African Studies

Elizabeth Ault’s Sale Recommendations

Image reads: use code SPRING22, Spring Sale, 50% off all in-stock books and journal issues through May 27
You have until May 27 to save 50% on in-stock books and journal issues during our Spring Sale. Still pondering what to buy? Check out Editor Elizabeth Ault’s suggestions. Use coupon SPRING22 to save.
A smiling white woman with strawberry blonde hair piled in a bun on top of her head. She is wearing red oval shaped glasses, gold hoop earrings, and a green scoop necked top with a blue neckline and a black jacket.

The most wonderful time of the year–the Spring sale! There’s something about this time of year that makes so many things, including making a meaningful dent in the TBR, seem possible. I’m thrilled to suggest some new books that themselves open up that spirit of ambitious potential as tonics for times when things may not feel so promising.

A book I know I’ll never stop recommending is Trouillot Remixed, edited by Yarimar Bonilla, Greg Beckett, and Mayanthi L. Fernandoa, a gathering of writings from across the Haitian historian and theorist Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s career that makes it easy to see how Trouillot’s influence spanned diverse fields and conversations, centering the Black Caribbean and the ongoingness of coloniality in thinking about anthropology, world history, capitalism, and more. There isn’t a political or intellectual project I can imagine that wouldn’t benefit from Trouillot’s insights.

Cover of Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media by micha cárdenas. Cover is blue with 7 people on it, and a center person is pointing.

It’s also a fantastic time for feminist media studies! We’ve got so many new books, including two amazing coedited collections that reconsider canonical male figures from feminist perspectives–Re-Understanding Media, edited by Sarah Sharma and Rianka Singh, shows what McLuhanite media theory has to learn from feminism, while Reframing Todd Haynes, edited Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, shows what the filmmaker has learned from (and contributed to) feminist theory. We’ve also got micha cardenas’s Poetic Operations, a trans feminist theory of the liberatory potential of algorithms, Rox Samer’s Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, which finds the speculative play in feminist science fiction and activist film. Nicole Erin Morse’s Selfie Aesthetics centers trans women artists like Tourmaline, whose work is featured in the Venice Biennale, to enrich the discussion around self-portraiture.

If you’re looking for a good summer read, I am really excited about Guillaume Lachenal’s The Doctor Who Would Be King, a postcolonial detective story, with an incredibly dynamic translation by Cheryl Smeall. And I can’t say enough about the amazing work Jeanne Garane has done to translate Amkoullel, the Fula Boy, the first memoir by African intellectual Amadou Hampâté Bâ about his life in colonial French West Africa, a story with many surprising turns and moving reflections.

A Beginner’s Guide to Queer African Cinema

Today we’re excited to present a guest post by Lindsey Green-Simms, author of the new book Queer African Cinemas. The book examines films produced by and about queer Africans in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, showing how these films record the fear, anxiety, and vulnerability many queer Africans experience while at the same time imagining new hopes and possibilities. Lindsey B. Green-Simms is Associate Professor of Literature at American University and author of Postcolonial Automobility: Car Culture in West Africa.

In my new book, Queer African Cinemas, I look at all the different ways queer African films have registered various forms of resistance and have shown the multiple ways that queer African subjects love, dream, negotiate, flee, and craft new worlds. The following 10 fiction films capture the difficulty of queer existence but also highlight the potentials for queer life-building and joy.  Some of them are difficult to find, but some can be streamed on platforms that many readers will be able to access.  All of the films ask us to listen carefully to subtle and quiet modes of resistance and to think about queer Africans in all of their complexity, not simply as objects of homophobia.

Dakan, dir. Mohamed Camara (Guinea, 1997)

Dakan

Dakan, the first Black African feature film to depict homosexuality, was a film that was, in many ways, ahead of its time. It opens with two high school boys, Manga and Sory, making out in Sory’s red convertible. But neither Manga nor Sory’s parents approve of their relationship. Manga is sent off to a traditional healer and then eventually married off to Oumou, a white woman. Sory, who is expected to take over his father’s lucrative business, is also married off to a woman. Dakan premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and screened primarily abroad where audiences in the diaspora were often elated to see representation of queer love on the continent. But when Dakan screened at FESPACO —the famous pan-African film festival held every other year in Burkina Faso—Camara had to change hotels every day and leave screenings early to avoid being beaten up. Likewise, when the film screened in Guinea, where local imams issued a fatwa against him, Camara narrowly escaped an angry crowd. But, despite the challenges Camara faced funding, casting, and screening the film, Dakan ends defiantly and holds out hope for the possibility that queer African love can exist, and perhaps even flourish, on the continent. It is available for streaming on Amazon, Vimeo, and Kanopy.

