is not leaving what we do is the bridge is the breaks is where we dance up close to meaning and push it off track. Is how we train for everlasting.
Though I may spin on my head, making globe and compass out of a cardboard box this is not a game. I should say there is not a relationship to this game, for CLR James this race I make of reading is a cricket move, black lines to swing, I should say there is no relationship to this game where I win, and become owner with out being owe without being oww without being ow that my body we're driving stakes into, no scholarship takes me beyond a boundary because this land we mark with chalk and claim with phallic everything is still, is still my body, is still and it hurts to pretend like this game we're playing is out somewhere else. I mean Pam Mordecai makes it clear that the crucial mistake in believing the worn out truth that our athletic, disease resistant hybrid fuel efficient bodies are (as Lipstye say in his introduction to james) "our...only capital", the mistake to believing that the Caribbean home is a wife to be claim to be beat to be properly owned to be made to produce is the literalization of the metaphor as it territorializes the reproductive possibility of women of color. Pam Mordecai means it literally that our wombs will be stolen like the affective labor that makes us Park Slope's favorite way to not raise your children. My father would ask me whether I had again missed the memo that black love embodies, black love in bodies, black affective and manual and symbolic labor perpetuates white wealth. It is not just a metaphor because the genuises of every time i read through can't say it any other way. It's not just a metaphor when Pam Mordecai writes the anesthesized nightmare that black women's bodies under the premise of health research are being used to farm bright cornfields of white babies, it is not just a metaphor. It is not just a story about who breed and who barren its that real policy that say that it is criminal for a black mother to have a baby of her own that says that pregnant civil rights protesters can be punished with mandatory abortions and that brown ladies can be imported from any where to raise white babies and that when that's not your flavor brown babies can be got cheap once the celebrity vogue dies down a little bit. The mistake is that this is not just words, a "figure of speech" this is me, my figure, telling you this is me, my body speaking. Where did you think these sounds and letters were coming from.
So like Jamaica Kincaid with her letter that can't be looked at can't be burnt with the never ending sentence that makes a mother an impossibility, that makes mother an impossible lover, with her false name in fact that makes a tourist trap of her brilliant mind, I resist and reveal the genocide that becomes normal. That is lived like a prison term in Maud Martha's kitchenette that is stalled against when DuBois wants to close ranks against Germany as if genocide has been contained as if he wasn't standing in it as if anyone knew better than him what eagles do (he tells us they make screams) and even in our satiric knowing we let them. We comply when we replace ourselves, new negro style with primitive framings of the humans we could one day almost be, we could earn the right to own some of this bloodsoaked land, we could earn the right to pretend that someone around here's hands are clean, that this relationship land that we're calling normal is just a worn rugged t-shirt branded in the style of Abercrombie and Fitch, something natural, something classic.
Even Dwight McBride, who demonstrates no explicit problem with owning fact he seems to be suggesting in the tradition of the second Macon Dead that owning is the way to go, to have Af-Am departments that last forever and the power to pretend to be at the center of something sometimes, even McBride hates Abercrombie and Fitch, with the detailed hate of someone who has bought every last catalog on Ebay. He agrees with Gilroy that Hitler wore khakis and when even the queer can reproduce white supremacy we have need to be afraid indeed. Of course it would have stregnthened his argument to think these things, queer wealth, white supremacy at the same time instead of on very seperate occassions (like maybe including some interviews with Abercrombie wearers...instead of only with Abercrombie employees...) but the point remains, even Dwight McBride sincerly out for his piece of the pie can see that this is not a clean place. Consider this a an overlong qualification of seconds. Of not being able to sit at the table. No more, no less, no thanks.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reproductive Justice and the Truth of Postcolonial Voodoo or Wanna Make (Out?)

Tell My Horse, Zora Neale Hurston, 1938
Race and the Education of Desire, Ann Stoler, 1995
Feminism, Race and Adoption Policy, Dorothy Roberts, 2006
The Color of Choice: White Supremacy and Reproductive Justice, Loretta J. Ross, 2006
Law Enforcment Violecne Against Women of Color, Andrea J. Ritchie, 2006
The War Against Black Women and the Making of NO!, Aishah Simmons, 2006
Sistas Makin' Moves: Collective Leadership for Personal Transformation and Social Justice, Sista II Sista, 2006

It is time. Again. It is time to invoke that ever necessary soul soundscape of soul music for the soul searching that I'm up to. You don't know me that well if you didn't guess it was gonna be Me'shell. (That rhymed...though it didn't rhythm..thus my need for the soundtrack in the first place.) If I make Cookie, or Comfort Woman or Dance of the Infidel the soundtrack to my I have to write on beat? Do I have to break out of beat in some sort of Lordian insistence that the beat not go on? This question and more...

