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Middle passage neg

Case

Perm / Wilderson not so radical

Wilderson’s scholarship isn’t intended to preclude goal-oriented political change—proves the perm solves and pragmatic reforms are good


Wilderson 10 – same guy

(Frank Wilderson III, Prof at UC Irvine, speaking on a panel on literary activism at the National Black Writers Conference, March 26, 2010, "Panel on Literary Activism", transcribed from the video available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/222448, begins at roughly 49:10)



Typically what I mean when I ask myself whether or not people will like or accept my reading, what I'm really trying to say to myself whether or not people will like or accept me and this is a difficult thing to overcome especially for a black writer because we are not just black writers, we are black people and as black people we live every day of our lives in an anti-black world. A world that defines itself in a very fundamental ways in constant distinction from us, we live everyday of our lives in a context of daily rejection so its understandable that we as black writers might strive for acceptance and appreciation through our writing, as I said this gets us tangled up in the result. The lessons we have to learn as writers resonate with what I want to say about literature and political struggle. I am a political writer which is to say my writing is self consciously about radical change but when I have worked as an activist in political movements, my labor has been intentional and goal oriented. For example, I organized, with a purpose to say free Mumia Abu Jamal, to free all political prisoners, or to abolish the prison industrial complex here in the United States or in South Africa, I have worked to abolish apartheid and unsuccessfully set up a socialist state whereas I want my poetry and my fiction, my creative non fiction and my theoretical writing to resonate with and to impact and impacted by those tangible identifiable results, I think that something really debilitating will happen to the writing, that it the writing will be hobbled if and when I become clear in the ways that which I want my writing to have an impact on political struggle what I am trying to say when I say that I want to be unclear is I don't want to clarify, I do not want to clarify the impact that my work will have or should have on political struggle, is that the relationship of literature to struggle is not one of causality but one of accompaniment, when I write I want to hold my political beliefs and my political agenda loosely. I want to look at my political life the way I might look at a solar eclipse which is to say look indirectly, look arie, in this way I might be able to liberate my imagination and go to places in the writing that I and other black people go to all the time the places that are too dangerous to go to and too dangerous to speak about when one is trying to organize people to take risk or when a political organization is presetting a list of demands, I said at the beginning this is an anti-black world. Its anti black in places I hate like apartheid South Africa and apartheid America and it’s anti-black in the places I don't hate such as Cuba, I've been involved with some really radical political movements but none of them have called for an end of the world but if I can get away from the result of my writing, if I can think of my writing as something that accompanies political struggle as opposed to something that will cause political struggle then maybe just maybe I will be able to explore forbidden territory, the unspoken demands that the world come to an end, the thing that I can’t say when I am trying to organize maybe I can harness the energy of the political movement to make breakthroughs in the imagination that the movement can't always accommodate, if its to maintain its organizational capacity.

Anti-blackness not ontological

Anti-blackness is contingent not quotidian and their discourse is self fulfilling


Hudson 13 - Political Studies Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg , South Africa, has been on the editorial board of the Africa Perspective: The South African Journal of Sociology and Theoria: A Journal of Political and Social Theory and Transformation, and is a member of the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism

(Peter, “The state and the colonial unconscious,” Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies)