Karmen Geï, dir. Joseph Gaï Ramaka (Senegal, 2001)

Fig 1.01 - Karmen Gei

Karmen Geï is another pioneering queer West African film, though its queerness is not necessarily central to the plot. Karmen Geï is a Senegalese adaptation of Georges Bizet’s famous 1875 opera Carmen. In Ramaka’s film, the first ever African adaptation, the music is not opera but Afro-jazz with a host of famous African-American and Senegalese musicians creating a pulsing, improvisational jazz and drumming score. Moreover, in Karmen Geï Carmen is not an outlaw from Southern Spain caught in a love triangle between two men. Instead, Karmen is a Senegalese woman, recently released from prison after seducing the female warden, who loves both men and women but who, like all Carmens, insists on her own freedom even though it costs her. And though this artful and somewhat opaque film does not necessarily say anything directly about what it’s like to live as a queer person in Senegal, it is a beautiful portrait of refusal, love, waywardness, and eccentricity. It can be streamed on Kanopy, Vimeo and YouTube.

Stories of Our Lives, dir. Jim Chuchu (Kenya, 2014)

Fig Intro.03

The Nest Collective and Jim Chuchu did not set out to make Kenya’s first queer film but that’s precisely what happened. In 2013 members of the Nest Collective, a multidisciplinary art collective, had been traveling around Kenya collecting stories from queer-identified people for a book project called Stories of Our Lives.  They decided to turn a few of the stories into short films to show to the community of people they had interviewed. One of these shorts was shown to a curator of the Toronto International Film Festival who then asked if the Nest Collective could make more vignettes for a feature-length film. The collective agreed, and Stories was slated to show in Toronto before the film was even finished. The Stories of Our Lives film anthology consists of five emotionally charged black and white vignettes that show the different ways queer Kenyans live and love. Unfortunately, though the film was met with well-deserved critical praise internationally, it was banned in Kenya and has not been screened there. It can be rented on Vimeo.

Rafiki, dir. Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya, 2018)

Fig 4.07 - Rafiki

Rafiki is another film that was banned in Kenya, though a judge did lift the ban for seven days so that the film could be eligible for an Oscar. Theaters in the country were so packed that Rafiki became the second highest grossing Kenyan film. Based on Monica Arac de Nyeko’s prize-winning short story “Jambula Tree,” Rafiki tells the story of two girls from opposing politicians’ families who fall in love in Nairobi. The film is a gorgeous homage to the colors, sounds, and street life in Nairobi as Kahiu fills the screen with pinks, purples, and bright green and introduces us to Kenyan musicians, fashion labels, and artists. The film stands out for its vibrancy as well as for its belief in the possibility of young queer love. And though it’s difficult to see in Kenya, outside of its country of origin, it can be found on Amazon, Hulu, ShowTime, and Apple TV to name just a few.

Inxeba, dir. John Trengove (South Africa, 2017)

Fig 3.05 - Inxeba

Inxeba, or The Wound in translation, takes place on a mountain in the Eastern Cape during the Xhosa male circumcision and initiation rites known as ulwaluko. Two of the protagonists are Xolani and Vija, old friends and lovers who resume their secret queer affair every year when they journey to the mountain and act as caregivers to the young boys who come for their initiation. But when Xolani becomes the caregiver to Kwanda, a brazen, out gay boy from Johannesburg, Xolani and Vija’s desire to remain quiet is challenged. This film breaks away from the tradition of situating African queerness primarily in urban settings and asks pressing questions about the role of tradition, the premium placed on being out, and ways of disrupting the violence of heteronormative masculinity. It is currently available to stream (under the title The Wound) on Vudu, Google Play, Apple TV, and Amazon.

