intro’d to Saidiya here:
oct 2016 – The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman at Duke University
co convened by J. Kameron Carter (@jkameroncarter -Dark Church: Experiments in Black Assembly) and Sarah Jane Cervenak (@sarahjanecerven – the black outdoors: https://humanitiesfutures.org/papers/the-black-outdoors-humanities-futures-after-property-and-possession/..Outdoors is an open secret of furtive meeting, where scorned flesh and scorned earth commune in scandalous arrangement. Oxygen. Carbon dioxide. Nitrogen. Face, petal, the feel of rain—what can’t be encompassed or dominated.)
3 min -j: a congregation of sorts to experiment in what we call the communion of the wise.. in an alt mode of what shall we say.. chapel ing or life together.. which is nothing less than the practice of ensemble.. which is to say.. a practice of study
j: study.. is a form of politics unhinged from property ..t.. from the proper unhinged from propertied possession.. study as congregate thought is politics w/o a locus.. and unlocussed politics or an unlocussed form of communion is what sarah and i have been calling.. the outdoors
5 min – sarah: and finally (in saying thanks) .. but this isn’t the end.. i’d like to think of thank you as resisting enclosure
sarah: we like this chapel .. the windows.. we wanted to be outside.. the sacrality of aeration.. of unbounded.. of outness itself.. our intention.. is that the undecidable local of light/sky/shadow/air is precisely what is at stake/issue.. what opens up when we abide by this atmospheric.. which is also metaphysical ambituity.. gene tumor: there is no end to out
9 min – j: mu.. that ecological condition bound up in blackness.. mu is outness.. outside ness.. if not outsider ness.. it is the outdoors.. that which resists enclosure.. to come back to churchicality.. mu you might think of as the ecc in ecclesia.. that greek term that stands behind the theological/religious idea of church.. ecc in greek means out.. clesia means roughly the called/gathered/congregated.. churchicality radicalizes the outness of the ecc into some sort of deregulated/unfenced/unwalled/unbounded relationality in the break of the political as we know it.. the politics of enclosure.. the ecc is the open.. an undercommon communion.. the surreal presence.. that consent not to be a single being.. another name for which is diaspora (the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel) .. another name still perhaps.. the black outdoors.. perhaps even.. the belly of the world.. mu is that wandering between aisles w/in but eluding constraint.. it is a rush of air.. spirit of blackness.. an alt gathering.. that blackness is somehow the practice thereof bound up we might say w what jack spice might call the practice of the outside.. gene tumor: no end to out.. the unfinished is mu.. it’s the ecc in churchicality.. the insofar
has me thinking shalom.. and that the incomplete.. unending ness of the open/outness.. is the completeness of shalom
11 min – sarah: the black outdoors is a long wish for that opening.. the great gusts of shadow where light moves and is also withheld.. an airy/earthy unsettlement of everything claimed to be held in rooms.. all of those arbitrary/regulatory distinctions between sacred/secular, home/field, church/state, yours/mine, i/we.. convened here we are all from the land of insofar.. insofarians we be
has me thinking classroom ness.. and howard/dave/alec’s convo.. on the gathering in a space
sarah: following fred moten and stefano harney.. we return to a chapel to launch this yearlong series.. the black outdoors.. moving churchically in the break beyond debt.. because we owe each other everything .. coming back to alexis gumm (?): i wish for that opening where my prayer feels as productive as my work.. where i don’t have to wish
12 min – sarah: i almost feel like saying at this point.. let’s pray.. where prayer is another name for communion/friendship/study.. where study here is nothing less than congregated/kinetic/haptic thinking.. we’re enacting what sasha engelmann would call: a numatic pact.. an otherwise congregationality.. that like a feedback loop is both an outgrowth of our writing together.. but also precedes our new matography as its condition of possibility.. the name of this feedback loop is numa/spirit/conspiracy-of-revolution/breath/atmosphere/pre-individuated-life.. what fred moten has called sociality and what saidiya hartman has called some other state of freedom..
13 min – sarah: we’re involved in an atmospheric.. an alt sanctum.. a practice of inner (inter?) animation.. an alt animacy (how sentient or alive the referent of a noun is).. the black outdoors is about this work which can’t be done alone.. the black outdoors is about that love that danish theologian soren kierkegaard.. in opposition to hegel.. was trying to work out in his famed work.. works of love.. we say.. welcome sorens of blackness.. welcome to this communion of outed outsiders.. reveling in outness.. welcome to the black outdoors
13 min – sarah: and that’s why were here.. and that’s what this project.. the black outdoors is about.. even if about ness is a slippery exercise.. that is.. to think about blackness and outdoors ness and out ness .. to engage in some congregated thinking among friends.. in the spirit of prayer.. as the spirit of congregationing otherwise.. in the spirit of prayer is the spirit of study.. which is nothing less but always more than an alt practice of getting together ..
