Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Womb as Blindspot: Reproduction as Usual

The Womb of Space: The Cross Cultural Imagination, Wilson Harris, 1983
"Sound Effects: Tricia Rose interviews Beth Coleman", 2001
"Black Secret Technology: Detroit Techno and the Information Age", Ben Williams, 2001
"Tales of an Asiatic Geek Girl: Slant from Paper to Pixels" Mimi Nguyen, 2001
"Bandung is Done: Passages in AfroAsian Epistemology" Vijay Prashad, 2006
"Complicating Racial Binaries: Asian Canadians and African Canadians as Visible Minorities", Eleanor TY, 2006
"One People, One Nation? Creolization and Its Tensions in Trinidadian and Guyanese Fiction, Lourdes Lopez Ropero, 2006
"Chutney, Mestissage and Other Mixed Metaphors: Reading Indo Caribbean Art in Afro Caribbean Contexts", Gita Rajan, 2006
"Performing Postmodernist Passing: Nikki S. Lee, Tuff and Ghost Dog in Yellowface/Blackface", Cathy Covell Wagner, 2006
"Toward a Black Pacific", Gary Okihiro, 2006

As usual, reading breeds reading. After reading these essays (and monograph) I ordered Paul Beatty's TUFF from the library..and I'm halfway through it already. Not to say the real sick truth which is that it seems that the way that I am celebratingt he fact that I have passed my prelim exams and am technically free from the reading list that I have been reproducing for you here by exuberantly creating another reading list. Lilly library had a crate of books waiting for me before the ink had even dried on my committee's signatures. So yes. It's sick. I am obsessed with books and no one knows how I got this way. Or do they?
It's my use of the term "breeds" unqualified in the first sentence of this entry that should tip you off. I'm up to something. As usual. Breeding as usual. What interests me about this set of readings is the way that feminized space becomes the place where a meeting of cultures--even creolization perhaps---can happen on terms that are somehow no longer gendered...even though they are happening...supposedly in my womb...which is the ocean, which makes the nation, and a profit somehow. Right. So in the case of Wilson Harris's book the space of possible cultural mixing is a womb. Though I am intrigued by this idea of making space through relationships I am confused about how Harris's analysis of Ellison's Invisible Man requires that the protagonist be Anansi and Odysseus struggling through episodic voyages introduced by a feminized (and he admits)debased muse. I am not arguing that this observation is incorrect. Unfortunately one of my favorite books (Invisible Man) and one of my least favorite movies (Hustle and Flow) share the same narrative crutch. The possibility of democracy is based on the ability of a man to express himself (every man gets a verse right), but somehow this journey towards democracy depends on the availability of a slappable woman, usually as the bridge across which men of different cultures can meet. (Aside: I mean think about it Triple Six Mafia actually got an academy award (even THEY thought they were being punked) for "It's Hard Out Here for Pimp"--and OF COURSE the majority white men who are members of the academy voted for that, because they understand. Maintaining a violent patriarchy in which the bodies of all women are property is HARD. It requires constant violence and the work through which lies about equality become believable. Of course 36M is also really is being punked (pun(k) intended, because in that economy violence against women is just the sketching pad for the violence against the feminized black man and feminizable everyone else. Maybe it helps if you wear bright colors, hang out in miami and stay high. But you best believe if Ashton can appropriate the word punk into a household term, an academy award only makes you a houseslave (sorry Forrest Whitaker, Jaimie Foxx, Halle Berry and Officer Denzel...but you know I'm right---Hattie McDaniels backs me up), and they will use the violence you earn on my body to enslave you too...so can we just stop?)

Anyway, as I am saying I don't disagree with Harris's observation that cross cultural imaginings between men (or the action of hybrid greco-yoruba man creations)
happens in Ellison over the debased body of some woman everytime. I am just asking why that's okay. And not only does Harris seenm to portray this as a necessary and minor evil in his reading of Ellison...his entire thesis (that there is such a thing as the womb of space...where the cross-cultural imagination is produced) seems to say that this is the way that it should be! Harris doesn't exclude women from his analysis, he doesn't debase the work of female novelist to uplift the work of men, he doesn't do any of the things that during the same period Ishmael Reed and Amiri Baraka were engaged in...but in the version of the academy that I would want to create that is not grounds for any award. What I am saying is that brilliant as Harris's analysis is, the thing that I am left with is that "womb" remains an available and unproblematic term for him to use. Some part of a body of a woman remains neutral as a space, operizational as a machine (see Benitez-Rojo) and this is a problem.