Kanarie, dir. Christaan Olwagen (South Africa, 2018)

Fig 3.07 - Kanarie

Kanarie is, like Karmen Geï, a film infused with musical numbers and dance sequences, but its setting and content could not be further from that of Karmen Geï. Kanarie takes place during the South African Border Wars when the apartheid regime fought insurgents in Namibia and Angola.  The war, which began in the 1960s, lasted for decades but Kanarie is set during 1984-1985 when a state of emergency was declared that led to draconian law enforcement and military operation against non-white South Africans. At the beginning of the film Johan Niemand, the small-town Boy George-obsessed protagonist is conscripted into the army and joins the Defense Force Choir, the Kanaries. Despite its heavy topic, the film is a quirky coming out story, full of 1980s pop music, set in the most unlikely of spaces, and it takes the audience on a complicated journey with Johan as he tries to understand both his own sexuality and what it means to be a white, gay South African serving in the apartheid government’s Defense Force. It is currently available to stream on the Roku Channel, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Apple TV, and Tubi.

Moffie, dir Oliver Hermanus (South Africa, 2019)

A scene from the trailer of 'Moffie'. (Screenshot: YouTube/
Portobello Productions)

(Screenshot: YouTube/ Portobello Productions)

Moffie is set slightly earlier than Kanarie but is also about a white gay South African boy who discovers his queer identity after being conscripted into the army. However, Moffie, an adaptation of André Carl van der Merwe’s semiautobiographical novel, has none of the lightness of Kanarie and follows the protagonist, Nicholas Van der Swart, through his grueling training and active duty in a particularly violent counterinsurgency unit. Even Hermanus himself admits that the film is triggering and brutal as it’s intended to depict the multiple ways the military dehumanized non-white and non-straight bodies. Thematically, the film also serves as a prequel to Hermanus’s 2011 film Skoonheid about a closeted Afrikaner man (formerly in the Defense Force) who becomes violent with another man. It is currently available to stream on Hulu, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon, and Apple TV.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore, dir Tope Oshin (Nigeria, 2018)

Fig 2.13 - We Don't Live Here Anymore

We Don’t Live Here Anymore is the first feature-length film produced by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a Nigeria-based human rights non-profit that focuses on sexual minorities. We Don’t Live Here Anymore is the second film TIERs produced – the first was the short film Hell or High Water, which is available for free on YouTube. With both films, TIERs worked with stars and directors from Nollywood, the popular Nigerian film industry, to combat homophobia and elicit compassion both for gay characters and their family members. We Don’t Live Here Anymore centers on the fallout after two teenage boys are caught together on school grounds. Rather than supporting their sons, the parents flounder. One mother decides to use her wealth and connections to paint her son as a victim. The other fails to get her son to safety soon enough. In many ways, the film is less about the two boys and more about the mothers, and it serves as a cautionary tale, as many Nollywood films do, about the failure to stand up to both internal and external homophobia. It can be streamed on Amazon and Google Play.

Walking with Shadows, dir. Aoife O’Kelly (Nigeria, 2020)

Fig 2.14 - Walking with Shadows

Walking with Shadows is a co-production between TIERs and Oya Media, the production company of the former Nigerian talk show host Funmi Iyanda. Walking with Shadows is the adaptation of Jude Dibia’s novel of the same name, the first Nigerian novel to focus on a gay protagonist. Both Iyanda and former TIERs executive director Olumide Makanjuola had long dreamed of making Dibia’s groundbreaking book into a film and when they teamed up to do so they made a beautiful rendition of this classic coming out story. The plot is straight-forward: when the successful businessman Adrian Ebele Njoko is outed by a co-worker seeking revenge, Adrian must re-evaluate his life and his relationship with his wife, family, and friends. Like Dibia’s book, the film asks audiences who might otherwise reject queer people to think about them as fully human and also provides the type of gay protagonist that is rarely represented in Nigerian film and literature. The film screened to packed theaters at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos and toured globally but has not yet been made available on streaming platforms.

Ifé, dir. Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim (Nigeria, 2020) 

Screenshot from the lesbian film Ife

(Screenshot from PM News)

Ifé is a 35-minute short film, produced in partnership with Pamela Adie’s The Equality Hub, a Lagos-based organization focusing on the rights of female sexual minorities. (Adie also made a coming out documentary, Under the Rainbow, about her own life). Ifé begins with the titular character preparing for a date with Adaora, a woman she has not yet met in person. Adaora and Ifé immediately connect and their one-night date stretches into three intimate days. Unlike other queer Nigerian films, Ifé is not about how these women’s love might affect their larger community, nor is it a film in which anyone is trying to save anyone from the supposed sins of homosexuality. Rather, Ifé, the first Nigerian film written, produced, and directed by queer women, focuses on queer women’s intimacy when it gets to exist, for just a moment, in a protected space, safely inside the walls of Ifé’s home. Ifé, along with Adie’s first film, can be rented on the Equality Hub’s own streaming platform.