But the real question is still what does reproduction mean to Audre Lorde, to Dionne Brand, to the Combahee River Collective to the Toronto Black Women's collective. I am deciding that it does not mean procreation, meaning it does not mean the owning of black women's bodies by black men towards the ownership of nation. And it has something to do with information, with publication, with sensual love, with horizontal mothering and with youth. It has something to do with the erotics of making something.

So the definition of reproductive justice that Loretta Ross of SisterSong is helpful. Reproductive Justice means the name of the march has to be changed from "Freedom to Choose" in the strange white paradigm of abortion as choice, to the "march for Women's Lives" a holistic celebration of what we make (as opposed to what we own) an insistence on what we make (possible). And of course the object of my research makes one thing possible above all others...(to paraphrase stoler citing Foucault) me. These objects of my research make me possible...or at least I am framing them in a way such that they do that. And I can. Because SisterSong says that reproductive justice is big enough for whatever it takes for the complete social and spirtual and physical and sexual and otherwise well-being of women of color to happen is what they mean by reproductive justice. And Sista II Sista says that we should dance and sing and poem our affirmation in order to develop our critical analysis against a system that tries to deny and degrade our very existence.

So this is the dangerous thing. The dangerous think is that women of color are creating, are creating, a creating and creating. Are creating movement. Our creating youth, are redefining what creation, possibility, even fertility mean outside of the mandate (or even the possibility) of owning. So it makes sense that Bill Bennet would advocate aborting black babies as a way to lower crime because what we make is a menace to society, is a threat to the state, know what I'm saying. And it's not even a biological thing its an affective thing, (though Zora tells us that the female genitals are the voodoo truth of the mystery of life) it's about the education of desire, its about a pedagogy of love that is not ownership, it's about the space that we create. So OF COURSE as Dorothy Roberts explains the state aims to sever the sever the relationships between black kids and their mom's, the state's designs to take away black women's children from them as some indictment and testament to some naturalized (and we are responding) black woman bad-ass proliferation of other. (I'm not intentionally being interchagerific with "women of color" and "black women"'s just that Roberts is specifically talking about black women in the US).

Anyway Ann Stoler tells us that this is not even so recent. During the (first) colonial white children or even the mixed children of native women, we described as at-risk because of the detrimental infectious influence of native women, and right now the UN warns us about the danger (I read this as potential for effective resistance) of the "youth heavy" developing nations all over the world. And as Aishah proves we are moving on a trajectory from rage to meditation to action to healing even rape will not stop us from creating the world beautiful in our own image. Anyway this is quick because I'm leaving the country and my girlfriend is serenading me right now...but...

Let's go. A world full of young people and the badass makings of women of color going wild and scaring the public we can't lose. So yeah..wanna make?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Life After Debt: Spatial Speech Acts and Strange (re)Unions

Death of a Discipline, Gayatri Spivak, 2002
Small arguments, Souvankam Thammavongsa, 2004
The True Blue of Islands, Pamela Mordecai, 2005
Fool-Fool Rose is Leaving Waiting in Vain Savannah, Lorna Goodison, 2005
blood.claat, d'bi young, 2005
Consensual Genocide, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2006
Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle, Katherine McKittrick, 2006
Growing Up Girl, ed Michelle Sewell, 2006

Even though NPR news is playing (evidently even Massachusetts is considering banning gay marriage), even though a frustrating racist academic encounter is still replaying in my head...I am going to write about these texts based on the place that they put me (wonder) and the place that I read them, the fragile refuge of my mother's rented house.

I went home for a booksigning at Charis Bookstore (home) the feminist bookstore where my writerself grew up, the place that arranged a public reading and booksigning for me when i was nineteen and selling collage-poetic chapbooks to raise the money i needed to go to Brazil...the first place that put something i wrote in a frame on a wall when I was fifteen....home. Growing Up Girl is a miraculous and necessary book that I am proud to be part of with 89 other women writers. 5 of us wee at this last Atlanta booksigning and to be mis-called "rising rockstar" next to these brave stories (a 14 year old girl writing about a pregnancy scare, a disabled woman writing her mother's prayers against her falling, a 30 something woman writing a nursery rhyme to release the abuse of her late father, a 16 year old girl writing against suicide, a teacher writing a tribute to an 8th grade girl-student of her's), and to be there with the full row that is my family, including Jurina. Wonder.