Maybe this availability of the disembodied womb is related to Ty's ability to assume the nation in an analysis of race in Canada that while seeking to displace the black white binary, produces a US Canada binary that only reinscribes the hegemony of the US in deciding what race really means (which is expendability---Foucault would say...which is the production of death---Mbembe would say after). And though Bandung is supposed to be Done, a creolization that can generate a unified nation is the best case scenario in the Ropero even though one could argue that the logic of nation provides no technology for transcending imagined/inherited? heritages...in fact allit providesisa narrative in which some kind of supremacy must narrated on racial terms or otherwise. Does the nation..when feminized (so usually) become another womb in which creolization must happen? And in that case does this strange ability for a womb to operate on its own without any human being being invoked pass on to the nation in a way that erases the culpability of the state that narrates the nation through its structural violences? Does this same thing happen with an ocean that can be feminized...the atlantic, the pacific...whichever it is most convenient to normalize penetration through? My baseline question is what kind of spatial production is the invocation of the disembodied womb enabling? What would happen if we were to make space for the possibility of women, not just reproducing whatever men decide to insert into them, not just creating a landscape upon which men of different cultures meet..made one through the magic of noticed and excluded gender difference, but space where women could actually make anything, make something.
Thus the importance of Mimi Nguyen's piece on zine production from paper to pixels. Nguyen includes some of the hatemail that she recieved through which white men tried to deny her process of creating something by bringing the conversation back to their descriptions of her as exotic, rapeable, site for their continued masculinization of themselves through imagined and enacted violence. Nguyen herself is actually more interested in interrogating the means of production, denying the logic in which she would be the means through which the status quo could be reproduced. Nguyen is interested in what the difference between a love object called copy machine (the access to which she negotiates sometimes through the false possibility of sex) and a love object (or less loveable object) called laptop means. What, she asks, is the difference between stolen copywritten images and stolen pieces of html code...google searched images transplanted for other uses. Which is a good question, similar to Laura Wexler's question at the Feminist Theory Workshop this past weekend about what the difference between photography as metaphorized through light and flash and the now digital photographic relationship means. These are questions that I will show my love for by reasking and not answering completely. One thing that all these questions require is an attention to the act of making and the politics of production (see what beth coleman says about dj pedagogies)...so I'll only know if I get to make stuff..with you.
lex (your official phd candidate...what what!)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Presence, Prophecy and Reproduction: (Y)our Words Will Be (T)here

“So Who’s Giving Guarantees?: An Interview with Audre Lorde, Anita Cornwell,
“Showing Our True Colors”, Audre Lorde, 1990
“What is At Stake in Lesbian and Gay Publishing Today” , Audre Lorde, 1990
“Of Generators and Survival—Hugo Letter”, Audre Lorde, 1990
Selected Poems (in Callaloo), Audre Lorde, 1991
“Above the Wind: An Interview with Audre Lorde”, Charles H. Rowell, 1991
Healing Narratives: Women Writers Curing Cultural Dis-ease , Gay Wilentz, 2000
“Cruel Enough to Stop the Blood” Global Feminisms and the U.S. Body Politic, Or: “They Done Taken My Blues and Gone”, Karla Holloway, 2006

mama audre
how did you no
facing gale
force consent

to plant letters
like collard seeds
who new how
to ride wind
dispersing into

who did you
a line with no birth
tracing from
to St. Croix
to New Orleans
a bee-line
designed to clog machine guns
an oracle
fashioned from scraps
of cloth and ink

'i wish
you were

(up the road)"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nobody's Home: Body, Nation, Moment

Some Changes, June Jordan, 1971
Dry Victories, June Jordan, 1972
Fannie Lou Hamer, June Jordan, 1972
New Life New Room, June Jordan, 1975
"South Africa: Bringing it All Back Home", June Jordan, 1981
"Report from the Bahamas", June Jordan, 1982
"Black Folks on Nicaragua: "Leave Those Folks Alone!", June Jordan, 1983
"Love is not the Problem", June Jordan, 1983
"The Blood Shall Be a Sign Unto You: Israel and South Africa", June Jordan, 1985
"Columbia Students Protest Against Apartheid", June Jordan, 1985
"For My American Family", June Jordan, 1986
"Don't You Talk About My Momma", June Jordan, 1987
"Talking Trash: Late Capitalism, Black (Re)Productivity and Professional Basketball", Gitanjali Maharaj, 1997
“Aliens Who Are of Course Ourselves”, Alondra Nelson (2002)
“Bitter Nigger Inc.”, Tana Hargest, 2002
“The Revolution Will Be Digitized: Afrocentricity and the Digital Public Sphere”, Anna Everett, 2002
“Future Texts”, Alondra Nelson, 2002
"The Genres of Postcolonialism", Brent Hayes Edwards, 2004
“Harlem”, Gayatri Spivak, 2004
“The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses”, Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey, 2004
“Who Owns the Genome?”, Misha Agrist and Robert Cook-Deegan, 2006
Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life, Kashik Sunder Rajan, 2006
“The Science Commons in Life Science Research: Structure, Function and Value of Access to Genetic Diversity”, Robert Cook-Deegan and Tom Dedeurwaerdere, 2007