Use coupon code E22GRNSM to save 30% on Queer African Cinemas by Lindsey Green-Simms.

New Books in March

Need something to read over Spring Break? Check out our amazing titles coming out this March!

In Bigger Than Life, Mary Ann Doane examines how the scalar operations of cinema, especially those of the close-up, disturb and reconfigure the spectator’s sense of place, space, and orientation. Doane traces the history of scalar transformations from early cinema to the contemporary use of digital technology.

In Poetic Operations, artist and theorist micha cárdenas considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis.

In Intimate Eating, Anita Mannur examines how notions of the culinary can create new forms of kinship, intimacy, and social and political belonging. Drawing on critical ethnic studies and queer studies, Mannur traces the ways in which people of color, queer people, and other marginalized subjects create and sustain this belonging through the formation of “intimate eating publics.”

In Warring Visions, Thy Phu explores photography from dispersed communities throughout Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora, both during and after the Vietnam War, to complicate narratives of conflict and memory. While the visual history of the Vietnam War has been dominated by American media, Phu turns to photographs circulated by the Vietnamese themselves.

In Familial Undercurrents, Afsaneh Najmabadi uncovers her family’s complex experiences of polygamous marriage to tell a larger story of the transformations of notions of love, marriage, and family life in mid-twentieth-century Iran.

In Racist Love, Leslie Bow traces the ways in which Asian Americans become objects of anxiety and desire. Conceptualizing these feelings as “racist love,” she explores how race is abstracted and then projected onto Asianized objects.

Throughout Atlantis, an Autoanthropology, Nathaniel Tarn captures this multiplicity and reaches for the uncertainties of a life lived in a dizzying array of times, cultures, and environments. Drawing on his practice as an anthropologist, he takes himself as a subject of study, examining the shape of a life devoted to the study of the whole of human culture.

In Workers Like All the Rest of Them, Elizabeth Quay Hutchison recounts the long struggle for domestic workers’ recognition and rights in Chile across the twentieth century. Hutchison traces the legal and social history of domestic workers and their rights, outlining their transition from slavery to servitude.

In Earworm and Event, Eldritch Priest questions the nature of the imagination in contemporary culture through the phenomenon of the earworm. Through a series of meditations on music, animal mentality, abstraction, and metaphor, Priest uses the earworm and the states of daydreaming, mind-wandering, and delusion it can produce to outline how music is something that is felt as thought rather than listened to.

In Scales of Captivity, Mary Pat Brady traces the figure of the captive or cast-off child in Latinx and Chicanx literature and art between chattel slavery’s final years and the mass deportations of the twenty-first century. She shows how Latinx expressive practices expose how every rescaling of economic and military power requires new modalities of capture, new ways to bracket and hedge life.

In Queer African Cinemas, Lindsey B. Green-Simms examines films produced by and about queer Africans in the first two decades of the twenty-first century in an environment of increasing antiqueer violence, efforts to criminalize homosexuality, and other state-sanctioned homophobia.

In Living Worth, Stefan Ecks draws on ethnographic research on depression and antidepressant usage in India to develop a new theory of value. Framing depressive disorder as a problem of value, Ecks traces the myriad ways antidepressants come to have value, from their ability to help make one’s life worth living to the wealth they generate in the multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical market.

In The Florida Room, Alexandra T. Vazquez listens to the music and history of Miami to offer a lush story of place and people, movement and memory, dispossession and survival. She transforms the “Florida room”—an actual architectural phenomenon—into a vibrant spatial imaginary for Miami’s musical cultures and everyday life.

In Plastic Matter, Heather Davis traces plastic’s relations to geology, media, biology, and race to show how matter itself has come to be understood as pliable, disposable, and consumable. The invention and widespread use of plastic, Davis contends, reveals the dominance of the Western orientation to matter and its assumption that matter exists to be endlessly manipulated and controlled by humans.

In Lesbian Potentiality and Feminist Media in the 1970s, Rox Samer explores how 1970s feminists took up the figure of the lesbian in broad attempts to reimagine gender and sexuality. Samer turns to feminist film, video, and science fiction literature, offering a historiographical concept called “lesbian potentiality”—a way of thinking beyond what the lesbian was, in favor of how the lesbian signified what could have come to be.