18 min- s: part of that tradition is to produce a thought of the outside.. while in the inside.. the enclosure is so brutal.. but the practice is always about finding a way to produce an outside w/in that space.. it seems to me.. just a history of black thought.. that’s not the thought of canonical (according to or ordered by canon law -sacred books officially accepted as genuine) thinkers.. the thought of most folks is really just devoted to his labor of trying to produce and outside.. trying to create an opening.. which is often only discernible belatedly.. and it’s discernible as it becomes marked as crime or as it’s subject to a new form of enclosure that is the response to a certain kind of making/happening.. given the kind of unceasing.. onslaught of militarized violence directed against a civilian population.. i’ve been thinking a lot about the space of the *hold.. and what happens there.. for me.. part of the paradox is that the ordinary is constituted by stuff that is so terrible and impossible to bear.. and yet in that context.. people make things happen.. they continue to act/produce.. but i want to keep those two things in tension.. both the terror and the opening..
**what does it mean to experiment with living in the context of a world that is in so many ways uninhabitable..t
22 min – f: essay by foucalt called the thought of the outside.. one way to think about it.. the reason why we feel it necessary to constantly .. i don’t want to say.. go back to the hold.. but .. to renew our consciousness of being in the hold.. so to speak.. because maybe there’s a way in which the thought of the outside can only occur from the inside.. the reverence of those able to be in two places at one time.. the slave girl.. constantly trying to figure out how to be in two places at same time.. under absolute duress.. often in both places.. often the constant renewal of the terms/conditions of that inside/outside opposition debilitating in many ways in and of themselves..
23 min – f: it reminds me of.. my mom from small town in arkansas.. 300 people.. another wasn’t really a town.. so called.. country.. then people so deep in woods.. we referred to them as.. living out from .. so i’ve been trying to think of living out from the outside.. or out.. so to speak.. of that inside/outside opposition.. it’s hard to not think of yourself in some kind of infinity loop/room.. but that.. when i think of the black outdoors/outside.. i think of it as this thing which is to be out from the outside.. the conditions that would make such a thought possible.. and also necessary.. so a .. meta out.. or a ecc ecc..
25 min – f: when lived here before.. and go out w kids.. i could just always hear somebody running.. i just felt like being in those instances of being out in the woods.. that for me is where i was closest to the runaway.. and so i can’t separate the outside from.. this constant necessity and activity of running away.. of flight.. which therefore means that the outside is kind of always bringing those constraints with it.. and it’s impossible not to think about those things now.. it’s always impossible to not think about those things.. but for some reason it just seems like there are more people getting shot these days.. it’s actually not true.. but .. it just feels like it is.. so
27 min – sarah: on keith lamont getting shot in his car reading a book.. and the space of a car as domesticity/enclosure/fortress.. but the doors were already open.. *the way that blackness makes the difference of being inside and being surveilled.. that it was already a window to look into..
j: as he is sitting in his car.. the car is already caught in between the opposition of the inside and the outside.. and that opposition can’t help be a brutality.. to think beyond that dichotomy as you would say fred.. it’s out even from that.. and the kind of challenges even w that.. because it doesn’t stop the bullets from flying
28 min – s: one of things i thought was interesting from this.. out-from.. even in this space what you’re already countering is that threat of enclosure/captivity.. ie: found a way to live in the trees but couldn’t leave any marks of human habitation.. to me that’s a kind of an out-from.. so you escaped a certain kind of enclosure but that threat.. it’s a certain dance.. you’ve made this other mode of dwelling often inside the trunk of trees.. there not in a relationship w the land isn’t displaying any signs of cultivation.. but none the less.. the threat hasn’t been eliminated.. what i wrestle with..the threat/terror/violence of enclosure and the vulnerability/precarity of these makings.. and we continue to make/create because that’s all we can do.. and there’s a kind of opening.. but there’s the structural container.. the forces that are making living hard/impossible.. and that those define so many of the circumstances in which these experiments and living unfold
31 min – f: somehow i haven’t been able to make myself clear when it comes to certain things.. but i fell like it’s probably not my fault.. i don’t know that it’s possible to be clear when it comes to these kinds of things.. but let’s say.. and i get scared about saying certain kinds of stuff.. because i feel like sometimes it could seem really callous and i don’t mean/want to seem that way .. because it’s not that i don’t feel/care.. but let’s talk about it in terms of what it mean to live in a way that would reveal/show no signs of human habitation.. obviously there’s a field/space/constraint/container/bounded-space.. cause every time you were saying unbounded j i was thinking.. is that right.. i mean i remember.. chomsky used to make this really interesting distinction.. don’t think i really fully understood.. between that which was bounded but infinite.. and that which is unbounded but finite.. so.. if it’s unbounded.. it’s still finite.. and there’s a quite specific and often quite brutal finitude that structures whatever is going on w/in the general.. if we can speak of what it is to be w/in the general framework of the unbounded.. there’s never.. i mean..
