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 things...to 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 stuff...in 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 dissertation...do 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 that...is 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, is...you 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"...it'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 diasporaflow.org) 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 this...how 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 from...is 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 for...in 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 love...is 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 space...in 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 rage...so...please 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 me...to 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 world...plus 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 do...to 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 me...by 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 such...as 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 absence...how 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 otherwise...to 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 Africa...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 agree...as 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.