African American Studies

New Books in November

November is a huge book release month! Check out all the great new titles coming out this month. Many of them will be making their debuts at the academic conferences that are happening this month. Be sure to stop by our booths at the American Studies Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, the African Studies Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Anthropological Association, where you can pick up these and other titles for only $20 each.

In My Butch Career, Esther Newton—a pioneer figure in gay and lesbian studies—tells the compelling and disarming story of her struggle to write, teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her lesbian identity during one of the worst periods of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century.

978-1-4780-0129-4Collective Creative Actions, edited by Ryan Dennis, highlights the twenty-five-year history of Project Row Houses in Houston’s Third Ward by addressing the idea of social practice through its five pillars of art, education, social safety nets, architectural preservation, and sustainability.

In How Art Can Be Thought Allan deSouza examines the popular terminology through which art is discussed, valued, and taught, showing how pedagogical language and practices within art schools can adapt to a politicized and rapidly changing world, as well as to the demands of contemporary art within a global industry.978-1-4780-0047-1

More than fifty years after the publication of C. L. R. James’s classic Beyond a Boundary, the contributors to Marxism, Colonialism, and Cricketedited by David Featherstone, Christopher Gair, Christian Høgsbjerg, and Andrew Smith, investigate its production and reception and its implication for debates about sports, gender, aesthetics, race, popular culture, politics, imperialism, and Caribbean and English identity.

978-1-4780-0022-8.jpgFeaturing work spanning six decades, Robert Christgau’s Is It Still Good to Ya? sums up the career of legendary rock critic and longtime Village Voice stalwart Robert Christgau, whose album and concert reviews, essays, and reflections on his career tackle the whole of pop music, from Louis Armstrong to M.I.A..

In Best Practice, Kimberly Chong offers a rich ethnographic account of how a global management consultantcy translates and implements the logic of financialization in contemporary China.

Dai Jinhua’s After the Post–Cold War interrogates history, memory, and the future of China as a global economic power in relation to its Cold War past to show how the recent erasure of the country’s socialist history signifies socialism’s failure and forecloses the imagining of a future beyond that of globalized capitalism.

In After Ethnos, Tobias Rees proposes an understanding of anthropology as a philosophically and poetically oriented and fieldwork-based investigation into the human and human thought rather than a study of culture or society in which anthropology is synonymous with ethnography and fieldwork.978-1-4780-0035-8.jpg

In Unruly Visions, Gayatri Gopinath traces the interrelation of affect, aesthetics, and diaspora through an exploration of a wide range of contemporary queer visual cultural forms by South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Australian, and Latinx artists such as Tracey Moffatt, Akram Zaatari, and Allan deSouza.

In None Like Us Stephen Best offers a bold reappraisal of the critical assumptions that undergird black studies’ use of the slave past as an explanatory prism for understanding the black political present, thereby opening the circuits between past and present and charting a queer future for black study.

In An Intimate Rebuke, an ethnography of female empowerment, Laura S. Grillo offers new perspectives on how elder West African women deploy an ancient ritual in which they dance naked and slap their genitals and bare breasts to protest abuses of state power, globalization, witchcraft, rape, and other social dangers.

978-1-4780-0291-8Drawing on numerous examples from popular culture, in Empowered Sarah Banet-Weiser examines the relationship between popular feminism and popular misogyny as it plays out in advertising, online and multi-media platforms, and nonprofit and commercial campaigns, showing how feminism is often met with a backlash of harassment, assault, and institutional neglect.

Aren Z. Aizura’s Mobile Subjects examines transgender narratives about traveling for gender reassignment from 1952 to the present, showing how transgender fantasies about reinvention and mobility are racialized as white and often rely on violent colonial global divisions.

Through global case studies that explore biometric identification, border control, forensics, militarized policing, and counterterrorism, the contributors to Bodies as Evidence, edited by Mark Maguire, Ursula Rao, and Nils Zurawskishow how bodies have become critical sources of evidence that is organized and deployed to classify, recognize, and manage human life.

978-1-4780-0153-9.jpgIn Plan Colombia John Lindsay-Poland examines a 2005 massacre in Colombia, its subsequent investigation, official cover-up, and the international community’s response to outline how the U.S. military’s support for the Colombian Army contributed to atrocities while shaping the United States’s dominant model of military intervention.

Melissa Gregg’s Counterproductive explores the obsession with using productivity as the primary measure of most workers’ sense of value and success in the workplace, showing how it isolates workers from each other while erasing their collective efforts to define work limits.

Drawing on indigenous social movements and politics, contributors to A World of Many Worlds, edited by Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser, question Western epistemologies, theorize new forms of knowledge production, and critique the presumed divide between nature and culture—all in service of creating a pluriverse: a cosmos composed of many worlds partially connected through divergent political practices.

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Sanford Levinson on Public Monuments and 20th Anniversary Edition of Written in Stone

Sanford V. LevinsonSanford Levinson is Professor of Law at the University of Texas Law School. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today (with Cynthia Levinson). The 20th anniversary edition of his book Written in Stone addresses debates and conflicts over the memorialization of Confederate “heroes,” with a new preface and afterward that take account of recent events. In this guest post, Levinson meditates on some of the newest controversies, including protests surrounding UNC-Chapel Hill’s “Silent Sam” and sports team mascots.

I am immensely grateful to the Duke University Press for giving me the opportunity to publish a 20th anniversary edition of Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies, with a greatly augmented afterword (and new preface as well).  As I noted in the preface, my original suggestion in 2016, when I floated the idea of a new edition, was to prepare about 5000 words that could be submitted in August 2017, with publication taking place in late winter or early spring.  Instead, in part because of what happened in Charlottesville and afterward, the additional material totals around 20,000 words, taking into account events that occurred as late as the summer of 2018, just before the book went to press. As John Lennon is said to have said, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans!

But, already, I have sent emails to my editor, Miriam Angress, suggesting, only half-jokingly, that we begin thinking of a 25th anniversary edition in 2023, for the simple reason that the central topic—how do sometimes drastically changing societies come to terms with monuments, building names, and other such efforts by previous ruling elites to shape a certain view of the society that reflected their own hegemony?—constantly generates brand new, and challenging, examples.