The contributors to Reframing Todd Haynes, edited by Theresa L. Geller and Julia Leyda, reassess his work in light of his long-standing feminist commitments and his exceptional career as a director of women’s films. They present multiple perspectives on Haynes’s film and television work and on his role as an artist-activist who draws on academic theorizations of gender and cinema.

In Vulgar Beauty, Mila Zuo offers a new theorization of cinematic feminine beauty by showing how mediated encounters with Chinese film and popular culture stars produce feelings of Chineseness. To illustrate this, Zuo uses the vulgar as an analytic to trace how racial, gendered, and cultural identity is imagined and produced through affect.

Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke is an extended dialogue between film scholar Michael Berry and the internationally acclaimed Chinese filmmaker. Drawing from extensive interviews and public talks, this volume offers a portrait of Jia’s life, art, and approach to filmmaking.

In this new edition of Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution, C. L. R. James tells the history of the socialist revolution led by Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

In Climatic Media, Yuriko Furuhata traces climate engineering from the early twentieth century to the present, emphasizing the legacies of Japan’s empire building and its Cold War alliance with the United States.

China in the World by Ban Wang traces the shifting concept of the Chinese state from the late nineteenth century to the present, showing how the Confucian notion of tianxia—“all under heaven”—influences China’s dedication to contributing to and exchanging with a common world.

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Q&A with Badia Ahad and Habiba Ibrahim, editors of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis”

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?

Badia Ahad, coeditor of "Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly
Badia Ahad, coeditor of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

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?

Habiba Ibrahim, coeditor of "Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly
Habiba Ibrahim, coeditor of “Black Temporality in Times of Crisis,” a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

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?

"Black Temporality in Times of Crisis," a new issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly

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.

New Books in December

The year’s wrapping up: grab our last books of 2021! 

Trouillot RemixedTrouillot Remixed gathers work from Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, including his most famous, lesser known, and hard to find writings. Together, they demonstrate Trouillot’s enduring importance to Caribbean studies, anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, and politically engaged scholarship more broadly. The volume is edited by Yarimar Bonilla, Greg Beckett, and Mayanthi L. Fernando.

In Multisituated, Kaushik Sunder Rajan proposes a reconceptualization of ethnography as a multisituated practice that speaks to the myriad communities of accountability and the demands of doing and teaching anthropology in the twenty-first century.

In Plantation Life, Tania Murray Li and Pujo Semedi examine the structure and governance of contemporary palm oil plantations in Indonesia, showing how massive forms of capitalist production and control over the palm oil industry replicate colonial-style relations that undermine citizenship.

 

Media Hot and ColdIn Media Hot and Cold, Nicole Starosielski examines the cultural dimensions of temperature and the history of thermal media such as thermostats and infrared cameras to theorize the ways heat and cold can be used as a means of communication, subjugation, and control.

In African Ecomedia, Cajetan Iheka examines the ecological footprint of media in Africa alongside the representation of environmental issues in visual culture; in doing so, he shows how African visual media such as film, photography, and sculpture deliver a unique perspective on the socio-ecological costs of media production.

In On Living with Television, Amy Holdsworth recounts her life with television to trace how the medium shapes everyday activities, our relationships with others, and our sense of time.

Toward Camden

 

In Toward Camden, Mercy Romero writes a complex and vibrant story about the largely African American and Puerto Rican Cramer Hill neighborhood in New Jersey where she grew up.

In Becoming Palestine, Gil Z. Hochberg examines how contemporary Palestinian artists, filmmakers, dancers, and activists use the archive in order to radically imagine Palestine’s future.

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New Books in November

Fall in love with our new November releases!

978-1-4780-1492-8In Multisituated, Kaushik Sunder Rajan proposes a reconceptualization of ethnography as a multisituated practice that speaks to the myriad communities of accountability and the demands of doing and teaching anthropology in the twenty-first century.

In See How We Roll, Melinda Hinkson follows the experiences of Nungarrayi, a Warlpiri woman from the central Australian desert, as she struggles to establish a new life for herself in the city of Adelaide.

Tani Barlow’s In the Event of Women outlines the stakes of what she calls “the event of women” in China—the discovery of the truth that women are the reproductive equivalent of men. This book reconsiders Alain Badiou’s concept of the event; particularly the question of whose political moment marks newly discovered truths.