“The black man is not. Any more than the white man.” (Fanon 1968, 165) Fundamentally, for Fanon, colonialism is about the construction of white subjects and black subjects – these are in no sense necessary identities (as racist discourse claims). Secondly, flowing from this, there is no foundation to colonialism: it doesn’t rest on Man or History, it is just a contingent social relation – a differential (over-determined) relation, which it’s got to be if it is a contingent construction that can be transformed and replaced. Neither white nor black has value independently of their relationship – white is the difference between it and black, and vice versa. The whiteness of white, where “whiteness” = “brimming with identity self-posses- sion and sovereignty” depends on the blackness of black, where ‘blackness’ = without identity and self-control. Colonialism satisfies the conditions of a signifying dyad in that its elements (coloniser and colonised) do not exist independently of the relations into which they enter and through which they determine each other reciprocally (Deleuze 1973, 302). On their own, they don’t have a determinate value but only acquire one through their reciprocal determination in relation. This is a differential relation, because whiteness only has its colonial meaning in its relation to blackness, and vice versa. The presence of the one in the other precludes either from attaining full identity to itself. Neither is a self-sufficient substance that can rest on itself; rather, each only exists through its relational–differential tension vis-à-vis the other in the colonial matrix. This latter is itself a contingent set of signifying practices, notwith- standing the fact that the fundamental social division they institute presents itself as “ontological”. But – and this is crucial – within this interdependence, there is asymmetry: “whiteness” is the master signifier, and it has both white and black subjects in its grip. White subjects identify with it and thus see themselves through it as whole and in control of themselves – it invests them with at least the illusion of self- sufficiency and full autonomy. But black subjects also identify with it – they want to be white (a central theme of Black Skin, White Masks) and so they look at them- selves (blacks) through the white signifier also but what they see (which is exactly the same as what the white subject sees when he looks at the black) is a “body manqué” – not the “corporeal schema” (Fanon 1968, 78) the white sees when he looks at himself which gives him a body image and an image of himself which is “structurally harmonious” (114) but something “undefinable” and “unassimilable” (114) into the white order of being with which he seeks to identify – the black sees himself as “non-existent” (98, 139), with nothing to hold onto. Torn between two impossibles – to be white and to be black – the first barred and second an impossi- bility in its own terms as there is no black “being” – blackness produces no “ontological resistance” (77, 78) – “turn white or disappear” (71) sums up the ontological void of the black colonised subject. Made to want to be white, but incapable of this – he is black; and his blackness seen through his own “white” eyes reduces him to “nothing.” The colonial symbolic is so constructed as to give the black subject nothing to hold onto – no orthopaedic support for an identity – just a whiteness forever eluding him and a blackness that doesn’t “exist” in any case. Within the colonial matrix, this is the ontological vortex that is the elementary colonial identity and lived experience of the colonised black subject; and all his compulsive (self-destructive) pathologies, his specific repertoire of “reactional” conduct, have their source in this primary ontological differential. So, fundamen- tally, colonialism is an ontological differential between white and black subjects; and this orders each and every sphere or sector of colonial society (including the economy). “Whiteness” as whiteness – the meaning of whiteness and that of “blackness” – is carried via “a constellation of postulates, a series of propositions that slowly and subtly work their way into one’s mind and shape one’s view of the world of the group to which one belongs” – “a thousand details, anecdote stories” which are “woven” into “prejudices, myths, the collective attitudes of a given group” (Fanon 1968, 78, 133). This is how the “subject positions” of both whites and blacks are constituted. We can call this constellation the Colonial Big Other (symbolic) in and through which the colonial relation is constituted and reproduced. This Big Other is white, in that whiteness is its master signifier and therefore all identities are “white” under colonialism. Everyone is white in the colonial symbolic – including blacks; it is just that they are “less white” than “whites” to the point of not being at all – Fanon says again and again that “the black man desires to be white” – but, when he looks at himself through the eyes he has adopted, the “eyes” that are “his” – what he (qua white eyes) sees is something that doesn’t exist – “inequality, no non-existence” (Fanon 1968, 98, original emphasis). He “subsists at the level of non-being” (131) – just as the white, when it sees the black, sees an other that is, as Fanon says “absolutely not self,” so does the black see himself – “as absolutely not self” (114). This is the depth of the fissure in the black colonial subject position, caught between two impossibles: “whiteness,” which he desires but which is barred to him, and “black- ness,” which is “non-existence.” Colonialism, anxiety and emancipation3 Thus the self-same/other distinction is necessary for the possibility of identity itself. There always has to exist an outside, which is also inside, to the extent it is desig- nated as the impossibility from which the possibility of the existence of the subject derives its rule (Badiou 2009, 220). But although the excluded place which isn’t excluded insofar as it is necessary for the very possibility of inclusion and identity may be universal (may be considered “ontological”), its content (what fills it) – as well as the mode of this filling and its reproduction – are contingent. In other words, the meaning of the signifier of exclusion is not determined once and for all: the place of the place of exclusion, of death is itself over-determined, i.e. the very framework for deciding the other and the same, exclusion and inclusion, is nowhere engraved in ontological stone but is political and never terminally settled. Put differ- ently, the “curvature of intersubjective space” (Critchley 2007, 61) and thus, the specific modes of the “othering” of “otherness” are nowhere decided in advance (as a certain ontological fatalism might have it) (see Wilderson 2008).

**goes to footnote***


My foil here is the ontological fatalism of Frank Wilderson’s argument. See Wilderson (2008), according to which “the only way Humanity can maintain both its corporeal and libidinal integrity is through the various strategies through which Blackness is the abyss into which humanness can never fall” (105). And “were there to be a place and time for blacks cartography and temporality would be impossible” (111). Here then, the closure of colonialism is absolute.