33 min – f: i mean.. the whole point about escape is that it’s an activity.. it’s not an achievement.. you don’t ever get escaped.. and what that means is.. what you’re escaping from is always after you.. it’s always on you..
f: but what’s interesting to me.. but it’s hard to think/talk about.. that we can recognize that absolute horror.. the unspeakable incalculable terror and horror that accompanies the necessity of not leaving a trace of human inhabitation.. and then there’s the whole question of .. what would a life be that wasn’t interested in leaving a trace of human habitation.. so
back to on hold ness
34 min – f: so in church.. fuck the human/human-inhabitation.. to refuse that which has been refused.. and that’s what i’m interested in.. and that doesn’t mean that what’s at stake is some kind of blind/happy/celebratory attitude toward all the beautiful stuff that we’ve made under constraint.. i love all the beautiful stuff we’ve made under constraint.. but i’m pretty sure i would love all the beautiful stuff we’d make out from under constraint better.. but there’s no way to get to that.. except thru this.. we can’t go around this.. fight thru this.. and that means.. but it also means..
35 min – f: by same token.. is that anybody who thinks they can come even close to understanding.. understand how terrible the terror has been w/o understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror is wrong.. there is no calculus of the terror.. that can make a proper calculation w/o reference to that which resists it.. it’s just not possible.. so.. this is the key thing to me.. it’s like..
36 min – j: to be able to give an account of the terror.. and even an account.. so under qualification.. to approach an account of the terror.. in some sense.. it’s from a vantage point that is both.. deeply related to that terror .. but in some sense stands out from it.. in some way .. in the outness of that standing out.. is out from the out that’s conditioned by the inside itself.. in other words.. it’s already moving beyond bifurcation between the out and the in.. to give an account of the terror would be in
37 min – s: i agree.. what i’m interested in too.. and .. i’m wondering.. it’s not that you’re not clear.. i’m wondering if it’s also that i’m a historical thinker.. there have always been an endless number of beautiful models of living otherwise.. that encounter defeat and then.. must re emerge again.. so it’s not like you’re insufficiently accounting for the terror.. i think that.. maybe we’re at this kind of .. shift.. like my own thinking right now.. that we just have to be involved in that unceasing labor.. producing these new experiments in living even as defeat may continue to be a certain kind of outcome.. but it’s not.. we’re not stopped by that defeat.. escape isn’t finite.. but i think that partly.. as i’m understanding my now.. it’s in relationship to all these other nows.. and often what has met those kind of beautiful experiments is certain forms of defeat.. by the state.. by the police.. by reforming agents.. etc .. it doesn’t mean that they kill/quash.. or can stop/snuff out that process.. but that’s also part of the field too..
39 min – f: i remember when you and frank had that interview.. the position of the unthought.. and messing w jamison.. there’s a romanticism that goes w detachment around this notion of the narrative of defeat.. which he thinks specifically in relation to the league of revolutionary black workers.. it’s an insufficient account.. it’s problematic.. what if it turns out that the kinds of terror.. the particular kind of history that we’re trying to work thru.. talk about.. you as historical figure and me as ahistorical.. it’s like.. it’s not even something you can really talk about w/in a calculus of victory and defeat
41 min – f: defeat is a word that one wants to .. it seems applicable in many ways.. and then you know there’s a whole specific black christian discourse on victory.. that one wants to appeal to every once in a while.. but it just might.. part of the problem.. is the concepts we have been given in order to try and think/talk about this stuff we try and talk about.. just don’t work.. they’re inadequate/inoperative.. and it might even be the case that the concept itself is inadequate sort of mental construct.. or conceptualism itself is an inadequate sort of intellectual disposition.. it’s like.. we’re working on some other kind of stuff..t
or that we need to go ie: beyond words..
42 min – f: i feel this reading your work all the time.. *you’re saying these things.. using a given language.. but i know you’re talking about something else.. in some other language.. and so you have to work thru that.. it’s a difficult thing.. and.. i’m gonna just keep going..
see i see black studies now as reaching a kind of .. like a crisis in a certain way.. we just can’t keep going on like this.. **the conceptual apparatuses at our disposal are inadequate.. and we’re just kind of spinning our wheels in a lot of ways.. pushing up against the same hard rock so to speak.. and i think.. what it doesn’t mean that what’s needed is a new kind of theoretical disposition.. it’s really a new set of kind of moral/ethical dispositions about *how we treat one another and how we talk to one another.. and it goes against the grain of any kind of a sense of somebody being able to achieve an adequate theoretical perspective on things by themselves..
43 min – f: it’s like a great relief to realize that at the same time you realize you can’t do it.. that you realize.. i don’t have to it by myself anyway.. so whatever is inadequate about what i’m doing.. luckily you doing something.. *this is not a one person job..