So even in the relatively brief period between the time the book went to press and its publication in October, new examples have arisen from around the world.  Consider the response in Lithuania to a book written by the American granddaughter of a Lithuanian “hero” who had valiantly opposed Soviet hegemony; indeed, he was executed by the Soviets.  In the course of her research, she discovered that he had also been a vigorous anti-Semite and collaborator with Nazis during World War II. An almost full-page story in the New York Times detailed the anguish these discoveries caused the granddaughter, who had expected to write a hagiographic biography of her esteemed grandfather, but who believed that historical facts had priority.  As one might imagine, many present-day Lithuanians do not want to be told that their hero, suitably commemorated in statuary and the names of schoolhouses, might have had feet (at least) of clay. Older readers might remember the great film Who Shot Liberty Valence?, the most memorable line of which is a newspaper editor’s saying that when faced with a choice between reinforcing the legend or writing about the perhaps disillusioning truth, “print the legend.”  Memorialization is quintessentially about myth-making and preservation; suggestions to tear down, or even supply more nuance, to monuments is to attack myths that are important to lots of people. It is not surprising that they resist having their illusions (or outright delusions) shattered.  

Within the United States, students at the University of North Carolina tore down the statue of “Silent Sam,” the anonymous figure commemorating soldiers in the Confederate Army that fought to secure North Carolina’s independence from the United States (and also, of course, to maintain the system of chattel slavery).  This triggered a strong response from the conservative Republican legislature, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate outcome will be with regard to a possible restoration of the statue. The University of Mississippi quickly announced that it would change the name of one of its buildings when it was discovered that the generous benefactor who contributed to its construction (perhaps on condition that it would be named after him) had sent out racist tweets.  A California state college that memorialized “Prospector Pete” as a quintessential participant in the great California Gold Rush of 1849 decided to remove the statute (and change the name of some sports teams from the “Forty Niners”) when informed by a number of Native American students that from their perspective these invading miners were basically imperialists who had destroyed the existing Indian culture and, therefore, deserved no public honor. One might wonder if San Francisco’s professional football team will now receive any of the criticisms that have been long directed at the Washington football team’s use of a racist term as its name.  And Stanford University announced that it would change the name of the street on which it is officially located from Junipero Serra Way to Jane Stanford Way. Father Serra, the most important force behind the settlement of California by Catholic missionaries (and the missions they built throughout the state), is also now regarded by many in California as an agent of imperialism and cultural destruction.

As suggested in the new materials for the Second Edition, the rise of the #MeToo Movement has also called into question a number of namings of buildings at universities and elsewhere.  One can be confident that that many more examples will emerge in the future. One suspects that the reports discussed in the text by the New York Mayor’s commission on public monuments, or by select committees at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will be avidly read elsewhere, as will former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s truly great speech explaining the removal of  Robert E. Lee from his pedestal atop Lee Circle in that city. The physical removal provides the truly wonderful cover of the new edition of Written in Stone.

There have even been suggestions that Austin, Texas consider changing its name, given that Stephen F. Austin held slaves and that one impetus for the secession from Mexico that created the Republic of Texas over which Austin presided was to assure the maintenance of chattel slavery.  One can doubt that Austin will in fact change its name, any more than Ohio will seek a more anodyne name for its state capital honoring Columbus, the subject of significant and ambivalent discussion by the New York Mayor’s committee. The only thing one can be confident of is that the problems posed by monuments and namings will not be going away in the foreseeable future anywhere in the world.  

Read the introduction to Written in Stone free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E18STONE.

On Meridians: An Interview with Ginetta E. B. Candelario and Leslie Marie Aguilar

We are proud to be the new publisher of Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism. “Black Lives Matter” (volume 17, issue 1), the first issue published by Duke University Press, is now availablecoverimage. We recently sat down with editor Ginetta E. B. Candelario, Professor of Sociology and Latin American & Latino/a Studies at Smith College, and editorial assistant Leslie Marie Aguilar to discuss their vision for the journal’s future.

DUP: Tell us a bit about the journal’s mission.

GinettaMeridians was founded almost twenty years ago now, explicitly with the mandate and mission to publish scholarship by and about women of color, feminisms, and transnationalisms. Therefore, our philosophy is to offer a venue for interdisciplinary scholarship focused on the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, citizenship, etc. not only in the United States, but also, more broadly, transnationally and internationally. This is connected to supporting and growing the pipeline of women of color scholars and knowledge producers who are woefully underrepresented in the US academy, often in part because the questions they ask, the methodologies they use, and their theories are not status-quo-maintaining questions, methodologies, and theories. Which means that prior to Meridians, there were very few traditional disciplinary journals that were interested in their work, or that would recognize the value of the work they were doing. So like Signs, Feminist Studies, and so forth, Meridians had a broader demographic and professional development vision.

However, unlike those other feminist publications, we have always been intersectional. From the beginning, we were interested in thinking about race, nation, and transnationalism. Accordingly, our editorial philosophy is to showcase work that is fundamentally interdisciplinary, even if it’s being produced by scholars, such as myself, who might also have a disciplinary home. I’m a sociologist who is also a Latin Americanist, a Latin@ studies scholar, and a women’s studies scholar. I embrace my sociology identity, but I have never published in a sociology journal, and I probably wouldn’t, because it’s typically not a welcoming intellectual space or a home for the kind of work that I’m interested in doing.

We think women of color epistemologies are expressed through multiple genres. Meridians is unique in the sense that it offers a space for both evidence-based, research-based scholarship alongside creative and cultural work—everything from poetry to visual images, whether it’s photography, or paintings, or one-dimensional reproductions of three-dimensional works, to memoir and creative non-fiction kinds of work. We view each of these genres as equally valuable forms of knowledge. In any given issue, you’ll see a research-based piece followed by a poem that is speaking to similar or related concerns that the research piece is exploring in another way. So the philosophy then is really to showcase women of color knowledge production in all these genres and all these forms.

