In honor of the 70th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952, Random House), we are pleased to offer our Invisible Man Syllabus. The books, journal articles, and special issues in this syllabus explore the significance of the novel in relation to art, music, modernism, Blackness, psychiatry, and more.
All included articles in the syllabus are freely available through July 14. Start reading here.
“In exploring the lived experience of a black man’s cultural ‘invisibility’ almost a hundred years ago, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man remains a crucial text for understanding Black Lives Matter in relation to an American history defined by racialized violence,” says Twentieth-Century Literature editor Lee Zimmerman. “At the same time, for all its own failures of vision, the novel points to how the structures of racial invisibility have shaped what, in an American context, ‘mattering’ might mean in the first place.”
Barbara Foley, author of Duke University Press-published Wrestling with the Left: The Making of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, echoes the sentiment of the novel’s critical importance. “At once an embodiment of Cold War ideology and a proclamation of universal humanism, a searing indictment of US racism and an imaginative projection of a world beyond race, Invisible Man is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.”
Badia Ahad and Habiba Ibrahim are the editors of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly that uses crisis as a framework to explore historical and present-day Black temporalities. Contributors consider how moments of emergency shift and redefine one’s relationship to time and temporality—particularly in the material, psychic, and emotional lives of Black people. In today’s post, Ahad and Ibrahim discuss the making of this issue and what the issue can bring to academic courses and future scholarship, highlighting three articles that cover Black negotiations with specific forms of crisis. Preview the issue’s contents, including the Against the Day section, “Universities as New Battlegrounds,” available free for three months, and the editors’ introduction, made freely available; or pick up a copy.
DUP: What guided your interest in editing this special issue? What questions or problems shaped your study?
A few developments led to the making of this special issue. One is directly related to our own interests in how contemporary blackness might be thought of in terms of historical, experiential, and subjective frameworks of time. Both of our most recent monographs, Black Age: Oceanic Lifespans and the Time of Black Life and Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture, center temporality as an oft-overlooked yet critical aspect of Black being. Both works engage the historical past as a mode of transformation, reclamation, and an occasion to reconsider the predominance of what Aida Levy Hussen refers to as “traumatic time.” While we acknowledged that Black temporality was marked by ongoing and overlapping moments of crises in a negative sense, it was self-evident in the body of literature, visual art, and performance we mined in our respective works that “crises” in Black life also provided the capacity for creativity, renewal, and the imagining of liberation.
A second key development was the rise of social justice movements in the years leading up to and in 2020. The unbroken ongoingness of anti-Black brutality, along with the increasing explicitness of white nationalist sentiment, guided our interest in how to account for the temporality of the present. Broadly speaking, we were interested in how the present currently operates as a framework of analysis in Black studies. In a manner now commonplace, the present has been shaped via psychoanalytic concepts of trauma and melancholia. Repetition and incalculable loss, meanings derived from these conceptual frames, endow the present with historical density, and such temporal weightiness becomes figurative of blackness itself. The present of blackness—and blackness as the present—initiates a question: How has the formation of blackness as a modern social category relied on particular schemas of time? Is blackness still knowable as such when it isn’t mired in the ongoingness of time? Although these questions arise from the most recent years of crisis, we were especially interested in a related but different question: How do we tarry with the ongoingness of anti-Black brutality while making conceptual room for numerous other structures of time and feeling that also constitute the present? This special issue explores how the exigencies of recent years—structured through the “twin pandemics” of police brutality and COVID-19—make the mode of time conspicuous. As ongoing, quick, drawn-out, or ruptured, temporality’s conspicuousness reboots our collective attempts to theorize the past and present conditions of Black life.
By toggling between big and small structures of time, long historical patterns, and specific, localized events, the essays in this special issue insist that history matters in the face of nationalized efforts to disavow it. For many, the present-day experience of the 2010s intensified the already-palpable sense that we were living in what Saidiya Hartman has called “the afterlife of slavery”—along with the sense that afterlives are interminably long. Nested within this broad-scale afterlife was post-civil-rights-era disillusionment. Liberatory promises of the 1960s gave way to a “colorblind” discourse that disavowed the historical and structural dimensions of late-twentieth century racism. And after three decades of neoconservatism and neoliberalism converging to disempower Black communities across the United States, the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, announced the arrival of a so-called “postracial” era. From the 1970s into the second decade of the twenty-first century, colorblindness and postracialism were ideological technologies for making “history” inexpressible. In the context of such suppression, Black experiences of time—as interminable, stagnant, regressive—became a means to track specific social, cultural, political, and economic developments. Black time allows us to perceive how social processes work, along with the material, affective, and cultural influence such processes have on Black life. As the term “afterlife” suggests, Black experiences of time trouble linear and progressive schemas of historical formation. But in addition to this, Black time reveals ways of knowing that are eschewed through dominant discourse. The affective and social dimensions of time—stagnation and regression, but also the experience of counter-national temporalities—offer us a means of exploring how suppressed or disavowed aspects of life are experienced and expressed.