So technically I have stopped reading. The above list is either a mirage or absolute proof that I have no will power. June Jordan makes much of our rights to say YES and NO, but I want to remain a person who is far more likely to say yes. I want to live in a world where a tendency towards yes does not cause one to consent to drowning or exploding. We'll see. The themes of this weeks secret illegal reading (which has now made the exam lists I sent to my committee members on Wednesday obsolete) are reproduction (as always in the social, and in the genes), spatial relationships (to harlem, to the university, to the revolutionary socialist state, to the south african black freedom movement, to the "inner-city" and the NBA, to the nation as a possible frame) and about time (networks, futurity, black techno-mobility and digital diaspora). I haven't made up an order in which to address these, but why not start with time.

In June Jordan's brilliant book Dry Victories, addressing and ventriloquizing black children in black english is anachronistic in much the way that Alondra Nelson says Ishmael Reed is in Mumbo Jumbo. Interspersed with dialogue about and images of black soldiers in the civil war, Jordan places images from Vietnam, photos ofblack leaders assasinated in the 1960's (Medgar, Martin, Malcolm) etc. marking not only the Civil War and Vietnam as parellel losses, but also narrating the failures of the civil rights movement through the failures of reconstruction and making the point that any kind of victory that does not enable a different relationship to land itself is "dry" or bankrupt. I would recommend this book to the contributors to the "AfroFuturism" issue of Social Text edited by Alondra Nelson. The contributors seem convinced that proving the techno-savvyness of black folk (in response to the blanket assumptions of a racialized "digital divide")is a valuable thing to do, because it allows the kind of techno-mobility that must be a good thing. I would compare this imperative to prove that we(black people..and yes I am blogging as I say this) are sufficiently model is akin to the earlier imperative to prove the same through a particular narrative of "black manhood" (see the "Men of Color Call to Arms" in the Civil War...which Jordan reproduces in Dry Victories) "if we would be considered men becomes "if we would be considered nerds" or at least "if we could be considered 21st Century" and the push to narrate mobility as virture (as through the figure of the black soldier, black seaman, black scholarship boy in exile) becomes digitized (the fact that DOS is still speaking the language of master and slave disks at the time of the publication of the issue notwithstanding). The first narrative, that of black manhood at all costs meets its bankruptcy at Moynihan most visibly. As Jordan points out in "Don't You Talk About My Momma!" alongside her injunction to Danny to clean his own house, the call to want the black family to look like the supposedly modern and supposedly functional white patriarchal family means a gendered violence already...requiring the fabrication of a mythical"female-headed" sociological monster. So the question for me (through the Afrofuturists), as someone deeply committed to dispersal as digital publication through my million blogs and emails is what terms get reproduced in this technology that I participate in? Who does this pathologize? What does my compulsion topost collages and poems and essays and lists on these blogs say about what it means NOT to be web-enabled?

If the lesson of genomics is any marker (remember Gilroy's somewhat irresponsible celebration of difference of multiplied penetrability made by the mapping of the genome in Against Race...while forgetting that some of us are already interpellated into a logic of penetration justified Against our will---in the moment where is insists that Micheal Jordan is now more penetrable than Sara Baartman), then we have to be in a mode of creation that subverts the persistant narratives through which racial and gendered violence (for example) reproduces itself (or how we help reproduce it by telling it the same way). As Rajan argues convincingly in BioCapital...the genomic moment proves some of the ways that captialism operates THROUGH change and is therefore flexible enough to persist even through radically different technologies of relation.

What I am trying to say here is that as we inhabit, this place, this moment, this body newly but always visible we have to be finding ways to describe our relationships (and in describing...produce our relationships)such that we can be creating a present of reach (maybe Pat would call this a post-present...I am more reluctant to use the prefix) that acknowledges a break from our pain and realizes our unending desire.