Venkat_pbk_and_litho_covers.inddIn At the Limits of Cure, Bharat Jayram Venkat draws on historical and ethnographic research on tuberculosis in India, exploring what it means to be cured and what it means for a cure to be partial, temporary, or selectively effective.

The contributors to Cocaine, edited by Enrique Desmond Arias and Thomas Grisaffi, analyze the contemporary production, transit, and consumption of cocaine throughout Latin America and the illicit economy’s entanglement with local communities.

In Disaffected, Xine Yao explores the racial and sexual politics of unfeeling—affects such as coldness, insensitivity and sexual frigidity that are not recognized as feeling—as a means of survival and refusal for people of color and queer people in nineteenth-century America.

In Stories That Make History, Lynn Stephen examines the writing of Elena Poniatowska, showing how it shaped Mexican political discourse and provides a unique way of understanding contemporary Mexican history, politics, and culture.

In The Lettered Barriada, Jorell A. Meléndez-Badillo tells the story of how a cluster of self-educated workers burst into Puerto Rico’s world of letters in the aftermath of the 1898 US occupation, showing how they produced, negotiated, and deployed powerful discourses that eventually shaped Puerto Rico’s national mythology.

978-1-4780-1471-3Edited by Charlotte Brunsdon, Writings on Media collects Stuart Hall’s most important work on the media, reaffirming reaffirms his stature as an innovative media theorist while demonstrating the continuing relevance of his methods of analysis.

The contributors to Anthropology, Film Industries, Modularity, edited by Ramyar D. Rossoukh and Steven C. Caton, take an anthropological and comparative approach to capturing the diversity and growth of global film industries, bringing into relief common film production practices as well as the local contingencies and deeper cultural realities at work in every film industry.

In Hegemonic Mimicry, Kyung Hyun Kim considers the recent global success of Korean popular culture—the Korean wave of pop music, cinema, and television also known as hallyu—from a transnational and transcultural perspective.
 
Matthew H. Brown’s Indirect Subjects explores the connections between Nigeria’s booming film industry, state television, and colonial legacies that together involve spectators in global capitalism while denying them its privileges.
 
 
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In Loss and Wonder at the World’s End, Laura A. Ogden considers a wide range of people, animal, and objects together as a way to catalog the ways environmental change and colonial history are entangled in the Fuegian Archipelago of southernmost Chile and Argentina.
 
The contributors to Decay, edited by Ghassan Hage, attend to the processes and experiences of symbolic and material forms of decay in a variety of sociopolitical contexts across the globe.
 
In Radiation Sounds, Jessica A. Schwartz examines the seventy-five years of Marshallese music developed in response to the United States’ nuclear weapons testing on their homeland, showing how Marshallese singing practices make heard the harmful effects of US nuclear violence.
 
Drawing on literature along with the visual and performing arts, Anthony B. Pinn’s Interplay of Things theorizes religion as a technology for interrogating human experiences understanding the ways in which things are always involved in processes of exchange and interplay.
 

New Books in August

Don’t miss all our exciting new releases in August!

In three long-form poems and a lyrical essay, fahima ife speculates in Maroon Choreography on the afterlives of Black fugitivity, unsettling the historic knowledge of it while moving inside the ongoing afterlives of those people who disappeared themselves into rural spaces beyond the reach of slavery.

Rachel Zolf activates the last three lines of a poem by Jewish Nazi Holocaust survivor Paul Celan—“No one / bears witness for the / witness”—to theorize the poetics and im/possibility of witnessing in No One’s Witness.

In Amkoullel, the Fula Boy, Malian writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ—one of the towering figures in the literature of twentieth-century Francophone Africa—tells in striking detail the story of his youth, which was set against inter-ethnic conflict and the arrival and installation of French colonialism.

In The Politics of Decolonial Investigation Walter D. Mignolo provides a sweeping examination of how colonialty has operated around the world in its myriad forms between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries while calling for a decolonial politics that would delink from all forms of Western knowledge.

Laurence Coderre explores the material culture of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Newborn Socialist Things to show how it paved the way for rampant commodification and consumption in contemporary China.

Carolyn Hardin offers a new way of understanding arbitrage—the trading practice that involves buying assets in one market at a cheap price and immediately selling them in another market for a profit—as a means of showing how its reliance upon taking on risk is fundamental to financial markets in Capturing Finance.