44 min – s: i agree w you.. we could say that’s an inadequacy or incommensurability (not able to be judged by the same standard as something; having no common standard of measurement) between an available critical vocab and that which we’re trying to describe.. you might think about this w dubois and the general strike.. what he’s trying to describe is so vast.. and this is like ok.. maybe if i call it this.. it can bring some stuff into the view about how this is a politics of refusal against capitalism and the conditions of work.. even as it is so much more than that.. so i agree w you about that inadequacy.. i mean i think that .. i feel like i’m involved in a much more humble labor.. i think i’m trying to describe belatedly.. the things people have fought and have done.. and i’m just attending to them.. so it’s this labor of regard.. struggling w how to illuminate that.. it’s not that it’s a resource we don’t know.. but it’s an intimate labor in regard to what others have done/thought.. so.. i’m a describer
interpretive labor ness
45 min – sarah: i’m still way back at.. what does it mean to live w/o leaving a trace of human inhabitation.. the footprint taking from the water..? .. the other thing i was thinking about is this notion of authorship.. ie: when j and i started working on this stuff.. the sentences are diff now.. because you are writing as part of a group.. there is no solo ist anymore.. everything is threaded together.. and it’s deeply connected to this .. challenging of these notions of the solitary/sovereign/author.. and that the way of another kind of writing toward another world is only done.. like in that nate mackey way.. of being along side oneself.. aaron manning: the more than.. what does it mean to write and feel the.. not just the limitation of language.. also what language can hold.. how.. what language holds isn’t just at the level of meaning.. ie: gail jones is a sculpture w words.. she doesn’t just say something she does something w words..
47 min – j: and (this all) has something to do w the outdoors.. the way we’re trying to think of the outdoors.. in some sense it’s irrelevant.. the new metagraphic.. (came up w in writing together).. a form of writing.. not numatology but numatography.. a kind of write that’s a kind of enactment in practice of a kind of communion.. a writing with.. insofar the notion of the human is invested in the notion of the soul.. in that sense .. we’re trying to enact some sort of practice.. that’s out from that.. and might even say.. para human.. and thinking.. outdoors as this kind of congregation ing.. different kind of congregationality
48 min – sarah: you do something else in your work.. which is a kind of writing with.. or a sort of ethical commitment to a writing with.. that i think changes how we can work towards history.. it doesn’t feel like it’s a writing about but almost a communal composition
49 min – j: that’s just all triggered by the kinds of things you all just said.. and that inspired us to want of sort of ..do the communion as it were.. w you all to try and think about that a little bit more.. as a certain kind of .. moving against the grain of sort of thinking.. basically.. property.. thinking ownership .. and maybe this gets to the kind of crisis that you might be intimating.. w respect to black studies.. a kind of mode of inquiry.. that’s already swerved from propertization.. the notion of concept as a property or.. conceptualism as a kind of practice of property itself at the mode of thought.. and therefore is already inside a kind of field of enclosure.. t..and what does it mean to try and move otherwise from that.. another kind of inhabitation with the tree.. in the tree.. so the kind of distinction between the tree and me becomes kind of fuzzy at that point..
50 min – s: but fred.. i don’t know if you want to talk about.. the poetry.. your writing practice.. which is so rich and varied and multiple
51 min – f: i got to the point where.. i mean.. there’s so much overlap between the two things and i don’t think that.. i never felt embarrassed about being interested in theory let’s say.. i never was all that invested in being called a theoretician either.. i was just somebody who was interested in theory.. and in theory.. in that kind of general sense of people seeing/thinking about stuff and.. maybe certain movements of abstraction from what one sees/feels.. but also theory.. in the way that that term gets used when you’re in grad school and you meet certain authors.. i was always happy to be interested in doing that kind of stuff.. and i was also always happy to be interested in poetry.. and i never thought of these two things as being so utterly separate.. and the older i get.. the more impossible it is to keep them.. but i do think.. they both constitute.. in the end.. two diff forms of description.. i think it’s the same work
52 min – f: it’s funny.. it’s like.. i think you’ve got.. i think some vague sense in the world that you (s) and me had an argument has been eclipsed by some other supposed arguments.. that i don’t think people seem to care that much about the fact that we’re fighting anymore.. it wasn’t a fight.. it was like me following around my big sister while she was talking w her friends.. but
53 min – f: but one way to think about it.. people have diff approaches to things.. and a lot of it’s just kind of temperament..
(on clemson.. and calhoun’s house being right at the center of campus.. )
55 min – f: the peculiar nature of the sunnyside (my norm temperament) in regard to black social lives.. is that it’s dark.. but i’m still looking for the sunnyside.. but i know there are other people who are like.. they don’t need to look for the sunnyside.. luckily.. everybody doesn’t have to do the same thing.. and what sad ethical condition are we in when it seems like.. everybody has to do the same thing.. why does now.. everybody have to do the same thing..? all this writing.. ie: the state of this/that discipline.. all under unspoken assumption.. that all are doing the same thing and everybody not doing the thing that i’m ready to be saying.. is wrong.. no.. that’s just stupid/ridiculous.. so
56 min – f: so.. there’s a bunch of diff ways/attitude/dispositions that are necessary in order to try provide something that would approach an adequate description of who/what we are and who/what we might be..
57 min – sarah: saidiya.. in the 2nd half of scenes you offer a profound meditation on what you call ‘the incompatible predications of the freed as sovereign, indivisible, and self-possessed and as fungible and individuated subjects’ .. elab how that incompatibility plays itself out w respect to the movement from plantation to home.. and also how that movement is constantly being interrupted.. by the ungovernable assertion of the field..