***End footnote***


The social does not have to be divided into white and black, and the meaning of these signifiers is never necessary – because they are signifiers. To be sure, colonialism institutes an ontological division, in that whites exist in a way barred to blacks – who are not. But this ontological relation is really on the side of the ontic – that is, of all contingently constructed identities, rather than the ontology of the social which refers to the ultimate unfixity, the indeterminacy or lack of the social. In this sense, then, the white man doesn’t exist, the black man doesn’t exist (Fanon 1968, 165); and neither does the colonial symbolic itself, including its most intimate structuring relations – division is constitutive of the social, not the colonial division. “Whiteness” may well be very deeply sediment in modernity itself, but respect for the “ontological difference” (see Heidegger 1962, 26; Watts 2011, 279) shows up its ontological status as ontic. It may be so deeply sedimented that it becomes difficult even to identify the very possibility of the separation of whiteness from the very possibility of order, but from this it does not follow that the “void” of “black being” functions as the ultimate substance, the transcendental signified on which all possible forms of sociality are said to rest. What gets lost here, then, is the specific- ity of colonialism, of its constitutive axis, its “ontological” differential.

AT: Wilderson’s historical narrative

Their understanding of history is incorrect – their claim of erasure of sex ignores the material violence that happens on the body of the black women – AND their alt leaves no way to confront that


Hodges 2012 – University of California Irvine, African American Studies

(Asia Hodges, Mama’s Baby & the Black Gender Problematic, http://www.academia.edu/2027925/Mamas_Baby_and_the_Black_Gender_Problematic)