DUP: How do you imagine “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis” could be used in courses or as a basis for future scholarship?
This special issue builds on a remarkable body of literature that exposes how Black life has always been in tension with normative conventions of Western (European) temporal constructs. The essays in this issue offer so many entry points for either seminars or for future scholarship. Our Introduction sets forth a provocative question (“How does crisis draw us toward the precarities, but also the possibilities, of Black life?”) that could be fruitfully explored across a range of disciplines/fields as the essays demonstrate (literary studies, media/cinema studies, visual and performance studies). This issue could be used in courses that focus on the conventions and historicity of Black cultural forms and genres—music, film, speculative fiction, the slave narrative, photographic images—and ask questions about methods for studying mass and popular culture. Across all of the essays, culture is the location of emergent experience that draws our attention toward the underlying logic and structure of time. Courses that frame Black culture through either a national or transnational lens could use this issue to consider how cultural forms are related to historical development.
As we think of this issue’s contributions to Black literary and cultural studies, we are aware of what it offers to scholarship that intervenes in western philosophical concerns with human existence. In recent years, scholarship in Black studies has taken a turn toward questions of Black being, with examples ranging from Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s Becoming Human, and Kevin Quashie’s Black Aliveness. Our issue draws attention to how temporality structures Black ontology. Conceptual frameworks such as “the afterlife of slavery” (Hartman), “the wake” (Sharpe), “ontological plasticity,” (Jackson), and “aliveness” (Quashie) each explore, in significantly different ways, the inextricability of temporality from conditions of embodiment, presence, reality, and various modes of social and non-social existence. Across these works, temporality is thought of as the longue durée of transatlantic slavery and colonialism, through the epistemic terms of hierarchically organized forms of life, or as the intersubjective here-and-now. Taken together, temporality is related to not just one but multitudinous registers in which to think of Black life. In this issue, Julius B. Fleming Jr.’s essay, “Anticipating Blackness: Nina Simone, Lorraine Hansberry, and the Time of Black Ontology,” speaks most directly to the relationship between Black time and Black being as it offers its own analytical framework, “the time of black ontology.”
DUP: What are some topics that readers can expect to find covered in the issue?
When we discussed the throughline of the essays in this issue, we decided to present the works in a quasi-chronological order because it evinces the narrative of Black negotiations with specific forms of crisis over historical time, across geographic spatialities, and into imagined futures.
Sarah Stefana Smith’s “Keeping Time: Maroon Assemblages and Black Life in Crisis” weaves her personal navigation with the global pandemic and national racial unrest in 2020, petit-maroon communities in 19th century Virginia, the narrative of Harriet Jacobs, and somatic movement to form a meditation on the precarity of enslavement and emancipation through representations of flight and mobility. This essay produces a sense of warped time reflective of the warped social, political and economic conditions that structured black existence in the antebellum era and persist in our present moment.
Similarly, Tao Leigh Goffe’s piece “Stolen Life, Stolen Time: Black Temporality, Speculation and Racial Capitalism” brings together a range of media (Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, the HBO series Watchmen, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, and Khalik Allah’s Black Mother) to highlight how Black temporality as “a refusal to labor within the limits of history” frustrates the constraints of Western logics of time even when Black characters are not at the center of the narrative and, in some cases, completely absent. Goffe also draws on “maroon time” as a kind of freedom that takes the form of anticipation, reclamation, and imagination.
Margo Crawford’s “What Time Is It When You’re Black” extends the conversation around “anticipation” or the “not yet” of black life. In Crawford’s essay the black vernacular term finna signals the liminal space between the trauma of the historical past and the present by which it is shaped (“the afterlife of the afterlife”). Drawing upon the poetry of Nate Marshall, Toni Morrison’s 2015 novel God Help the Child, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen(2014) and The White Card (2019), Crawford shows that “finna-tude” is not a state of black hope but a recognition of “a new kind of grammar” that signals the possibility of emancipatory black futures.