Leslie: This philosophy also drives our desire to increase creative writing as a key component of Meridians. Part of my being brought on board, as a poet, was to vet creative writing and poetry submissions, but it was also to increase Meridians’s visibility within my own networks and within the larger group of activist artists as well. Bridging the gap that typically exists between scholars, activists, and artists is what we’re hoping to accomplish with Meridians. I think that’s a great way that our roles complement one another—Ginetta is the scholar and I’m the creative writer.

So even on our masthead, it’s apparent that we’re trying to create and curate an intersectional space for knowledge production. That’s our vision moving forward, to braid all of these ideas in different forms of knowledge production into the cohesive project that is Meridians.

Moreover, we are committed to making the content of our journal as openly available as possible. Our recently redesigned website will showcase multimedia work related to our published content. So, for example, one of our contributors from 17:1 submitted a poem that is actually a spoken word piece. It’s one dimensional when it’s on the page; but instead of having the poem remain a static object, we invited the contributor to record herself performing the piece. We plan to host her recording on our website so that it is openly available to subscribers and would-be readers of the journal. This endeavor is meant to highlight the different ways our readership encounters the pieces published in Meridians. You don’t necessarily just have to experience them on the written page. There are different emotions elicited whether you are reading an article, or seeing a photograph, or hearing a spoken-word poem. So, in a lot of ways it’s an activist agenda.

DUP:  Ginetta, tell us about your role as editor and your overall goals for the publication.

Ginetta: I am the fourth faculty editor of the journal. However, I’ve been involved with Meridians from its inception actually, because I joined the faculty at Smith College just after Meridians was conceived, if you will, and was there when it was birthed on campus. It’s the brainchild, the baby, of what used to be the Women’s Studies program. The first editorial group was a collective of Smith faculty (whose names are listed on our masthead, by the way). From there they expanded into a Smith-Wesleyan collective because Wesleyan University Press agreed to publish Meridians. Thus, after I was published in Meridians Volume 1, Number 1, I became part of what was then the Smith-Wesleyan Editorial Group.

Now, as editor, my role is establishing the intellectual vision of the journal moving forward. I’m a Latin Americanist who also does Afro-diasporic work, a Latin@ studies scholar who does feminist work, and a women’s studies scholar who does woman of color work, so my networks are somewhat different than my predecessors. I am really interested in growing the existing transnational part of our journal’s mandate and, by extension, its multilingualism. Having languages other than English represented in our submissions, whether those are scholarly essays or creative work, is important to us. We are moving in that direction already.

DUP: What are some of the highlights over the past year in your role as editor?

Ginetta: We recently transitioned to Duke University Press, so our first year working together was really about closing out the relationship with our former publisher and fulfilling commitments. In some ways Leslie’s and my first issues were 16:1 and 16:2, but they didn’t feel like they were truly ours, because we were finishing someone else’s recipe. That’s why in my “Editor’s Introduction” to 17:1, I say that it really feels like our first issue—because we curated it fully, and those contributions came in under our editorship.

Another highlight is that we’ve reconstituted our Editorial Advisory Board into a Smith-Duke board to honor and celebrate the relationship with Duke University Press.

Finally, we also instituted the Paula J. Giddings Best Essay Award that we’ll be presenting for the first time at this year’s National Women’s Studies Association conference. Paula will be present to deliver the award to the junior scholar whose article was selected by our Editorial Advisory Board.

Leslie: Another highlight for the journal has been bringing back student internships and providing cocurricular opportunities for Smith College students. We are providing pathways to professionalization, consistent with Meridians’s mandate to mentor women of color. Reinstituting these internships is one way that we’re amplifying Smith’s mission to educate women of promise for lives of distinction, but also to diversify the pipeline for the larger publishing community. Seeing our interns blossom has been a highlight for me as their supervisor, and I am looking forward to seeing where they’ll go after having Meridians as a guide and a reference. That’s been something we’ve been really proud of this past year.

DUP: How do you see the journal evolving over the next few years?

Ginetta: A central agenda for us is to internationalize the transnational aspect of the journal. One of the things that we are moving to next, in terms of our priorities, is reconfiguring our Transnational Advisory Board so that half of the board comprises scholars, cultural workers, and knowledge producers located outside the United States, in the major regions of Africa, in the Indian subcontinent, in China, the Middle East, and the Asian Pacific Island area. Not only will they contribute to the work we’re doing, but Meridians will be visible in the worlds that these individuals are inhabiting as knowledge producers across the globe. The hope is not just that we will be part of the conversations that are happening in those places but also that folks producing there will send their submissions to us. That is one of our big agendas: growing our international presence and the presence of the international in our journal.

Leslie: Also, part of our forward vision is to highlight the founding goals of Meridians. This is evident in our decision to bring back subsections—“In the Archives,” “Counterpoint,” “Media Matters,” etc.—within the journal. There’s something sort of poetic in that choice, a retrospective looking back in order to see where we’re headed.

DUP: Tell me more about your first fully curated issue of Meridians.

Ginetta: “Black Lives Matter,” Volume 17, Number 1, is the first issue that we fully curated. It is a black women’s activism and resiliency issue, because that’s where we’re at in this historical moment. This issue both commemorates and historicizes the presence and work of these feminists in the US and elsewhere across the world and their ties to us—the fact that we are part of a broader international transnational feminist community of knowledge producers, and that we’ve been influencing one another and supporting one another. We’re trying to honor and commemorate while also sustain hope moving forward. We’re very excited about the issue.

DUP: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

Leslie: We’re in the process of developing a creative writing award at the moment. If you’re accepted into the journal you’re automatically in the pool of applicants for this particular award. We’re still working on the finer details, but that’s where Meridians is hoping to go, in order to highlight the creative aspect of Meridians, and showcase it a bit more moving forward.

 

 

Black Marriage

dif_29_2_coverThe most recent issue of differences, “Black Marriage,” edited by Ann duCille, is now available.