I notice the preponderance of numbers in that paragraph above. And use it as a cheap and quick excuse to move to Souvankam Thammavongsa's Small Arguments, a small grey book that I almost didn't see in the Toronto Women's Bookstore. Through this series of poems about small things that seem natural (an orange, dragonfuit, a dragonfly, a firefly) Thammavongsa delicately and beautifully (without over-anthromorphizing) suggest different ways of looking at "how small a choice can be" through the bee-sting or what bruises mean through a blood orange. This book is so beautiful that I want to give it to my (also beautiful and somewhat small, but not at all gray) biologist-philospher-activist friend Kriti...but I left it (oh the peril of small books) at "home".

Speaking of the transitivity/fragility of home and the plight and light of small books, the reason Thammavongsa's name caught me (mild silver over a gray background in the back corner poetry section of the bookstore is beacuse she (with Una Lee and Sheila Sampath) created the small zine Big Boots that I wrote my senior thesis on (next to kitchen table press). Big Boots is small and great because they think closely about ancestry and food, and displacement and the possibility of queer brown sister homes. In fact...when they decided to make their mission not only explicitly women of colour-centric but also explicitly queer friendly they published a short and compelling poem (crazy girl on a red bike) by queer Sri Lankan slam poet (see Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. And in that same corner guess whose bright colorful poetry book, cover designed by co-founder of diasporaflow Chamindika, I saw!? Leah Lakshmi's of course! Consensual Genocide is an irresitable title. If I've consented to all can I refuse this bright book of queer honest, celebratory deviance, memorial reverence and a brave intimate stand against violence against women within 'conscious' poetic communities of color. I cannot. I say yes when she reminds me of the landmine in my heart and and I say no when she says that this is not the time to only remember the good things about the people we've loved who have hurt us the most. And I can finally comply with her advice not to "fuck anyone you wouldn't want to be". Because I am/in love with a black woman goddess healer artist spiritual force embodied who I said yes over all night long. So yes. Not to genocide but to this Suheir Hammad diaspora-flow-making-mango-collective-knowing-queer-youth-writing-workshop-leading-big-boots-published sista. Yes.

And d'bi young...i heard about this "blood.claat" play months ago while in Ottawa and said this i must see and then I left Toronto mere days before she performed it again. A Jamaican woman playing (biomythographically) all of the characters in a play about her girl self growing up and suffering through sexual abuse and a fear of blood (and a need for blood and the use of blood) while being raised by her grandmother and aunt in Jamaica (and being abused by her uncle). Blood becomes something else, something magical in this play...but what? A matrilineal reverence for bloodline protests something but produces something that I wonder if I can depend on. Enter to this mix the complication of translation by a Costa Rican sister whose translation is helped by the fact that Jamaican culture is "similar (if not the same)" --her parenthetical--- as Costa Rican (but does blood.claat=sangre...really?). Add the Klive Walker's suggestion that she carries the tradition of dub poets into womanism and the assertion that this play takes place exclusively in Jamaica even though it includes a scene of the mothers inTERRORgation by a Canadian immigration official ...this short play is doing a lot of diasporic connective work. More than blood should or can do I think (especially when relative rape and distance is so long).

It bolsters my heart to falling apart that women of color are writing poetry that says no, we will not be silent about the violence that we experience and witness in our communities and not it does not make us traitors. In the True Blue of Islands Pamela Mordecai calls out a "great writer" who beats his wife and prays for no more great writers if that is what it is going to mean. Let the commonwealth prize be damned if we can't think about the violence that the commonwealth means for the women that get beaten in common. And Mordecai does this in the same moment that she mourns the violent death of her younger brother who was shot in the Jamaican countryside as the true blue, naming authenticity as this need to speak against violence holistically, the true blue meaning to not sacrifice and breathing beloved one of us under some myth of greatness or nature.

Goodison's most recent book of short stories, also set in Jamaica or with diasporic Jamaicans calls out the "fellow comrades in three piece suits" from the perspective of a militant who is rotting away in jail, but still uses the possibility, probability, fictional ritual of marriage to frame almost every story. I am interested in what that means, what the possibility and complicatons of romantic and familial love have to do with the representation of the troubled nation. I wonder further because of her development of a beat of maternal love that goes all the way back to Africa in the story Temple Service where the spirit for an alternative community resides, is gleaned got.