Today we are pleased to publish our Critical University Studies Syllabus, which evolved from a Duke University Press reader’s suggestion. The articles, special issues, and books collected in this syllabus provide insight into critical inquiries of the university system and its histories, and reflect on directions for future frameworks for higher education. Topics include structural racism, gender, the uneven distribution of resources, coloniality, academic labor, and the effects of university financialization.
All journal articles, sections, and issues in this syllabus are freely available through March 31, 2022. Book introductions are always free.
As 2020 (finally!) comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the most read articles across all our journals. Check out the top 10 articles that made the list, all freely available until the end of January.
At the end of a turbulent year, we are revisiting resources pertaining to the big issues of 2020. In this post, we are re-sharing important Black Lives Matter articles, interviews, and syllabi. This is the second in a two-part series. Check out the first part here.
This staff-curated syllabus offers titles that tackle topics of political protest, resistance, and activism. Subjects include transnational social movements, spatial reclamation, student occupation, protest literature, and more. View a full list of our syllabi here.
This staff-curated syllabus explores and criticizes police violence in both contemporary and historical contexts. Topics include the militancy of policing, Black Lives Matter, carceral technologies, gender, and more. View a full list of our syllabi here.
This special issue of Public Culture (#89) identifies parallels between police and military power to argue that policing is more than merely the practice of the institution of the police but is the violence work of maintaining a specific social order.
This special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly(volume 116, issue 3) draws primarily on the US #BlackLivesMatter movement, coming to terms with the crisis in the meaning of Black politics during the post–civil rights era as evidenced in the unknown trajectories of Black protests.
As Duke University Press welcomed liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies to its publishing program, we asked founding editors Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer to discuss the open-access journal’s radical agenda and its relationship with our current climate.
This article from “Reconsidering Gender, Violence, and the State,” a special issue of Radical History Review (#126), explores the series of responses across the United States to the death of Trayvon Martin, including the birth of grassroots movements, Black Lives Matter, and state-sponsored initiatives, such as My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).
At the end of a turbulent year, we are revisiting resources pertaining to the big issues of 2020. In this post, we are re-sharing important COVID-19 articles, interviews, guest posts, and syllabi. This is the first in a two-part series.
This three-part blog series curated by the editors of AIDS and the Distribution of Crises, Jih-Fei Cheng, Alexandra Juhasz, and Nishant Shahani, offers thoughts from the book’s contributors on the relationship between the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics. Check out part two and part three.
The Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law has published several articles that address the COVID-19 global health crisis from an array of disciplinary perspectives, and we will continue updating this page with new articles. The essays explore the pandemic as a political, social, and comparative phenomenon that is likely to redefine public health, health policy, and health care politics for years to come.
This staff-curated syllabus offers books, issues, and articles that investigate different ways that care can bind together individuals and communities where larger institutions or governments fail to intervene. As we collectively deal with the implications of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and a global pandemic, questions of care and self-care have become ever more important. This syllabus shows how radical care is essential to enduring precarity and to laying the groundwork for new futures. View a full list of our syllabi here.
In this guest blog post, Leon Fink, editor of Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, discusses how the journal is responding to the COVID-19 crisis and what role labor history scholarship plays in conversations about the pandemic.
In keeping with the “Raise UP” theme of University Press Week, we’re excited to spotlight the addition of liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies, an open-access journal, to our publishing program starting with its special issue “Liquidity” this spring. The journal seeks to carve out a place for aesthetic theory and the most radical agenda of Black studies to come together in productive ways. Founding editors Alessandra Raengo and Lauren McLeod Cramer recently discussed with us the creation of liquid blackness, the importance of the journal being open access, and the journal’s relationship with our current climate.
DUP: How did liquid blackness come to be?
The liquid blackness journal began informally; it emerged from the liquid blackness research group, which Alessandra began in Fall 2013 with the support and assistance of graduate students and alumni of the doctoral program in Moving Image Studies at Georgia State University. Without an institutional mandate, the group came together in response to a curatorial project we inherited: “The LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black American Cinema tour” curated from the UCLA Film and Television archive. In the summer 2013, Matthew Bernstein, chair of Film and Media Studies at Emory University, asked Alessandra if she would co-host the tour with him. The question immediately became: how does one create the right environment for this material? Beyond gathering an audience for these films, creating an “environment” meant organizing a community experience because this collection of films constitutes a type of radical cinema made with, and from, communities of color in Los Angeles. Along with free screenings and artist talks, we hosted a series of teach-ins and community conversations in historically significant sites of political gathering in Atlanta.