Asia Nichole Hodges Undergraduate Critical Theory Conference 2012 Mentor: Tamara Beauchamp Mama’s Baby & the Black Gender Problematic For me, this paper represents an opportunity to bring focus to the ungendered black subject of afropessimist thought, a concept I was first introduced to in winter quarter of 2011, which was the most theoretically rich coursework I have ever undertaken. In retrospect, the work of Frank Wilderson, III also appeared at a very critical moment in my development, both as a thinker and as a black woman engaged in organizing around issues affecting the black community on campus as well as back home. Afropessimist thought resonated deeply because it spoke to the terrifying truths of antiblack racism, black structural positionality and black life, corroborating my own experience but more importantly providing the language and a framework through which to approach a more thorough explanation of this experience theoretically. Further, when I use the term ‘’black” I mean it in the sense closest to the truth of the paradigm of afropessimist thought as described by Wilderson in Red, White & Black: Cinema & the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. It is my intent to critique Wilderson’s argument for an ungendered black subject using the work of black feminist scholar, Hortense Spillers, and explore the categories she protects in her work. She is indispensible here not only because she was an impetus for Wilderson’s project, but also because it was her thought that mothered my own. In conversation with the seminal article of Hortense Spillers, Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book, Wilderson explains that, for him, antiblackness functions as a prohibition on gender, thus the black subject is inherently genderless. He writes, “Gratuitous violence relegates the Slave to the taxonomy, the list of things. That is, it reduces the Slave to an object. Motherhood, fatherhood, and gender differentiations can only be sustained in the taxonomy of subjects.”1 While this framework has helped me to understand of the structuring properties of violence, and grasp its role in subject formation more generally, this explanation features an ungendered black subject and cannot be extended to the truth of my life as a black and as a female. This is not to say that afropessimism does not hold the potential to speak to the effect of antiblackness on gender. To the contrary, it was Spillers who first argued that such work was fruitful, writing that in “undressing these conflations of meaning, as they appear under the rule of dominance… we would gain… the potential for gender differentiation as it might express itself along a range of stress points, including human biology in its intersection with the project of culture.”2 Both Wilderson and Spillers take the dereliction of the black from civil society as their point of departure, but in many ways, Spillers has offered us a great deal more than we know what to do with on Wilderson, III, Frank B., Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010, 136. 2 Spillers, Hortense. "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe."Diacritics. (1987): 66. Print. 1 matters of gender and antiblackness. In Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe she theorizes that there is a profundity to the particularities of the position of the female black that is exemplified through regimes of naming. In the spirit of black feminism, though its ensemble of questions cannot help me here, I must occasion an explanation of black positionality that accounts for the manner of existential negation and the modes of violence which position me, moving beyond the concerns with black patriarchy. Theoretically, antiblackness does not only lend itself to an argument against a gendered understanding of my condition, it also offers an opportunity for a more nuanced understanding of gender itself. This begs the question, what does a genderless black subject help us to understand that a more complicated rendering [or gendering] of the black subject would obscure? In my view, black political thought lags here, unable to describe its condition without relegating the particularities of the female black to the abyss. Moreover, it seems the black female labors in service of civil society in ways we have yet to fully understand. Spillers supports an argument for the necessity of this work in building a more robust theoretical foundation for black political thought, and afropessimism could be our point of departure. For Wilderson, there is a line of recognition and incorporation. Above it are human beings, civil society made up of white men and women, and below it is the black in absolute dereliction, a concept he draws from Frantz Fanon writings on the black condition. I mean to suggest that the distinction we’re looking for under the line of recognition and incorporation is not “man” and “woman”, which Wilderson would reject, but that is not to say there is no distinction to be made whatsoever. It seems we may too hastily disregard the possibility for distinction for three reasons, described loosely as outlined by Spillers: 1) there was no distinction made between male and female slaves on the ships, 2) men and women performed the same hard, physical labor and lastly, 3) gender is a category requiring the symbolic integrity from which the black is barred. I am unable to go into each in detail here, but the validity of these points of contention is not what is in question for Spillers. The distinctions made on ships or on fields are not the only sites we should scourer for insight into the black gender problematic, and evidence that captives are not regarded as “men” and “women,” like their captors, is elucidating but not explanatory. In Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe, Spillers uses naming as a point of entry into black gender problematic. She revisits Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report on the state of the black community in America during the late 1960s, and meditates on the significance of black women emerging as the locus of black pathology. She writes that for Moynihan, “the ‘Negro Family’ has no Father to speak of—his Name, his Symbolic function mark the impressive missing agencies in the essential life of the black community… and it is, surprisingly, the fault of the Daughter, or the female line”. Thus, it is the “displacing [of] the Name and the Law of the father to the territory of the Mother and Daughter [that] becomes an aspect of the African-American female’s misnaming.”3 The black is without the gendered symbolic integrity that the subjects of civil society enjoy; the black performs to both genders, as well as anything in between and beyond, and is not granted the protections of motherhood or the entitlements of fatherhood for example. Moynihan observes the behavior of the black family and concludes that it is a manifestation of the backwardness of blackness generally, and the pathology of black women in particular. But a structural analysis would include a discussion of historical context, relations to power and positionality, with an understanding of the black as positioned through the violence of captivity. Moreover, the emergence of the female black marks the divergence between chattel slavery and racial slavery. Peter Wood, professor of history at Duke University, explains that partus sequitir ventrem, “that which is brought forth follows the womb”, is a legal doctrine which mandates that the child follows the status of the mother, or rather in the case of the female black, her child is doomed to captivity. Woods notes that there was a “shift from indentured servitude to lifelong slavery to heredity slavery, where not only am I enslaved but my children as well” and emphasizes that it was indeed “a remarkable shift”4. However, the problem is not that we do not know this history, but rather we have not dealt with it theoretically, and even in the most likely 3 4 Ibid, 66. of discourses, particularity on the basis of sex is not explored. In chapter 11 of Red, White and Black, Wilderson takes up the issue of gender and sex under captivity, but largely leaves the work Spillers does in Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe untouched. Earlier in the chapter, she is employed as support for Wilderson’s claim that the position of white women and black females are made distinct as a direct consequence of captivity. However, when Wilderson addresses blackness and gender, specifically gender ontology and the reification of gender, Spillers absence is haunting. Moreover, the effect of captivity on gender is not simply a reversal of power between the categories of “man” and “woman” as suggested by Moynihan, but rather that these categories are in fact eviscerated entirely where the black is concerned. Though the black does not hold the symbolic integrity for gender normativity, as argued by both Wilderson and Spillers, the categories of male and female are still apt here; “man” and “woman” representing the body and the latter, eviscerated categories, representing Spillers’ notion of the flesh. She writes: Before there is the ‘body’ there is the ‘flesh,’ that zero degree of social conceptualization that does not escape concealment under the brush of discourse, or the reflexes of iconography. Even though the European hegemonies stole bodies—some of them female… we regard this human and social irreparability as high crimes against the flesh, as a person of African females and African males registered the wounding. 5 Here, Spillers shows that the violence of captivity registers on multiple levels, and of course that the violence can be understood from multiple registers, however the flesh that registers the wounding is sexed, the violence at times sexualized. So how, then, does the female black function within the structure, positioned through regimes of sexualized violence? My project is to seek answers to the questions developed here by acquiescing to the chasms in our understanding. I do not aim to fill the chasm here, but only to make the conceptual leap and let the matter remain unresolved so that we might titter on the edge and engage further with the black gender problematic. To conclude, the closing thoughts of Spillers in Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe, “The female breaks in upon the imagination with a forcefulness that marks both a denial and an ‘illegitimacy’… In this play of paradox, only the female stands in the flesh, both mother and mother-dispossessed. This problematizing of gender places her, in my view, out of the traditional symbolics of female gender, and it is our task to make a place for this different social subject.“ 5 Spillers, 67.