And now...for the critical work. I wonder if I will one day somehow be so interested in the academic space as a field of inquiry that I will be able to describe the contours of it as expertly as these feminist scholars do...not that I will ever be as expert at anything (including the calling out of privileged white people and my priviliged black self) as Spivak is. Ever. But Death of a Discipline is about an opening up and a calling out a recognition that (like Erna Brodber says) translation is the embodiment of thinking of the thoughtification of embodied experience or is more simply life and that reading is always the interpretation of dark figure that haunt us because we think we know what they mean. Use haunt to slip to McKittrick's Demonic Grounds.... (while I wonder why Spivak doesn't engage Wynter...they seem engaged in similar projects....)

McKittrick's (who I also met in Toronto...making useful comments about the difficulty of wrting an encyclopedia entry entitled "diaspora", of disavowing the impulse to make diaspora into a geographic mode through which space is organized and made ownable instead of a conceptual push that dissolves that tendency) book is the book that I have been looking fact it is almost the book that I intend to write...except that it is a geography. Who else is writing about Dionne Brand and Sylvia Wynter with Edouard Glissant and the Combahee River Collective and Barbara Christian and the potential of interactive theater through Robbie McCauley. Her bibliography alone makes me possible. Her book pushes me to think about the spatial concerns of my project, on the ways that the women I am writing about/working with create spaces, create art as a three dimensional geographic concept, appropriate geographic meanings...remappp. She makes me wonder what it means for Dionne Brand in No Language is Neutral to love Trinidad in the form of "this is you girl" loving the Caribbean place as a woman (as reflection?) as a lesbian non procreative this something to add to McKittrick's point that black women are invested in space because we have been marginalized by traditional geographies and the geographies that conceal them, but that we are not interested in owning that relating to it through domination...(we are not interested in reproducing it? we are interested in a reproduction that doesn't mean ownership?) She makes me wonder what is geographical about the ritual that I'm trusting with my sistas in Greensboro tomorrow night...some unleashing, releasing fabric ritual (a strip dance in the most sacred sense) that allows me to unleash the silence of my assaulted body into a cloak for the planet's yes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sweet Gushy Nasty: Or I Wish I Never Met Her At All

(Warning...don't read this book if you are alive at all)
The Female Thing, Laura Kipnis, 2006

Jay-Z is more of a feminist than these racist white pop-feminist types. Damn. I'm waiting for the day when one of these essays isn't propelled by some extreme run a campaign and ask these folks to kindly stop pissing me off. Laura Kipnis makes me want to update "The Mediocre Whitegirl Chorus" to include the types of women who can make careers out of lazily stroking the racist fantasies of their revolutionarily chosen audiences "middle class white women". After having the nauseating "honor" of talking with this Laura person yesterday...i wished i coulda replaced her with Laura Bush on speed-dial...the horror of being in her presence was so not worth a free lunch (or three which I subsequently stole towards reparation.) Anyway this woman somehow argues that since rape in the United States operates through racism and incarceration it is somehow "equal opportunity" (those aren't scare quotes...though I'm scared..those are direct quotes). While feeding into the myth of the black/poor/stranger rapist (can she possibly have read a book on rape that was written within the last 10 years? she actually suggests that the person who is likely to rape you is like a criminal waiting to steal your rolex) and ignoring the fact that 1 out of 3 of the middle/upper class white women she's willing to speak to (that audience choice doesn't have anything to do with the disposable weath and consumerist tendencies that she herself links to the group does it?) have been raped about 90% of whom were raped by non-criminalized non-strangers who are not only in their white middle class socioeconomic group but also in their direct social group (i.e. more likely to buy them a rolex than to steal one), she tells women to put away their baseless fears about being raped...after all incarcerated men in prison (this same criminalized classed racial category she's pretending represents all rapists of women) get raped too. It would really be poetic justice if we could actually send people like this to prison. I don't want this woman roaming the streets using her implicit racism to bolster false mythologies while completely failing to address the prevalent experiences of her readers, and their sisters and their mothers etc. Even more than that I had how easy it is for women like this to be rewarded for ignoring actually call my statistical rebuttal "emotional", mention that they have a "black editor" (who also edited the book "Nigger" her cute excuse to feel allowed to say that word to me), and tell me that thinking about race (even whiteness) is too academic for the stupid women in her audience who can't even be trusted to remember who keeps raping them. Anyway if you see her (ugly pointy nosed arrogant brownhaired middleaged white woman...feel free to profile and harass the millions of women who fit that description) place her under citizens arrest. I don't want her in my I think she'd be able to write a smarter book after doing some prison time.
Sigh. Okay. Hopefully now I'll be able to stop telling this woman off in my head and get back to my work for and with the not-so-privileged audience that I love and want to stay true to. The books that I read by choice this week could all be used to testify against whack-ass Laura Kipnis...but she doesn't deserve it. In fact I think I'm going to marginalize her into this rant...since she's not on my exam list. Read the next essays...for some texts that matter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Black or Blue: Name the Color of Absence