At the end of the tour, Alessandra asked the students involved in this project to write about it. That first journal issue is really an expression of our commitment to two archives. First, we were thinking about giving back and giving thanks to the UCLA archival project, from which we had just benefited, by accounting for our experience of watching these works that were previously very difficult to see. At the same time, that inaugural issue was a way to begin to reflect on, and therefore assemble, a record of our own collective processes and emerging praxis. The first editorial board—Lauren McLeod Cramer, Kristin Juarez, Michele Prettyman, and Cameron Kunzelman—formed around the production of this issue. And this has been the praxis since.
From this initial gesture of “giving back” to an existing archive of Black expressive culture, while reflecting on liquid blackness as a potential emerging archive, the journal became profoundly intertwined with the group’s activities: each research project would culminate in a public event featuring a practicing artist and a call for papers. For example, the research project on Larry Clark’s Passing Through inspired a journal issue on “The Arts and Politics of the Jazz Ensemble,” the research on Arthur Jafa’s Dreams are Colder than Death prompted an issue on “Black Ontology and the Love of Blackness,” and our approach to Kahlil Joseph’s aesthetics was channeled in an issue focused on “Holding Blackness: Aesthetics of Suspension.”
Over time and through this organic approach, the journal grew into a forum for the exploration of Blackness in contemporary visual and sonic arts and popular culture at the intersection between the politics and ethics of aesthetics. “Liquidity” thus designates, among other things, a commitment to generative entanglements and to follow processes of intellectual production that are inspired by the experimental style of the jazz ensemble, which is what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney identified as a productive model for their idea of “Black study.”
DUP: How does the journal fit into our current climate?
liquid blackness became a nonprofit in 2019, so over the last year we’ve had the opportunity to make explicit some of the core values that have inspired our praxis since the beginning. Our goal is to mentor the next generation of scholars of color and other scholars fully committed to the agenda of Black studies, while creating a vibrant, extended, and sustainable community. This journal is entirely committed to the aim and scope of Black studies: centering on Blackness—Black people and Black art—and critiquing Western civilization’s attachment to the project of whiteness. As we condemn the atmospheric reach of anti-Blackness, we also make the rejection of white supremacy and privilege the goal of our scholarly pursuits.
While we are devastated by this summer’s most blatant episodes of anti-Black violence, we understand these tragedies in the context of pervasive white supremacy. Further, we refrain from expressing shock as a way to dismiss the totality of anti-Blackness. Instead, we remain focused on interrogating the political stakes of representation, to think critically about the efficacy of public statements, performances of solidarity, and analytical language that rely on the tools of oppression.
Our unwavering solidarity with voices raised in protest in the US and all over the world is inextricable from our condemnation of other expressions of violence, including the political and social neglect that caused COVID-19’s devastating effects on communities of color and academia’s persistent disregard for the true needs of these same oppressed communities. We call out white supremacy as the most denied pandemic of the modern era and insist that the work of eradicating it cannot rely on the emotional labor of the communities it has already victimized. So, at the same time we recognize these violent continuities, the journal is committed to creating space for the expression of art and scholarship that is not exclusively tethered to, and indeed may de-link from, anti-Black terror. We envision it as a place that supports art and scholarship that makes pressing historical claims for justice, recognition, and rights into new, and newly expansive, futural registers.
Since his death nearly two decades ago, W. G. Sebald’s literary star among academics and critics has risen to astounding heights. In this special issue, contributors assert that Sebald’s transformation from controversial yet obscure Germanist to seemingly permanent fixture of scholarly monographs, articles, reviews, syllabi, and conference proceedings offers an instructive glimpse behind the velvet rope of global literary eminence.
His meteoric rise, they argue, shines a light on the hegemonic role the Anglophone literary market plays in the processes that authors and their texts undergo when they migrate from a national literary market to a planetary readership.
With reflections from Tom Sellar, the current editor, and Gordon Rogoff, a founding editor, this anniversary edition honors Theater’s tradition of speculation on change and an altered society. It includes a section of excerpts from the journal’s archives in which contributors offer a vision for the future. A photo dossier considers the art of photographing live performance and theater productions, and a forum of reflections from past editors considers how the journal simultaneously served as a training organ for the emerging editors and writers who compose the editorial staff.