58 min – s: i guess i’ll say 2 things.. and it’s a kind of a gross simplification but.. in certain liberal storeographies of slavery .. it ends w a great legal act of emancipation.. and writing scenes and writing my dissertation.. one was about the non event of emancipation because of the way in which these emergent modalities of servitude that took place w/in a discourse of freedom/rights/liberty/etc.. but i guess there was something for me more rotten at the core.. which is about the imposition of a certain regime of the subject.. that was so fundamentally defined by property.. and that being as good as it gets.. so i think it was both.. the impossibility of the achievement of those things that define a kind of liberal citizen subject in the west.. the free being excluded from that.. but then what are the kind of constituents of that subject to begin with and is that something that one wants to sign onto anyway.. and so many of the articulations of freedom.. so much of the kind of practices of the ex slave.. or the freed articulated kind of .. another imagination of freedom altogether .. so there’s the imposition of a certain regime of the subject.. and a certain conception of the domestic is crucial to the production of that subject
1:01 – sarah: when we say field.. i think that we’re .. the field on the one hand in terms of that second half of scene.. the ways in which.. what sort of post bellum citizenship looked like for black people was a compulsion to work.. so there was this compulsion to work the field.. as part of something like.. legible citizenship.. or the capacity to have rights.. but also too (and this is something j and i have started thinking about) .. we’re reading all this stuff.. anna tsing mushroom (On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins).. which is really good..
1:02 – s: transformative mutualism
sarah: yeah .. and like anna has this essay.. unruly companionship (http://www.environmentandsociety.org/mml/tsing-anna-unruly-edges-mushrooms-companion-species).. thinking about the ways that the production or the invention of the insistence on sovereign subject hood and self management.. deeply sexual/racial project.. it’s *coterminous w ecological management.. so the field emerges both as the space.. of the wild and of the governed.. at the same time.. but it also carries this space where things need to be cultivated and managed.. so .. we were thinking about the way that the field travels.. that the field on the one hand exists as land.. flora/fauna.. but it also emerges as a certain discourse of not having it together
*organism as fractal ness
1:03 – j: so it’s almost like the field has to be fielded.. so field as ungovernable.. the wild.. and pursuit (?) of possible.. but then there’s also like.. the command to field that field.. so field itself becomes this kind of terrain to be regulated.. and it’s precisely like the kind of interplay/tension.. almost like deployment of a certain violence.. vis a vis.. the category of field.. that in some sense we wanted to think about in relations to blackness.. or as you say.. the imposition of a regime of a subject.. what also might be the imposition of a regime of the human is somehow working in relationship to the imposition of the field.. as .. under management now
1:04 – s: anna tsing’s .. it is a wonderful book.. talks about basically the plantation being that first exercise in economy of scale.. and that seeds and plants are humans.. all cultivated for the production of capital in the same ways..
j: it’s like.. ecology becomes a kind of racializing project at that moment.. and so then the question becomes.. what does it mean to think ecological.. in that sense.. both in the field.. but in that sense freire (?) talks about a sociality itself.. to think it otherwise.. in other words the turn to the ecological as such.. ain’t enough because in a certain sense it’s been a certain deployment of a certain kind of eco managerial regime.. that’s been at stake.. racism and the ecological have almost been like folded into each other.. so then what does it mean to think fielding.. beyond the field..
1:05 – s: different that sylvia winter thinking about the plot against the plantation because she thinks about the provision ground in similar ways
sarah: yeah .. the way that plot ambles both as strategy and as terrain.. in the same way that the field emerges both to index .. like flora and fauna.. i know there’s other words.. but also like a domain.. it’s just something that we’ve.. the field keeps emerging as precisely that third node..maybe the field in some ways feels like that out from the out.. the outfield..
1:06 – j: it’s like michael brown walking down the middle of a ferguson street.. in some sense he’s being fielded.. and the street itself already names a certain kind of fielding activity.. like a violent fielding activity.. so this gets us to that question we’re messing with.. what are we talking about when we talk about the outdoors.. in some sense.. the thought of blackness is working in relationship to this question
i love the pauses.. the slowness.. the non interrupting ness.. the listening ness.. of this convo..
1:07 – f: i guess again.. i think.. i guess i feel this general sense of having come to an impasse in a certain kind of way.. it’s interesting.. depends on how you think about it.. so let’s say that w/in a field that is bounded by on the hand.. the incompatible predications of the free.. and on the other hand.. burdened individuation (to use saidiya’s terms) .. that w/in this structure that is bounded so to speak by those terms.. there’s only so much you can do theoretically.. but that doesn’t mean that you stop trying to come up with things.. because the other notion of predication (act of proclaiming.. assigning of something to a class) has been in the back of my mind the last couple months.. is this predication that nate mackey had.. as he talks about predications rickety spin.. and i guess i’ve just begun to think that what one might be able to do against the grain of the incompatibility of a set of imposed predications.. is continually spin out.. in however rickety/raggedy way.. a kind of endless series of predications .. of the sort that.. there was a certain moment in which the critique of authenticity .. let’s say in black studies or whatever.. became so puritanical.. that any sentence of the type: blackness is x.. was almost against the law.. against the rules of the people.. somebody would come get you .. i’m interested in something like an endless proliferation of sentences of the type: blackness is x.. recognizing that those sentences might come from anywhere and might be animated by any number of diff possible motivations.. but that necessity of predication.. which could even be said to take the form of a certain kind of .. a meditative/worshipful kind of form.. that’s important.. and i think it’s one of those things in terms of describing what people have felt and what they’ve done.. that’s one of the things that people have done.. and then by the same token.. there is this other.. slightly parallel track to predication which may be just naming.. or nominalization (use of ie: verb .. as a noun) .. these things are kind of connected but not exactly the same thing.. and these are important cultural/aesthetic/intellectual activities that are crucial to anything like what one might call a kind of .. whatever you want to call it.. a resistance.. fugitivity.. war.. whatever.. these are important activities to be engaged in.. so..