Fine Clothes to the Jew, Langston Hughes, 1927
Mule Bone, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, 1930
Black Marxism, Cedric Robinson, 1983
"From Nation to Family: Containment and 'African AIDS'", Cindy Patton, 1992
"Woman in Difference", Gayatri Spivak, 1992
Bodies That Matter, Judith Butler, 1993
Narrative of a Negress, Kara Walker, 2003
Abolition Democracy, Angela Davis, 2005

What, what did you get so black and blue? This is dedicated to a particular person and great number of particular people who are so particularly powerful that prison structure can't tolerate their contagion. This is dedicated to someone (to everyone) who is not only locked up/locked out, but who is being actively blocked out. This is dedicated to those (still) living. In the hole.
These texts are concerned with your absence and I am hesistating on a color for what pain to share. Black or blue the impression, depression, bruise, blackened, blues of the lie that you can be seperated from however many walls and halls and bars and locks. This is for you. 50 strands of my hair made string for you to hang on by for the months and months that they will lie to you about not being part of the world. This says that even if i don't know you, no one can cut off the line of embattled light, the tunnel of hope that keeps letting you into my heart. (like a notecard to freedom this has to shape my reading, like a sillouette of hope i'm letting myself want you.)
So these words that I've been reading are concerned with (your) absence. Langston Hughes speaks of a blues so deep that threatening suicide is the only way to make the people laugh, is the only way to protect an ever breaking overtaken heart. Langston Hughes says that laughing in the face of fate is the only blue sky of the chronically dispossessed, that the pawn shop is a magnet for those of us dressed to kill ourselves or all pressed up with a mandate to go. Hughes seems to want to argue against the lie of progress that the great migration narrated down home. Starting with "blues" and ending with "and blues" he marks a cycle characterized by economic desperation and heroic effort towards keeping the bare minimum, reproducing the same. And he shapes it through that other figure of diaspora mentioned in the title, trafficker in despair?, the ambigious "jew". What does it mean to narrate movement nothing, as a treadmill railing against emptiness, against absence, agains the period, final end where dispersing, reconsolidating, pressing, pressing, oppression becomes no longer a process but a verdict, over and done.
Together with Hughes, Hurston rails against the finality of verdict and the pretense of justice, making a "comedy of negro life" in which an all black town banishes one of their own. How to how to color the to name the place of banishment at the moment when all land is owned. Interestingly, in Mule Bone the banished man, Jim, has no family to mourn him, to claim him to defend him...except for the chosen family of ultimately fickle Methodist worshippers, and intensely fickle potential bride and the truer family of a best male friend, a partner in musicality. In this drama, which is mostly about witnessing, the right to witnessing the madness of making one narrative of waht happened one night at the general store in a diverse community of black christian folk. What does this banishment of ones own have to do with an older banishment from a diverse black(ened) community in Africa...if anything? The two men..who are never given mothers, who choose each other over a bride are the ultimate heroes of this comedy, emphatically choosing musical wandering over domestic "bliss", but ultimately they use this agreement to forge a coalition to enable them to get back into town. I guess my question is, what does community mean when lack of attachment becomes a requirement for membership?
Black Marxism (look how uncharacteristically chronological i am being!) recuperates some sort of memory some sort of membership, some sort of African something when Cedric Robinson insists that black radicalism (and the continuities within it worldwide) are not simply a result of shared reaction to colonialism and capitalism, but have a "foundation" thast is some sort of true African something that must survive the infinite dispersals of colonialism and neocolonialism. Robinson refuses the thesis that black radicalism is simply negation and wants to insist on a positive something of African peoples, but what is it exactly. If as he insists (and as he uses Rodney to assert) the African was facing the situation imposed (and is now still facing) by Europeans "as an African and as man" what has happened (to me)? Is