Marriage has been a contested term in African American studies. Contributors to this special issue address the subject of “black marriage,” broadly conceived and imaginatively considered from different vantage points. Historically, some scholars have maintained that the systematic enslavement of Africans completely undermined and effectively destroyed the institutions of heteropatriarchal marriage and family, while others have insisted that slaves found creative ways to be together, love each other, and build enduring conjugal relationships and family networks in spite of legal prohibitions against marriage, forced separations, and other hardships of the plantation system. Still others have pointed out that not all African Americans were slaves and that free black men and women formed stable marriages, fashioned strong nuclear and extended families, and established thriving black communities in antebellum cities in both the North and the South.

Against the backdrop of such scholarship, contributors look back to scholarly, legal, and literary treatments of the marriage question and address current concerns, from Beyoncé’s music and marriage to the issues of interracial coupling, marriage equality, and the much discussed decline in African American marriage rates.

Read the introduction, “Black Marriage and Meaning from Antoney and Isabella to ‘Beyoncé and Her Husband,'” made freely available.

978-1-4780-0048-8Ann duCille is also author of the new book Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV. In it, she combines cultural critique with personal reflections on growing up with the new medium of TV to examine how televisual representations of African Americans have changed over the last sixty years. Whether explaining how watching Shirley Temple led her to question her own self-worth or how televisual representation functions as a form of racial profiling, duCille traces the real-life social and political repercussions of the portrayal and presence of African Americans on television.

978-0-8223-5008-8Also of interest is the book Inequalities of Love: College-Educated Black Women and the Barriers to Romance and Family by Averil Y. Clarke. While conventional wisdom suggests that all women, regardless of race, must sacrifice romance and family for advanced educations and professional careers, Clarke’s research reveals that educated black women’s disadvantages in romance and starting a family are consequences of a system of racial inequality and discrimination. Her discussion of the inequities that black women experience in romance highlights the connections between individuals’ sexual and reproductive decisions, their performance of professional or elite class identities, and the avoidance of racial stigma.

New Books in September

Welcome to September! As the new academic year begins, we’ve got some great new books for you to dig into.

978-1-4780-0081-5Imani Perry’s Vexy Thing recenters patriarchy to contemporary discussions of feminism through a social and literary analysis of cultural artifacts—ranging from nineteenth-century slavery court cases and historical vignettes to literature and contemporary art—from the Enlightenment to the present.

Providing a history of experimental methods and frameworks in anthropology from the 1920s to the present, Michael M. J. Fischer’s Anthropology in the Meantime draws on his real world, multi-causal, multi-scale, and multi-locale research to rebuild theory for the twenty-first century.

In Jezebel Unhinged Tamura Lomax traces the historical and contemporary use of the jezebel trope in the black church and in black popular culture, showing how it disciplines black women and girls and preserves gender hierarchy, black patriarchy, and heteronormativity in black families, communities, cultures, and institutions.

978-1-4780-0021-1.jpgGathered from Rafael Campo’s over-twenty-year-career as a poet-physician, Comfort Measures Only includes eighty-eight poems—thirty of which have never been previously published in a collection—that pull back the curtain in the ER, laying bare our pain and joining us all in spellbinding moments of pathos.

In Garbage Citizenship Rosalind Fredericks traces the volatile trash politics in Dakar, Senegal, to examine urban citizenship in the context of urban austerity and democratic politics, showing how labor is a key component of infrastructural systems and how Dakar’s residents use infrastructures as a vital tool for forging collective identifies and mobilizing political action.

Gunslinger-50Edward Dorn’s Gunslinger is an anti-epic poem that follows a cast of colorful characters as they set out the American West in search of Howard Hughes. This expanded fiftieth anniversary edition of Dorn’s wild and comedic romp includes a new foreword by Marjorie Perloff, an essay by Michael Davidson, and Charles Olson’s “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn”.

In Technicolored Black feminist critic Ann duCille combines cultural critique with personal reflections on growing up with TV as a child in the Boston suburbs to examine how televisual representations of African Americans—ranging from I Love Lucy to How to Get Away with Murder—have changed over the last sixty years.

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James Baldwin’s Little Man, Little Man

Baldwin_REV_jacket_frontToday is the official publication date for the republication of James Baldwin’s only children’s book Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood.  Little Man, Little Man celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of black childhood. Now available for the first time in forty years, this new edition of Little Man, Little Man—which retains the charming original illustrations by French artist Yoran Cazac—includes a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan “TJ” Karefa-Smart and an afterword by his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart, with an introduction by Baldwin scholars Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody. In it we not only see life in 1970s Harlem from a black child’s perspective, but we also gain a fuller appreciation of the genius of one of America’s greatest writers.

Editor Nicholas Boggs told the New York Times about his discovery of an old copy of Little Man, Little Man in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library in the 1990s, when he was an undergraduate. “It wasn’t like anything else he’s written, and the more I read it, it wasn’t like anything else I’d read,” he told the Times, and it led him to begin a campaign to get the book republished. The Times notes that the reissue “could scarcely be more timely” and interviews author Jacqueline Woodson about the book. “Now that we have a children’s book, we can start people off even younger,” she told them. “It’s a book that young people can read or have read to them, but it’s also a new Baldwin for adults.”

Baldwin_66-67_crossingstreet_small

Little Man, Little Man has also been praised by Levar Burton, who says, “The prospect of reading an out-of-print children’s book by none other than James Baldwin himself is as tantalizing an invitation as I have ever been offered. And . . . it does not disappoint!”  The book has been positively reviewed in People MagazinePublishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness. Teachers and librarians are praising it as well. On her blog Ms Yingling Reads, school librarian Karen Yingling says the book will be a great teaching tool “because it is a rare primary source snapshot of a particular place and time.” We are offering a free Teacher Resource Guide that aligns with Common Core standards.

Baldwin_Fig_48_pg52_53_kitchentable

Although it is available everywhere now, the book will be officially launched in New York City from September 11-14 with several great events open to the public. The events will kick off with a symposium at New York University on September 11 featuring the book’s editors and Baldwin’s niece and nephew in conversation with several scholars. On September 13, Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts a book release and conversation among the book’s contributors along with novelist Jacqueline Woodson and writer Kia Corthon. Then on September 14, Harlem’s Sugar Hill Children’s Museum hosts TJ’s Bash, a colorful day of art-making activities, storytelling, poetry, and music for children ages 3-8. And wrapping up the weekend’s events will be an event at McNally Jackson bookstore in Williamsburg on September 15.