1:10 – f: because then it gives us a chance to think/talk.. that’s the thing.. it gives us a chance to be together.. as we meditate w one another on these questions.. hopefully w some friends/food/wine/kids-running-around.. this is totally important.. it seems to me.. and from my perspective.. these are activities that kind of have to be done.. to use and old cornel west phrase.. outside of the normative gaze of the white man.. it’s just.. at a certain point.. you can’t be worried all the time about what he says/thinks.. for some reason i think this is particularly difficult for academics.. because we are addicted to being graded.. and they do the grading.. let’s just say the de grading..
1:11 – f: what i’m trying to say is.. that sense of .. well this is a term.. is this the right term.. that’s a debilitating question.. but.. is this a term that we can start.. that we can get us talking about something .. is this a term that can help structure a certain kind of fellowship amongst us.. that’s a diff kind of question
1:12 – q&a
1:16 – s: a history of anarchists projects.. which is how i’ve always described how we have lived.. it seems there’s a kind of a potentiality there as opposed to making an alt that has to be legible w/in the terms of the given.. *our policy to counter their policy..t
1:17 – q: i’m always concerned that i might enclose.. because of any kind of communality.. what is it that makes us not be in communion
1:20 – f: well there’s that phrase of what it means to be sure of yourself.. but i mean it in a slightly diff way.. not sure of yourself in the sense of confident or competent.. whatever.. but sure in sense that you are a self.. sure that you have a self.. i would say.. the less sure you are of yourself.. the more possible it is to be in communion.. and luckily or unluckily for certain people in the population.. they’ve had all kinds of pseudo intellectual/brutally/viciously/juridical reasons to be unsure of their selves.. so when it comes to that.. it’s the peculiar privileges of the underprivileged.. the specific wealth of the poor.. and there’s a way to talk about that stuff too..
1:21 – s: i was thinking the wealth of the poor who are then more generous than the rich
1:23 – q: is black outside always haunted by a certain relationship to temporality.. spaces prone to demolition.. via its rupture/interruption..
1:24 – f: maybe this is connected to something saidiya said at the very beginning.. that feeling of wanting to be outside the circle of slavery is immediately something that shows up in temporal terms.. maybe what you’re talking about ..tony.. is that even if you get out.. you have to keep moving.. because they coming.. haunted by a forced mobility that constitutes your future.. something like that.. but i don’t know.. i’m not trying to say that i have anything like the adequate understanding of the work.. but one of the things that i have been able to derive.. from really trying to study hard and read frank wilderson’s work hard.. he’ll say.. wanting to have a place in time in the universe.. not wanting to be a cosmic hobo.. but then he also says.. that the condition of the black is the condition of the sort of radical non contemporary naeity (?).. that we don’t have a place/time in this universe.. we’re outside of the spacial temporality as its guarantor as some kind of weird instrumental way.. and i would say.. what he recognizes what it is to be a subject is precisely to have a place and time and that the term we use to describe that place and time .. the term we actually use for those coordinates.. is body.. and that leads to spillers’s (?) work.. where the theft of a body is literally the theft of a place and a time.. the theft of the very capacity for placement in the way that you’ve been describing.. but then maybe what that means is that petty merril (?) knowledge is how you proceed.. outside of the desire for a place and time.. outside of the desire even for a body.. claiming the monstrosity of the flesh as spillers would say.. and so.. what that means is it’s a disruption of a sort of normative.. maybe newtonian .. sense of space and time.. that we are somehow.. that that’s the nature of our experiment.. i keep thinking of that two places in the same time.. one defined by the capacity to have a place and a time and the other is not.. you just keep butting your head up against inadequate terminology
fred saying he’s tired.. and they still go for 30 more min
1:29 – f: part of what the experiment requires is a really radical .. whatever you want to call it.. trans disciplinarian intellectual practice.. there’s a long tradition of it and it moves along these lines.. and it all has to do w the fact that.. we just ain’t quite here.. or now
begs a mech to wake us all up at once.. no..?
1:30 – f: and there’s a tremendous history of violence that undergirds that.. and it also constitutes an amazing chance.. and you gotta think about a lot of weird stuff to try to figure it out.. and that’s what everybody does.. everybody that i knew growing up did.. on losing so many people.. they were thinking about this stuff all the time.. 6-7 yrs old.. playing basketball.. it’s as if we already knew we were supposed to be thinking about these things.. and what you lose when you lose somebody is not just them but the whole fabric of this rich.. intellectual/social field.. in a diff sense of the term.. that you’ve been playing.. how about that.. a meadow or whatever.. that’s what you been losing .. it’s like they tore a hole in it.. they keep tearing holes in a fabric..