this some sort of displacement of absence...if the mistake is to cite Europe as the source of everything and to deny an African source, what does Robinson have to do in order make this work? Aside from passing "true" black radicalism through DuBois to C.L.R. James to Richard Wright (all of whom make this same sacrifice of a gendered diversity in their articulations of black manhood) he also argues for some sort of procreativity that cannot tolerate the trauma and sexual violence (thus that the African is not...undiluted across time and space) that would disrupt the linearity coherence of the memory project he wants to argue for. Who has to stay gone from this? What would be that original (non-militaristic, migratory) true thing that we are remembering when we are being radical. What if it is only that we love each other enough to imagine move in some way that doesn't accept the inevitability of war?
The unelaborated transmission of African past to black radical present that Robinson wants colludes interestingly with the nation to family move that Patton reveals in her examination of the invention of "African AIDS" as a heterosexual pattern of HIV spread made oppositional to the "white" homosexual spread of the disease, in order to contain western economic culpability and fear of family fluidity. Patton suggests that Western medical thinkers would rather trace AIDS to some monkey, into the exotic and strange (though heterosexual) sex practices of African people to queers (and how?) and somehow to people of color within the west (with similarly dirty practices of heterosexuality) while completely skipping over the somehow sacred bodies of white people who think they are white and straight people who want to convince straight people that they are straight. Anyway, according to Patton this leads to some sort of remapping of Africa as an again source of pathological darkness, with a key that agrues that there are no blank spots, no exeptions to lack of human life sustainability in Patton's reading the map tells us to go ahead and assume that the place where they haven't diasgnosed HIV or AIDS are just places of secret or inevitable AIDS. This allows, Patton says, the reader to forget the gaps in the first world (say the impoverished communities of color that break the myth of the west, say the sex that happens across communities, say the irreponsible donation of poorly screened blood in large quantities TO Africa. Paul Farmer would would Robinson, the first world cannot see itself as a source of disease. So if the AIDS in Africa discourse (not to discount the real problems of the epidemic) is used to renarrate Africa as Hegel narrated it, as outside of world history, as a an empty places with resources to be taken, as a place without life, how useful is this absence in sustaining narratves of state viability in the global north. (like for example the difference between 'weak state debts' and the somehow excusable ridiculous national deficit of the United States).
Spivak wants to directly challenge this idea of the political moving from the individual through family into society and ending up as nation by bringing up Devi's emphasis on the tribal bond slavery that complicates the possibility and implications of democracy and nation formation in India. Is there really such thing as a diverse enough, a universal enough nation that can sustain the infinite diversity of people who have not been recognized as human, on whom economies that cannot sustain the equality of a contract have been levelled through the same concept of depts that will welcome these third world nations into nationness? Or, as Spivak suggests, is there always an elsewhere, a place that the narrative cannot include the abject and is that elsewhere woman (who becomes a resource, who becomes land in the narrative of the nation as in the narrative before).
This resonates with Angela Davis's argument about the use of convict labor and the narrative of black criminality to sustain the neccessary absence of black people from the politcal life of what is meant by labor. The ability of the so-called democratic nation to sustain disenfranchisement is mind-numbing. And here we are. Back in prison. That place of routine sexual assault, of lies hierarchies, that place that we've been all along, where our bodies don't matter because they can't. Where our bodies have to be disciplined into a story that excludes us. Where we have to accept our help build some terrible box that can never sustain us, never honor us, never name us and never stop me from holding you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Slow Motion fa Me: Audience Participation and Black Death