Monica Huerta draws on her experiences growing up in her family’s Mexican restaurants and her life as an academic in Magical Habits to sketch out habits of living that allow us to consider what it means to live with history as we are caught up in it and how those histories bear on our capacities to make sense of our lives.

The contributors to Long Term, edited by Scott Herring and Lee Wallace, use the tension between the popular embrace and legalization of same-sex marriage and the queer critique of homonormativity as an opportunity to examine the myriad forms of queer commitments and their durational aspect.

In Domestic Contradictions Priya Kandaswamy brings together two crucial moments in welfare history—the advent of the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996—to show how they each targeted Black women through negative stereotyping and normative assumptions about gender, race, and citizenship.

In Policing Protest Paul A. Passavant explores how the policing of protest in the United States has become increasingly hostile since the late 1990s, moving away from strategies that protect protestors toward militaristic practices designed to suppress legal protests.

In A Black Intellectual’s Odyssey Martin Kilson—the first tenured African American professor at Harvard—takes readers on a fascinating journey from his upbringing in a small Pennsylvania mill town to his experiences as an undergraduate to pursuing graduate study at Harvard before spending his entire career there as a faculty member.

In Whiteness Interrupted, Marcus Bell presents a revealing portrait of white teachers in majority Black schools to outline how white racial identity is constructed based on localized interactions and the ways whiteness takes a different form in predominantly Black spaces.

Jennifer C. Nash examines how the figure of the “Black mother” has become a powerful political category synonymous with crisis, showing how they are often rendered into one-dimensional symbols of tragic heroism and the ground zero of Black life in Birthing Black Mothers.

Transnational Feminist Itineraries, edited by Ashwini Tambe and Millie Thayer, demonstrates the key contributions of transnational feminist theory and practice to analyzing and contesting authoritarian nationalism and the extension of global corporate power.

In Reimagining Social Medicine from the South Abigail H. Neely explores social medicine’s possibilities and limitations at one of its most important origin sites: the Pholela Community Health Centre (PCHC) in South Africa.

Religion in the Making of South Sudan by Christopher Tounsel

Christopher Tounsel is Catherine Shultz Rein Early Career Professor in the College of the Liberal Arts and Assistant Professor of History and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University. In his new book book Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan he investigates the centrality of Christian worldviews to the ideological construction of South Sudan from the early twentieth century to the present.

On July 9th, the East African nation of South Sudan will celebrate its tenth anniversary of independence. One may expect that customary nationalist symbols will be on full display in the capital city of Juba and throughout the country. The red, green and black-striped national flag adorned with its shining yellow star will wave; public officials will make commemorative speeches; and the following lyrics from the national anthem will fill the air:

“Oh God

We praise and glorify You

For Your grace on South Sudan,

Land of great abundance

Uphold us united in peace and harmony…

Oh God, bless South Sudan!”

The first stanza of ‘South Sudan Oyee’ is indicative of another foundational element of South Sudanese nationalism: Christian theology. This became apparent to me when I was in the capital city of Juba in July 2012, when raucous festivities marked the first anniversary of independence. In a speech made in the shadows of the city’s All Saints’ Cathedral, one speaker shared that after liberation hero John Garang’s death ‘God in his mercy [gave] us a Joshua with unique talent and wisdom who took us through the days of difficulty’. Joshua, in this paradigm, was President Salva Kiir. Another speaker alluded to the Hebrew captivity in Egypt by thanking God for giving them independence, leading His children across the river, and ending their slavery. In these ways and more, it was evident that independence was more than a political occasion; it was a religious moment as well.

In Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan, I explore how Southern Sudanese intellectuals used Judeo-Christian Scriptures to frame their struggle for political self-determination. Included in the “Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora Peoples” series, the book examines how clerics, soldiers, refugees and others laid the ideological foundations of the South Sudanese nation-state. During Sudan’s lengthy postcolonial civil wars, Southern Sudanese envisioned themselves as a “chosen people” destined for liberation while Arabs and Muslims were likened to oppressors in the Biblical tradition of Babylon, Egypt, and the Philistines. South Sudan presents a unique case in African Christianity whereby ideologues aimed liberatory, nationalist Christian thought against non-white and non-Christian co-citizens.