1:32 – s: earlier.. talking about the impossible domestic.. and seeing ie: korryn gaines in her apt w her son.. and just that impossible scene where she’s extending her love and says.. well you know what awaits you.. you know what they’re here to do.. i mean it’s related to .. yes mom they’re here to kill us .. and he’s not wrong.. just that he must bear that knowledge.. at age 5..
1:34 – q: (gal from brazil) on being a double outsider.. not from here.. go back as academic w diff philosophy et al.. on wilderson’s grammar of suffering that unintelligible.. and the incompatible predicament.. so how is it that we.. that are here.. cut thru the isolation.. but in a way that we are able to identify.. when we are .. going to the places where our people are.. which is for the most part .. not here.. and we are creating a situation where we’re actually inviting ourselves and them to talk about these issues that are so heavily loaded.. *and we come very unprepared.. from being trained in modalities of communication that’s only verbal..t.. and that’s from being trained to inhabit here (points to head) and leave no traces of how we inhabit our hearts.. so we come into these very loaded convo raising these very intellectual propositions.. trying to understand.. the black geographies in rio.. and why is it that the current stock market building is where the slave building was built.. so how is it that you might have seen/use other methodologies or pedagogies or approaches to work with the regard and to address the needs in ways that.. going on what can be understood or communicated.. it’s also trying to understand needs.. and meet the need for creating compassion .. in a way that we don’t read/talk about these things and all we want to do is to hate..
1:37 – s: there’s so much in what you said.. i mean.. i’m hopeful.. because lots of people have the understanding that we need an end to this order and we’re thinking about creating alt’s.. so i’m interested in experiments in living.. one of the things i’ve been thinking about is the notion of a mutual aid society.. black gathering.. that we actually have tools to help/aide one another so it’s not just some.. putting a lot of stuff on the table but then not having a modality of healing.. and attending to one another.. i feel like the notion of people’s practice is becoming really really rich.. and that people aren’t just working in one domain/way.. and i think that’s exciting
1:50 – f: there is no separation between violence and the aesthetic.. jazz is just a form of violence.. and it has to be.. it doesn’t ameliorate violence.. or cover over violence.. it enacts violence.. it messes people up.. which is what it’s supposed to do.. so.. for me.. these particular things we’re talking about.. these particular forms of violence that we endure today.. in the regime of hope.. which will hopefully end soon.. what we have is.. as j was saying.. it’s an ecological disaster.. it’s deeper than just being a human catastrophe.. i just feel like it’s really important to be mindful of that.. even if the language that we sometimes have to use in order to respond to the catastrophe is a kind of residual language
1:56 – f: i’m getting old.. we were good .. got good grades.. went to so called good schools.. and the reward we got for being good all that time.. we got to spend all this time around people who were trying to kill us.. so i guess i just unavoidably have nostalgia for the time i spent around a whole bunch of people who weren’t trying to kill us.. i just kind of want to talk to them at this point.. and i don’t have any kind of a-priori/exclusionary formulations about who might be in that group.. i deal w the ones who are trying to kill me when i have to.. and it’s usually about my check.. and other than that it’s like.. please leave me alone.. ok.. they don’t leave you alone and i understand that.. but the question is.. i think there are alt modes of cultivation.. and then alt that produce possibilities/capacities.. of self defense.. and that self defense is anticipatory.. it isn’t responding to the murder after the fact.. it’s figuring out ways to prevent the murder.. sometimes.. sometimes you can’t..when it comes to these intramural matters.. we just got some work to do..
1:59 – f: i can’t worry about them (people giving me my paycheck et al).. cause all it does is mess up my capacity to do what i’m trying to do.. which is already impaired.. by any number of things.. i’m not trying to discount the complications/difficulties that really emerge as a function of having to worry about your check.. and that requires us.. again.. forms of mutual/social aid .. we have to engage in.. but like.. recognition.. in some sort of egalian.. no.. i’m just saying.. why you asking things of people that they’re not capable of doing yet.. so .. why wait..