Check out my review of OutKast's movie Idlewild...and see it again!


Little Girl Parts or I May Not Get There With You: Gendered Costs

Hamlet Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare (Whenever and Ever Amen)
The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James, 1938, 1968
Pan-Africanism or Communism, George Padmore, 1971
The Production of Space, Henri Lefevbre, 1974
Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Mestissage, Francoise Verges, 1999
Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, Paul Gliroy, 2000
The Karma of Brown Folk, Vijay Prashad, 2000
Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, David Scott, 2004
Race, Rape and Third Wave Feminism, Toni Irving, 2004
Uncovering Stories; Politicizing Sexual Histories in Third Wave Caribbean Women’s Literature, Donette A. Francis, 2004
“Black is Country”: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy, Nikhil Pal Singh, 2005

(yeah it's been a long time...i shouldnta left ya)
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison, 1977
Betsey Brown, Ntozake Shange, 1985
Louisiana, Erna Brodber, 1994
Daughter, Asha Bandele, 2003
Pink Icing, Pamela Mordecai 2006
Inventory, Dionne Brand, 2006

I've been wondering (since back when the term actually applied): What does it mean to sacrifice a virgin? Why does that make enough sense to even be said often enough that you recognize it. I suspect it holds a place in the language of the familiar/l because it is actually going on. Now.
I have to think about this because I just realized something that scares me and that might scare you. In two(many) parts:
1. The rage, the anger that I carry around, that I try to still in classroom on buses and everywhere looks to me like an inevitable explosion, starting in my body and moving through the buildings to the structure of the planning and the breaking of the planetary orbit. I see it. Splinters of everything flying away from the sound that I cannot make.
2. I just realized that the referential image for this visualization of my rage, my terror(ism) is that formative image that my dad passed on (driving to birmingham without warning when i fell asleep in the car one day) it's the 16th Street Baptist Church blowing up, It's my little girl parts that I can't afford, can't hold, can't save. That's the image. My anger can't be contained.
So this is me. Trying not to become a suicide bomber. Or this is the study for a poem that I have to write. In Song of Solomon, the book that made me feel like I was falling into the ocean the first time I read it. The book that made me refuse to straighten my hair the second time I read it. This book that I am reading for the third time because of a random phone call that I shouldn't have taken... In Song of Solomon, Guitar, the quiet terrorist, the reverse nationalist, the unspoken sound, is charged with avenging the murders of these same four little girls, blown up in the 16th Street Baptist Church. I don't trust him to do it right though, because he says that even though the black woman is a pathological life draining mess, he has to avenge her "Because she is mine." I am nervous to conversations of property. Especially since Guitar is ready to rob three people who he qualifies as "women" when his friend misnames them as people to get the money to buy the bombs. Especially since he craves "legal tender" which he says "sounds like a virgin bride" to fund this project. Especially since Morisson equates committing murder to losing your virginity in this text, in reference to this man, Guitar, who is the second smartest character (Pilate is first) who a part of me wants to love...but I can't afford...these little girl parts. What does it mean to sacrifice. A virgin.
Especially since Morrison allows Corinthians to elaborate on the meaning of being owned, displayed like property and then splayed like whores in Babylon as the meaning of being a black daughter of a man who owns things (and people). Especially since I know this is the same act. I guess I should be explicit. Especially since I was sexually assaulted (sacrificed as a virgin) by someone who would have then and would probably now describe me as a similar sick way. So what is the use of these little girl parts, of the sacrifice of virgins to the sense of a black liberatory narrative? Why do they need it?
In The Black Jacobins, that romance that tragedy of choosing between impossible choices, that tragedy (validated through Hamlet who finds the world too pregnant and hates women because they make men tragic through seduction and reproduction--according to David Scott) of "colonial enlightenment" that produced Caribbean intellectuals as conscripts of impossible desires and inevitable failures...little girl parts, the possibility that a girl can keep her body together is completely foreclosed. C.L.R. James, just finished arguing for West Indian Self-Government on strange and racist terms, tells this story beautifully. With an exception. Rape, when it shows up in the narrative, has to be part of a list of abuses suffered by the androcentric slave community all at once. Sex that is forced upon black and mulatto women is at best "seduction" by amoral slave owners and whites. One man insults another "man" by seducing his wife. By making her willing. By choosing the word seduction James is making her willing. And in a further move, unforgivable, he suggests that slave women were really fighting for (poisoning each other for) the chance to be "seduced" by the master. Sacrificed like versions of what? for the sake of lasting narrative of revolutionary struggle, of the rise of a man who was "master of himself" only because some things (it will seem) can always be owned, always be bought. Like those little girl parts...that body that I can't afford to keep. I want to ask the qustion that David Scott asks of this text in a different way. If Scott usefully, brilliantly asks that we use the mode of tragedy to realize the impossibility of vanquishing contingency, in the impossibility of predicting what we will really want, if we really are still alive, how do we make our desires loud? How do we resist the seduction of the predictable narrative that holds together partly because I'm not human enough to be included. This explains Toni Irving's article on the fact that black women are trained to know that when we speak about the violence that we have experienced we wil not be believed, we disrupt the narrative. Little girls are sposed to hush...