Preview the book by listening to Tejan Karefa-Smart read from it and watch James Baldwin himself discuss writing for children in this great video created by Dia Felix and Nicholas Boggs. Then buy the book on our website for a 30% discount using coupon code E18LMLM.

New in August

The summer is almost over, but August brings lots of great books to read while you prepare for the new semester. Check out what’s coming this month!

978-1-4780-0004-4.jpgNow available for the first time in nearly forty years, James Baldwin’s only children’s book Little Man, Little Man follows the day to day life of the four year old protagonist TJ and his friends in their 1970s Harlem neighborhood as they encounter the social realities of being black in America. Highly praised in Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, this exciting new edition is a must-buy for Baldwin fans.

In Decolonizing Extinction Juno Salazar Parreñas traces the ways in which colonialism and decolonization shape relations between humans and nonhumans at a Malaysian orangutan rehabilitation center, contending that considering rehabilitation from an orangutan perspective will shift conservation biology from ultimately violent investments in population growth and toward a feminist sense of welfare.978-1-4780-0015-0

Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s The End of the Cognitive Empire further develops his concept of the “epistemologies of the South,” in which he outlines a theoretical, methodological, and pedagogical framework for challenging the dominance of Eurocentric thought while showing how an embrace of the forms of knowledge of marginalized groups can lead to global justice.

Attending to the everyday lives of infrastructure across four continents, the contributors to The Promise of Infrastructure, edited by Nikhil Anand and Akhil Gupta, demonstrate how infrastructure such as roads, power lines, and water pipes offer a productive site for generating new ways to theorize time, politics, and promise.

978-1-4780-0006-8In The Blue Clerk award-winning poet Dionne Brand explores memory, language, culture, and the nature of writing through a series of haunting prose poems that contain dialogues between the figure of the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is tasked with managing the poet’s discarded attempts at writing.

Radhika Mongia’s Indian Migration and Empire outlines the colonial genealogy of the modern nation-state by tracing how the British Empire monopolized control over migration, showing how between its abolition of slavery in 1834 and World War One, the regulation of Indians moving throughout the Commonwealth linked migration with nationality and state sovereignty.

In Experimental Practice Dimitris Papadopoulos explores the potential for building new forms of political and social movements through the reconfiguration of the material conditions of existence.

Melissa Hackman’s Desire Work traces the experiences of Pentecostal “ex-gay” men in Cape Town, South Africa, as they attempted to cure their homosexuality, forge a heterosexual masculinity, and enter into heterosexual marriage through various forms emotional, bodily, and religious work.

In Double Negative Racquel J. Gates examines the potential of so-called negative representations of African Americans in film and TV, from Coming to America to Basketball Wives and Empire, showing how such representations can strategically pose questions about blackness, black culture, and American society in ways that more respectable ones cannot.

978-1-4780-0025-9.jpgIn her impassioned, analytical, playful, and irreverent book Laughing at the Devil, theologian Amy Laura Hall takes up Julian of Norwich’s call to laugh at the Devil as a means to transform a setting of dread and fear into the means to create hope, solidarity, and resistance.

The contributors to Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, edited by Carole McGranahan and John Collins, examine how people live in and with empire, presenting ethnographic scholarship from across U.S. imperial formations, from the Mohawk Nation, Korea, and the Philippines to Guantánamo and the hills of New Jersey.

In Across Oceans of Law Renisa Mawani charts the story of the Komagata Maru—a steamship that left Hong Kong for Vancouver in 1914 carrying 376 Punjabi immigrants who were denied entry into Canada—to illustrate imperialism’s racial, legal, spatial, and temporal dynamics and how oceans operate as sites of jurisdictional and colonial contest.

Micol Seigel’s Violence Work redefines policing as “violence work,” showing how it is shaped by its role of channeling state violence and how its status as a civilian institution obscures its ties to militarization.

The contributors to Constructing the Pluriverse, a volume edited by Bernd Reiter, explore how non-Western, pluriversal approaches to core questions in the social sciences and humanities can help to dramatically rethink the relationship between knowledge and power.

978-1-4780-0024-2.jpgStraight A’s features personal narratives of Asian American undergraduate students at Harvard University in which they reflect on their shared experiences with discrimination, stereotypes, immigrant communities, their relationship to their Asian heritage, and the difficulties that come with being expected to reach high levels of achievement. This timely new book edited by Christine Yano and Neal Adolph Akatsuka will help inform current debates about Asian American students in elite educational institutions.

In Migrants and City-Making Ayşe Çağlar and Nina Glick Schiller trace the lived experiences of migrants in three cities struggling to regain their former standing, showing how they live and work in their new cities in ways that require them to negotiate the unequal networks of power that connect their lives to regional, national, and global institutions.

In 1968 Mexico Susana Draper puts the events and aftermath of 1968 Mexico into a global picture and counters the dominant cultural narratives of 1968 by giving voice to the Mexican Marxist philosophers, political prisoners, and women who participated in the movement and inspired alternative forms of political participation.

Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe, the latest volume of MoMA’s Primary Documents edited by Ana Janevski, Roxana Marcoci, and Ksenia Nouril, reflects on the effects that communism’s disintegration across Central and Eastern Europe—including the Soviet Union’s fifteen republics—had on the art practices, criticism, and cultural production of the following decades.

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New Books in May

The semester is ending, graduates are heading off to bright futures, and we are bringing out more great scholarly books. Check out the titles we have coming out in May.

In Althusser, The Infinite Farewell Emilio de Ípola proposes an original reading of Althusser in which he shows how Althusser’s oeuvre is divided between two different projects: that of his canonical works, and a second subterranean current of thought that runs throughout his entire oeuvre and which only gained explicit expression in his later work.

978-0-8223-7079-6.jpgIn Cow in The Elevator Tulasi Srinivas uses the concept of wonder—feelings of amazement at being overcome by the unexpected and sublime—to examine how residents of Banglore, India pursue wonder by practicing Hindu religious rituals as a way to accept and resist neoliberal capitalism.