Even after the country crossed the proverbial Jordan to entered the Promised Land of nationhood, various clerics, politicians and bloggers continued to employ Biblical framings to issues of social and political concern. These individuals, ranging from recently-deceased Archbishop Paulino Loro to President Kiir himself, articulated political theology despite the absence of Northern Sudanese Arab Muslim ‘oppressors.’ Such discursive behavior showed that South Sudanese religious nationalism is—and never was—based exclusively in anti-Islamization.

Independence, however, has been far from ‘milk and honey.’ The national anthem’s plea for God to uphold the nation in harmonious peace struck with particular irony when the young nation became embroiled in an ethnically divisive civil war in December 2013. Tens of thousands lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes. What became of the liberation theology that was supposed to reach its poetic conclusion with political sovereignty? While the conflict debunked any notion that Southerners felt a sense of pan-Christian solidarity strong enough to subsume ethnicity or prevent ethnic tension, it also produced a dynamic crucible of religious thought. Religious thought still functioned as a political technology despite the changed scope of who and what constituted us and them, good and evil, heroes and villains. Despite the trials that have characterized freedom’s first decade, South Sudanese have not forsaken the idea that the spiritual is intimately connected with the material, or that Scripture is a useful political resource with a pertinent word for every situation. 

As South Sudan prepares for its decennial next month, the prospects for the country’s second decade are filled with uncertainties. Though the civil war is officially over, will relations between the Dinka and the Nuer—the two primary ethnic groups engaged in the conflict—improve or decline? How long will it take for the country to healthily emerge from the COVID-19 crisis? How will South Sudan relate to its former enemy Sudan now that its longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir is no longer in power? Though the answers to these questions remain to be seen, history suggests this South Sudanese will continue to inject theology into public, political discourse. While the United States has displayed how destructive and divisive Christian nationalism can be, South Sudan may offer a more constructive interplay of religion, state, faith and politics.

Read the introduction to Chosen Peoples free online and save 30% on the paperback edition with the coupon code E21TNSL.

New Books in May

As you finish up the semester, considering rewarding yourself with new books! Here’s what we have coming out in May.

songbooks In Songbooks, veteran music critic and popular music scholar Eric Weisbard offers a critical guide to American popular music writing, from William Billings’s 1770 New-England-Psalm-Singer to Jay-Z’s 2010 memoir Decoded.

In Black Bodies, White Gold, Anna Arabindan-Kesson examines how cotton became a subject for nineteenth-century art by tracing the symbolic and material correlations between cotton and Black people in British and American visual culture.

Pollution is Colonialism Max Liboiron models an anticolonial scientific practice in Pollution Is Colonialism, aligned with Indigenous concepts of land, ethics, and relations to outline the entanglements of capitalism, colonialism, and environmental science.

The Genealogical Imagination by Michael Jackson juxtaposes ethnographic and imaginative writing to explore intergenerational trauma and temporality, showing how genealogy becomes a powerful model for understanding our experience of being in the world.

Editor Lisa Björkman and contributors to Bombay Brokers provide thirty-six character profiles of men and women whose knowledge and labor—which is often seen as morally suspect—are essential for navigating everyday life in Bombay, one of the world’s most complex, dynamic, and populous cities.

Christopher Tounsel investigates the centrality of Christian worldviews to the ideological construction of South Sudan from the early twentieth century to the present in Chosen Peoples.

Brian Russell Roberts dispels continental-centric US national mythologies in Borderwaters to advance an alternative image of the United States as an archipelagic nation to better reflect its claims to archipelagoes in the Pacific and Caribbean.

Palestine is throwing a party Palestine Is Throwing a Party and the Whole World Is Invited by Kareem Rabie examines how Palestine’s desire to fully integrate its economy into global markets through large-scale investment projects represented a shift away from political state building with the hope that a thriving economy would lead to a free and functioning Palestinian state.

Liz P. Y. Chee complicates understandings of Chinese medicine as timeless and unchanging in Mao’s Bestiary by historicizing the expansion of animal-based medicines in the social and political environment of early Communist China.

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In Conversation: Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, and Elizabeth Ault

Our newest “In Conversation” video features Delinda Collier, Steven Nelson, co-editor of the Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas book series, and Duke University Press editor Elizabeth Ault discussing Collier’s new book Media Primitivism: Technological Art in Africa. They highlight how technologies of art move and are adopted across space and place, how African artists have made media and medium their own, and how African artists have challenged assumptions about African art as unmediated, primal, and natural. Media Primitivism is available now for 30% off with discount code CLLIER30.