2:00 – f: a residual effect of the work we have to do amongst ourselves might be the that they get more capable.. which would be nice.. and we would welcome that.. but no.. you read the comment section and they’re like.. he got what he deserved.. he raised his hands instead of following the cops instructions.. don’t hold your breath until that person says.. you know.. i see your point
2:01 – s: i just want to echo this.. when will they believe.. said in the intro.. the explanation that is itself a form of violence.. or.. the lies of the civil discourse.. the discourse of recognition.. thinking about the absolute necessity of creating these other domains.. having certain kinds of discussions in the space of the collectivity that’s yet to be.. you’re in the intramural because.. what’s required to prevent another death.. korryn and ida b wells and a winchester in every home…. this extra state terror.. is the terror of the state forces.. so.. what do we do in this meantime.. when there’s nothing that we can do that’s about being trained.. being dutiful.. having hands raised.. so .. that’s actually just clear.. right.. and so that question of what do we do in the meantime is one that we really have to take up.. in a domain that’s not about the performance republic
“So much of the work of oppression is policing the imagination.” — Saidiya Hartman #UnderTheBlacklight
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/SashaPanaram/status/1291173243169251328
on columbia site:
Saidiya Hartman is a professor at Columbia University specializing in African American literature and history. She grew up in Brooklyn and received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and Ph.D. from Yale University
Hartman introduces the idea of “critical fabulation” in her article “Venus in Two Acts,” although she could be said to be engaged in the practice in both of her full-length books, Scenes of Subjection and Lose Your Mother.The term “critical fabulation” signifies a writing methodology that combines historical and archival research with critical theory and fictional narrative. Critical fabulation is a tool that Hartman uses in her scholarly practice to make productive sense of the gaps and silences in the archive of trans-Atlantic slavery that absent the voices of enslaved women.
Hartman also theorizes the “afterlife of slavery” in Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. The “afterlife of slavery” can be characterized by the enduring presence of slavery’s racialized violence still present in contemporary society. Hartman outlines slavery’s imprint on all sectors of society as evidenced in historical archives that may or may not exist. Hence, the archive lives on through the social structure of the society and its citizens. Hartman describes this process in detail in Lose Your Mother, “I wanted to engage the past, knowing that its perils and dangers still threatened and that even now lives hung in the balance. Slavery had established a measure of man and a ranking of life and worth that has yet to be undone.
If slavery persists as an issue in the political life of black America, it is not because of an antiquarian obsession with bygone days or the burden of a toolong memory, but because black lives are still imperiled and devalued by a racial calculus and a political arithmetic that were entrenched centuries ago. This is the afterlife of slavery—skewed life chances, limited access to health and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment. I, too, am the afterlife of slavery.”
She concentrates on the “non-history” of the slave, the manner in which slavery “erased any conventional modality for writing an intelligible past.” By weaving her own biography into an historical construction, “she [also] explores and evokes the non-spaces of black experience—the experience through which the African captive became a slave, became a non-person, became alienated from personhood.
Hartman’s contributions to understanding slavery caught the attention of UC Irvine’s Frank B. Wilderson, III, well known for setting groundwork and coining the phrase “Afro Pessimism.” This criticism examines unflinching paradigmatic analysis on the structures of modernity produced by slavery and genocide. While he considers her Scenes of Subjection as Afro Pessimist scholarship, Hartman herself has not called it so.
Hartman has contributed insight into the forms and functions of the historical archive, providing both pointed critiques of and methodological guides to approaching the archive in scholarly work.
In both Scenes of Subjection and Lose Your Mother Hartman accesses and critically interrogates the historical archive. In the case of the latter, much of this is done through the combined re-reading of historical narratives of slavery and through the connection of these narratives to the physical location of Ghana. Hartman, who centers much of her interrogation of slavery’s archive on Elmina Castle, inserts her own voice as one way to counter the silences surrounding forgotten slaves.
The difficulty of this excavation process is revealed partly in the continued tension between Hartman’s interest in slavery and the rejection of this interest on the part of Ghanaians, who are depicted as ostracizing Hartman in a number of instances in the text. In addition, and though she draws from “plantation journals and documents, newspaper accounts, missionary tracts, travel writing … government reports, et cetera,” Hartman recognizes that “these documents are ‘not free from barbarism.'” Arguably all of Hartman’s work is guided by “the impossibility of fully recovering the experience of the enslaved and the emancipated” from these written accounts, and she reads them “against the grain” knowing that in her use of these “official” records she runs “the risk of reinforcing the authority of these documents even as I try to use them for contrary purposes.”
Hartman introduces the concept of narrative restraint in her article “Venus in Two Acts” to delay an archival impulse to continually register as “a death sentence, a tomb, a display of the violated body.” In this article she returns to the slaver Recovery for an exploration that began in Lose Your Mother. Unable to write about the girl named Venus owing to her brief appearance in the archive, Hartman’s attempts to resuscitate possible narratives for her ultimately lead to failure. She explains, “But in the end I was forced to admit that I wanted to console myself and to escape the slave hold with a vision of something other than the bodies of two girls settling on the floor of the Atlantic.” Hartman ultimately restrains her desire to imaginatively recreate Venus’ final days, her passages in Lose Your Mother only briefly mentioning Venus’ fate. Her inclusion in “Venus” of the narratives omitted in Lose Your Mother, with the caveat that such narratives push beyond the boundaries of the archive, leads to the concept of narrative restraint, “the refusal to fill in the gaps and provide closure.” While she excavates the historical archive in her attempt to understand the possibilities for subjectivity for the black slave (in Scenes of Subjection), the possibilities for African Diasporic community (in Lose Your Mother), a question she in her article “Venus in Two Acts” serves as a guiding principle and a lesson on archival method: “If it is no longer sufficient to expose the scandal, then how might it be possible to generate a different set of descriptions from this archive?“