In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines the literary and artistic work of feminist, queer antiracist activists who were imprisoned or became fugitives in the United States during the 1970s, showing how they were among the first to theorize and make visible the co-constitutive symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and racialized mass-incarceration.

978-0-8223-7130-4.jpgSusan Murray’s Bright Signals traces four decades of technological, cultural, and aesthetic debates about the possibility, use, and meaning of color television within the broader history of twentieth-century visual culture.

In Colonial Lives of Property Brenna Bhandar examines how the emergence of modern property law contributed to the formation of racial subjects in settler colonies, showing how the colonial appropriation of indigenous lands depends upon ideologies of European racial superiority as well as legal narratives that equated civilized life with English concepts of property.

Lyndon K. Gill’s Erotic Islands foregrounds a queer presence in foundational elements of Trinidad and Tobago’s national imaginary—Carnival masquerade design, Calypso musicianship, and queer HIV/AIDS activism—to show how same-sex desire provides the means for the nation’s queer population to develop survival and community building strategies.

978-0-8223-7087-1.jpgIn Ontological Terror Calvin L. Warren intervenes in Afro-pessimism, Heideggerian metaphysics, and black humanist philosophy, illustrating how blacks embody a metaphysical nothing while showing how this nothingness destabilizes whiteness, makes blacks a target of violence, and explains why humanism has failed to achieve equality for blacks.

In Empire of Neglect Christopher Taylor shows why nineteenth-century British West Indian letters were remarkably un-British by exploring how West Indians reoriented their affective, cultural, and political worlds toward the Americas in response to the liberalization of the British Empire and the resulting imperial neglect.

A sensitive ethnography of psychotherapy in Putin’s Russia, Shock Therapy by Tomas Matza offers profound insights into how the Soviet collapse not only reshaped Russia’s political system but also everyday understandings of self and other.

Drawing on over 300 prosecutions of sex acts in colonial New Spain between 1530 and 1821, in Sins against Nature Zeb Tortorici shows how courts used the concept “against nature” to try those accused of sodomy, bestiality, and other sex acts, thereby demonstrating how the archive influences understandings of bodies, desires, and social categories.

978-0-8223-7109-0.jpgIn On Decoloniality,Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh introduce the concept of decoloniality by providing a theoretical overview and discussing concrete examples of decolonial projects in action. The book launches a new series of the same name.

The contributors to Territories and Trajectories, edited by Diana Sorensen, propose a model of cultural production and transmission based on the global diffusion, circulation, and exchange of people, things, and ideas across time and space.

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Q&A with Magdalena J. Zaborowska, Author of Me and My House

Zabrowska2Magdalena J. Zaborowska is Professor of Afroamerican and American Studies and the John Rich Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, and the author and coeditor of several books, including James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile, also published by Duke University Press, and How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives.
Her latest book, Me and My House: James Baldwin’s Last Decade in France, uses James Baldwin’s house in the south of France as a lens through which to reconstruct his biography and to explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity in his complex and underappreciated later works.

What initially drew you to James Baldwin’s house in the South of France? What was it like the first time you visited?

Me and My HouseI first visited that house, known locally as “Chez Baldwin,” in the Provençal village of St. Paul-de-Vence in June 2000. I was fascinated with the writer’s international peregrinations and admired his cosmopolitan, decades-ahead-of-our-time approach to how one’s composite self, inflected by race, gender, sexuality, and class, was key to understanding one’s national identity within and without one’s home country. I also wanted to get a sense of the domestic environment in which he wrote his later works, and where he thrived as a black queer American artist, who was reviled both by US black nationalists and white liberals at the time.

Like most readers, I had first read the best known early Baldwiniana of 1953-63, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Giovanni’s Room, Another Country, and The Fire Next Time. The works written at Chez Baldwin, during 1971-87, were another matter. They revealed an author transformed, testing new ideas and approaches to identity, trying his hand at new forms. I wanted to look for material and tangible reasons for that transformation. I was teaching in Denmark until 2000, and thanks to Aarhus University’s support made my trip to Provençe, where I first encountered Baldwin’s most enduring home. Another draw was my interest in the interpenetration of literary and literal social spaces, or how material environments become metaphoric representations by means of evocative language and imagery on the pages of books. Perhaps, because I was an immigrant, I was curious as well about how the writer lived his life in French and in such a remote location, especially given his earlier fondness for metropolitan locations like Istanbul, New York, London or Paris. In the early 1970’s, when Baldwin moved there, St. Paul-de-Vence was a sleepy, slow-paced Provençal village, rather than the densely commercialized tourist destination it is today.

My first visit to the house and surrounding gardens in June of 2000 was a revelation on several levels. First, because of how unlike the place that Baldwin had come from it was, and second, because it made him into a homeowner and someone who lived, so to speak, on and off the land. Third, as he explains it in the little-known Architectural Digest piece on his house published just a few months before his death in 1987, as he grew older and frailer, he loved the light, peace, and quiet that filled the old structure. He had first rented rooms, and then bought, piece by piece as money from his books came in, the property from an eccentric old lady. In his last interview, literally on his deathbed, he explains that the place had led him to discover and embrace a rather mythic “peasant” mindset that he traced back to his parents, who migrated to New York from Maryland and Louisiana. He loved the ancient olive, orange, and almond trees, and enjoyed flowers and herbs that enveloped the house in a lush embrace. He was beloved by the town, and wished to be buried there after his death, which we know did not happen. The more I looked, the more I found and realized, too, that Chez Baldwin had to be a character of sorts in the book along with the writer.

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The patio in front of Baldwin’s study, with his writing/reading table. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

How did seeing the space where Baldwin lived and worked change your own perceptions of him and how did it inspire your research?