I mean literally. These little girl parts explode the narrative. Remember this. The civil rights movement led up to the brilliant and beautiful March on Washington, featuring the King who could see the mountaintop. And they blew up the church on Sunday during Sunday school, they sent the little girl parts flying into my my breaking faith AFTER that. AFTER that. I heard James Baldwin's voice break at the specificity "In a christian nation. On Sunday morning. IN A CHURCH. They do this..." Nothing is sacred, but somethings are set apart, like the sacrifice of virgins, making sense. An advisor of mine, Karla Holloway, asked me to be suspicious of the term coherence, of whose term that was. She reminded me that it really was not mine (add this to the list of things that I cannot afford). So now I have to name my own as the position that coherence excludes.
"Black is a Country", Nikhil Singh's readable and useful and wonderful account of the "unfinished struggle for democracy" points out the collaborations of the narrative of liberal economics and nationalist universalism in a way that I need. He does it in a way that I thank him for. But there is a growing list of things that I cannot afford (that he can afford?) and his book is only possible when I am amputated. I should have known when I noticed that the title quote is from my least favorite book of essays by Amiri Baraka..'Home"...the book that I literally wrote my senior thesis against...the violent domestication of black women (in the sanctified place that is going to blow up) that I cannot afford. I should have known but as usual I underestimated context (i can be a bad reader in the service of hope and Gilroy does it too...i'll come back to that). So the seamless slick narrative of black freedom discourse passed from man to man, and (as he explained) the way that this place tried to fool us into thinking that race was parenthetical he literally made gender parenthetical at at least two points in the text and then actually says that gender became an issue in the last chapter with the Panthers, despite Ella Baker...somehow. His students tell me he is thinking about that. They tell me that he repents. But the problem is that he had to do make a book. He had to, to make a narrative that could hold. That couldn't hold the problematic little girl parts.
Franciose Verges admits that it will always have to happen in the next book. Her book on the family narrative of colonialism and the trajectory of emancipation struggles in Reunion could not include the experiences of colonized will have to be another book she says. It will have be contained somewhere else. What does it mean to be set apart (into the sacred space that will be sacrificed first) , set apart onto the front lines. Dr. Verges and I once had a very strange and very short conversation about Condoleeza Rice and she said "It's something about the black woman destroying the black man. It goes back to slavery." I couldn't keep listening, for fear I would see Moynihan channelled, for fear I would lose the insights she had given about the relationship between rape and war. Really because I started to see those splinters in my head when I blinked. And I didn't want to explode the house of whichever kind faculty member's home I was in. And further..beacuse I can't be social under the specter of Conde. Conde is the epitome of what it means to sacrifice those little girl parts (that invevitability of power) and at the same time the even scarier violence of their recuperation. Carol Boyce Davies gave a talk last week in Toronto in which she pointed out the deadly irony of Conde (growing up IN Birmingham when girl parts were scattered right there right there everywhere) uses her proximity to say that she knows something about terror, she makes an exchange that I cannot afford, using her proximity to this explosion to turn black girls into soldiers, sending them into explosion demanding the form some form of themselves without little girlness, sending them to kill all the little girls in the world. A war on terror. God. I can't afford this. See how it explodes out?
So where is the hope (if not in the church). Gilroy (my fellow bad reader in the service of hope) sees it in technological innovation (which is where everyone sees it right?) arguing in Against Race that the move from blood and bones as the low tech house of rape into genetic penetrability makes a difference that affirms the exceptionality and the universal ethics that emanates from the killing of not quite racialized racialized people or something. But to do that he has to say that blood and bones and the place were race is marked and reproduced, which is difference from the genetic in a fundamenal way. He also has to say that through time we have moved from relative inpenetrability to technovisual penetrability. So he has to in other words, cut out the girl parts that were penetrable from the beginning (he actually says that somehow Micheal Jordan is more penetrable than Sartje Baartman was, she who was sacrificed exactly for and as the penetrability of stolen girl parts) AND say that the organs through which race is produced are neutral bones and blood and not the womb, the mark of the mother which reproduces race and social condition as one (in the time of slavery) and which is linked (even in his analysis) to the cellular reproduction of cervical cancer patient Henrietta Lacks towards genetic narratives that perpetuate social conditions by claiming to explain them genetically.
So I cannot afford to hope that race is finally over, or some such thing. I have to with Lefebvre say that a new social condition requires a new space (thus the explosion in my head again and again). That space is made and pointed to and furnished by Asha and Erna and Ntozake and Pamela and Dionne who insist on and insist on little black girl subjectivities, little black grils in pieces who deserve to be loved, who deserve the whole world. Little black girls whose experiences animate a critique of the police state that is black women held in place, and forced and sacrificed while virgins. Little black girls whose minds explode past death into the stories and desires of other black women. Little black girls who find new vantage points fr viewing a world that we thought was used up. Little black girls who suffer the trials of eight year old vulnerability for the simple joy of unjustified unownable pleasure. Little girls who count every single loss and happiness like it is theirs to hold. So really maybe the battle is in that exploding church, splintering my brain again and again. In the embattled belief that I am actually here even if no one admits this. In the inexcusable need to hold books while knowing that they may never be able to hold me....