At first, I was overawed at being inside the parts of the house that were not rented out at the time (the most important space, Baldwin’s study and quarters downstairs, and in the back, were off limits, alas). Imagine, sitting on the living room couch where Baldwin once sat, or at the so-called Welcome Table in the gardens, while wearing one of his straw hats (which actually did happen, courtesy of Jill Hutchinson, who took care of the house and invited me in to see it). When I went through the interiors, I was shocked that no one wanted to salvage the material riches it still contained—books, journals, furniture, and artwork—that witnessed Baldwin’s daily life, and must have provided inspiration and tactile framework for his daily labor of writing. It struck me, too, that Baldwin must have had lots of work-related clutter, like so many of us, that he liked mantelpiece decorations arranged in symbolic manners, that he was playful; I was told of his favorite records and pillows; I looked through the possessions he left behind.

The house helped me appreciate how his acts of dwelling were inextricably intertwined with acts of literary creativity, how the rooms and gardens provided a stage on which he placed his characters (The Welcome Table) or how architectural elements of the interior and its decor appeared on the pages of his novels (Just Above My Head), not to mention his local friends’ influence on all of his works that he would read to and discuss with them regularly. The house embodied and exuded but also enabled and nurtured his fascinating, complex personality. The late Baldwin insisted on his uniqueness precisely because his blackness and queerness, his effeminate, “sissy” mannerisms made him an outcast in his home country and elsewhere. That house was a domestic and authorial haven where he could be fully himself.

I was also astonished while at Chez Baldwin that there were no sites in the United States where I could glimpse his domestic legacy; that school kids could not access the private life of one of the greatest twentieth-century American writers. On the other hand, that fact was not at all surprising, for until recently, the matter of African diasporic artistic legacies has not been preserved, cherished, and memorialized. Quite the opposite, material remnants of black lives have been systematically erased, demolished, and ignored.

My immigrant origins and early work on immigrant women writers provided another inspiration. Years before I arrived in St.Paul-de-Vence, I had visited Maria Kuncewiczowa’s house, known as “Kuncewiczowka,” in the town of Kazimierz on the Vistula in Poland. In fact, I ended up spending a night there, and while on subsequent visits noticed how fast it was becoming a cultural epicenter for the region, drawing authors, visual artists, and actors. That nothing similar was happening with Baldwin’s legacy either in France or in the United States was painful to behold. That early experience, my first visit to Chez Baldwin in 2000, and then a conference in Istanbul a year later, led me to Baldwin’s story in Turkey. From there, where I first glimpsed the tremendous vitality of transient domestic spaces to Baldwin’s artistic vision, no matter how remote from his birthplace of Harlem, it only made sense to return to St. Paul-de-Vence and pick up where I had started something that made sense only a decade later.

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The welcome table and books in Baldwin’s “last room,” an upstairs living room that was transformed into his bedroom during the final few months of his life. Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska, 2000.

Baldwin’s works from this period (1971-1987) are underappreciated, both by readers and scholars, compared to his earlier works. Why do you think this is? What can readers and scholars learn about Baldwin from his later works?

These works are bold and complex, and much ahead of their time, as their largely superficial and negative reviews, or homophobic responses to them by the likes of Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice (1968), demonstrate all too clearly. No Name in the Street (1972), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), The Devil Finds Work (1976), Just Above My Head (1979), The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), and the unpublished play The Welcome Table (1987) ushered in a new Baldwin, more complex and mature as an author, one who became disillusioned growing older as a black queer American, who had no choice but to live abroad to get his work done and to feel safe. The latter issue is often overlooked, especially by those who think it somehow uncool that, in his later life, the activist Baldwin, who came from dire poverty in Harlem, was a bourgie owner of a fancy property in France, where he entertained lavishly, and kept lovers and an entourage of hangers-on. This attitude may have something to do with the kind of politics of respectability on both sides of the proverbial US color line then. Along with the stifling, binary, hetero-patriarchal, misogynist, mainstream social norms that often masqueraded as patriotism, nationalism, or ethnocentrism, that attitude made him an outcast and rendered him, in a sense, homeless in the US. And Baldwin, of course, being who he was, wrote vehemently against all these oppressive politics in his later works.

I think that today we should be happy for his rags-to-riches story, and celebrate the fact that he had found a haven where he was cherished and nurtured and was able to write some of his most interesting works. As many of his letters to friends and family evidence, he was acutely aware that his portrayal of queer and interracial love and sex in Another Country and Just Above My Head not only angered but also threatened both black nationalists, who despised his sexuality and integrationist views, and the so-called white liberals, who objected to his candor concerning their complicity in national race relations and what they perceived as his “black anger.” These later works are daring both in terms of content and narrative structure, characterization, and imagery. They reveal a writer who wants to grow and experiment, and who is not afraid to test new waters. Baldwin considered his last novel his best, for example. I agree, for the more one reads Just Above My Head, the more its formal and thematic radicalism becomes clear and compelling (move over postmodernism…). Another matter is that reading late Baldwin requires work and intellectual willingness to be challenged, if not changed. You cannot encapsulate any of his ideas in 140 characters; you have to fight for who you can become thanks to his literary witnessing. That’s what great literature has always done, and that’s why we find his writings so relevant to our racially and politically troubled moment today.

You suggest that because of his gender and sexuality, not many scholars have written about the role of domesticity in Baldwin’s writing. How does a familiarity with Baldwin’s house in France help us understand more about the domestic themes (?) in his later works?

Queer domestic life, not to mention doubly-marginalized black queer or queer of color home-making, has been a taboo in US culture. As Baldwin writes in many of his essays, there are racial and sexual secrets and myths undergirding American cultural and social history that sharply cut across racial and class lines. He shows us how the official, traditional representations of how black and white Americans have envisaged domesticity since the mid-twentieth century have been superficial, small-minded, and provincial at best. Crafted to uphold the myth of the ideal national house, they may let us, for example, learn about Alice B. Toklas and Gertude Stein. But since these eccentric women lived as lesbians in Paris and not in Pittsburgh, we are supposed to chalk their lives up to having been inflected, if not tainted, by foreign, indeed, perverse “European” freakishness. Such expulsions of gender and sexual identity beyond the borders of the national house in the portrayals of cultural icons like Baldwin strip them of their complexity and adulterate their art. For example, even in the recently popular Raul Peck’s art film, “I Am Not Your Negro,” we encounter the so-called “Baldwin brand,” or the desexualized race man, rather than the intersectionality-promoting radical, who exploded binaries of identity, and by 1985-87 advocated for domesticating androgyny and black queer sex both in his works and on the pages of Playboy magazine. To those who would not accept him even today, and there are many, the radical better remain hidden at Chez Baldwin.

James Baldwin’s house in France was recently destroyed to make room for luxury condos. What do you think has been lost with that destruction?

The demolition of Chez Baldwin demonstrates yet again the power of capital over human need. The brutal erasure of that house strives to make our collective desire to connect with each other by means of affect and by preserving material places and remnants of lives that matter to us, that we love and want to keep tangible, insignificant. (Think of Rosa Parks’s house in Detroit, which was recently slated for demolition, and was saved only by having been moved to Berlin, where it now thrives as a popular museum.) It also means that there will be no brick-and-mortar museum for this writer, for there are no comparable sites in the US; the demolition makes France look bad, too, given that Baldwin was a recipient of its highest distinction, the Legion of Honor. Baldwin’s wish for his house was that it become a retreat for writers; there were plans and parties, and money, ready to implement his vision. That this did not happen demonstrates astonishing lack of imagination, as well as the sad reality of unequal valuation of legacies that still propels racialized politics of archiving, preservation, and memorialization. Among over seventy writers’ houses open to the public in the US today, there are only two devoted to African Americans. For all the sweat and blood its gestation and birth have taken, I am thrilled that some of Baldwin’s domesticity survives on the pages of my book.

What will happen to Baldwin’s “material archive”—all his belongings from the now-destroyed house? What can we learn from his day-to-day possessions? Is there a particular object that is most special to you?

Thanks to the aforementioned late David Baldwin’s partner, Jill Hutchinson, to whom he entrusted the care of the house he had inherited from James in 1987, most of the contents have been rescued from ending up in the trash when the property was lost. My own painstaking efforts to preserve the Chez Baldwin archive in digital form since 2000 have also opened a way for it to be considered for acquisition by a notable US institution. (I am unable to disclose the details at the moment.) I am returning to St. Paul-de-Vence next July to document a few more artifacts that were given by Baldwin to members of the Roux family; I am also in contact with a new entity there, Les Amis de la Maison-Baldwin, who has been fundraising to host exhibits and maintain a cultural center devoted to the writer.

My favorite artifact is the welcome table from Baldwin’s last room that Hutchinson has preserved at her own house, its surface imprinted with rings left by drinking glasses, scratches, and indentations marking various moments in Baldwin’s life that we will never know. Positively obsessed with making the only material remnants of Baldwin’s domesticity available to a wider audience, I am currently working on a companion project to Me and My House. It will yield a digital exhibit that will serve as a virtual writer’s house-museum for Baldwin in the absence of a brick-and-mortar one. I envisage it as open-access and showcasing the house and its grounds, as much as its contents. Down the road, it will be accompanied by an e-book and include other archival materials that I have amassed over the years; I am looking forward to involving graduate and undergraduate students and enlisting the wisdom of my University of Michigan colleagues in this project. I am currently mired in writing grant proposals and securing funding for it and for my upcoming research trip to Chez Baldwin. Grateful for being cheered on in these efforts by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and by my units at the University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities, and the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies and American Culture, I am also looking forward to writing more on Baldwin and collaborating again, I hope, with the marvelous folks at Duke University Press, who have helped me bring Me and My House into the worl

Head to our website where you can read the introduction to Me and My House for free. You can order Me and My House from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E18ZABOR at checkout to save.

Poem of the Week

978-0-8223-7084-0It’s National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a poem with you each Wednesday in April! Today’s choice is from Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s brand-new poetry collection M Archive, which documents the persistence of Black life after an imagined worldwide cataclysm, told from the perspective of a future researcher uncovering evidence of the conditions of late capitalism, antiblackness, & environmental crisis.

 

this thing about one body. it was the black feminist metaphysicians who first said it wouldn’t be enough. never had been enough. was not the actual scale of breathing. they were the controversial priestesses who came out and said it in a way that people could understand (which is the same as saying they were the ones who said it in a way that the foolish would ignore, and then complain about and then co-opt without ever mentioning the black feminist metaphysicians again, like with intersectionality, but that’s another
apocalypse).

the Lorde of their understanding had taught them. this work began before I was born and it will continue . . .

the university taught them through its selective genocide. one body. the unitary body. one body was not a sustainable unit for the project at hand. the project itself being black feminist metaphysics. which is to say, breathing.

hindsight is everything (and also one of the key reasons that the individual body is not a workable unit of impact), but if the biochemists had diverted their energy towards this type of theoretical antioxidant around the time of the explicit emergence of this idea (let’s say the end of the second-to-last century), everything could have been different. if the environmentalists sampling the ozone had factored this in, the possibilities would have expanded exponentially.

that wouldn’t have happened (and of course we see that it didn’t) because of the primary incompatibility. the constitutive element of individualism being adverse, if not antithetical to the dark feminine, which is to say, everything.

to put it in tweetable terms, they believed they had to hate black women in order to be themselves.

even many of the black women believed it sometimes. (which is also to say that some of the people on the planet believed they themselves were actually other than black women. which was a false and impossible belief about origin. they were all, in their origin, maintenance, and measure of survival more parts black woman than anything else.) it was like saying they were no parts water. (which they must have believed as well. you can see what they did to the water.)

the problematic core construct was that in order to be sane, which is to live in one body, which is to live one lifetime at one time, which is to disconnect from the black simultaneity of the universe, you could and must deny black femininity. and somehow breathe. the fundamental fallacy being (obvious now. obscured at the time.) that there is no separation from the black simultaneity of the universe also known as everything also known as the black feminist pragmatic intergenerational sphere. everything is everything.

they thought escaping the dark feminine was the only way to earn breathing room in this life. they were wrong.

you can have breathing and the reality of the radical black porousness of love (aka black feminist metaphysics aka us all of us, us) or you cannot. there is only both or neither. there is no either or. there is no this or that. there is only all.

this was their downfall. they hated the black women who were themselves. a suicidal form of genocide. so that was it. they could only make the planet unbreathable.

Learn more about M Archive.