AT: Gilroy

Gilroy is wrong, his understanding of the middle passage is an oversimplified exaggeration which ignores a multitude of complexities and influences like capitalism, and stems from a Eurocentric View


ZELEZA, 05, dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, previous professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and president of the African Studies Association (PAUL TIYAMBE, “REWRITING THE AFRICAN DIASPORA: BEYOND THE BLACK ATLANTIC”, African Affairs, 104/414, 35–68, Oxford Journals)
The African diaspora, together with the Jewish diaspora — the epistemo- logical source of the term diaspora — enjoys pride of place in the pantheon of diaspora studies. Yet, despite the proliferation of the literature, our understanding of the African diaspora remains limited by both the concep- tual difficulties of defining what we mean by the diaspora in general and the African diaspora in particular, and the analytical tendency to privilege the Atlantic, or rather the Anglophone, indeed the American branch of the African diaspora, as is so clear in Gilroy’s seminal text. This article is divided into three parts. It begins by trying to explore briefly various conceptions and constructions of the African diaspora, high- lighted by a critique of The Black Atlantic.3 This is followed by discussions of what I consider to be the four dominant dimensions of the global African diasporas, namely, the intra-Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Atlantic diasporas. Finally, I examine the emergence of the new global African diasporas. Unfortunately, for reasons of space, I do not look at the engagements between Africa and its various diasporas, which is the subject of a much larger project that I am working on for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).¶ Conceptions, constructions and critiques of diaspora¶ The Black Atlantic derives its power and popularity less for what it actually says about the political, social, cultural and economic relations among the triangular systems of Africa, the Americas, and Europe that make up the Atlantic world — much of which is in fact omitted and has been better told by others — but more for its anti-nationalist theoretical and ideological politics and its singular focus on the African American diaspora. This resonated, when the book was first published, with the anti-foundationalist parade of the ‘posts’ (postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postcolonial- ism), the upsurge of controversies in African American studies triggered by the Afrocentric paradigm and wider struggles over affirmative action, and the perpetual search for new analytical brands in the American academy with its channel-surfing intellectualism. Gilroy’s central concern was to deconstruct the idea of the black race, to divorce it from any African essence or presence, to demonstrate its fluidity, mutability and modernity, and that black Atlantic cultural identities emerged in the transnational and intercultural spaces of the diasporic experience itself, in response to the terrors of racism and out of transoceanic transactions in which creolized Notwithstanding its considerable insights and contributions to diaspora studies and cultural studies, The Black Atlantic has been faulted for over- simplifying the African American experience and the role of Africa and African connections in its collective memory, imagination and thought; for androcentrism in privileging male figures in the construction of Atlantic blackness and modernity, despite its ritual gestures to gender; for univer- salizing the racialized ‘minority’ experience of African Americans (in most Caribbean islands African-descended people constitute the majority); for foreclosing the relationships and connections among the black diasporic cultures themselves beyond the Anglophone world (the largest African diaspora population is in Brazil and speaks Portuguese) and between them and African cultures; for its postmodernist phobias against essentialism, real and imaginary, strategic or slight, while at the same time desperately seeking a ‘black’, not a ‘white’, or ‘multicultural’ Atlantic; for its exclusion- ary epistemic cultural politics in its Eurocentric excision and disdain for Africa; and for mystifying modernity as the primary object of black Atlantic critique barring questions of imperialism and capitalism.4¶ It is somewhat ironic that The Black Atlantic, which constantly rails against the snobbery of African American analytical exceptionalism and seeks to underscore the enlightenment that travel in Europe bestowed upon the provincial horizons of W. E. B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, and other African American icons, should end up being a monument to American self-referential conceit and myopia in its obsession with the cultural inventions of the African American diaspora. This is a tribute as much to the seductive power of African American expressive culture itself, including the very notions of diaspora or blackness, as to the hegemony of US imperialism, on whose multinational corporate wings it is marketed to the rest of the world, especially the Anglophone world and, in this case, the British Isles. Clearly, the connections between the African diasporas of the United States and Britain, in the construction of black modernities, have been strong, if quite complex and sometimes contradictory. The same can indeed be said of connections between African Americans and Africans, say, black South Africans, as Masilela stresses in his critique of Gilroy, and as others have noted. For example, Kemp and Vinson argue that the trans- Atlantic circulation of African American expressive cultural practices, from

Gilroy is disjointed from the realities of African diaspora, prfer our holistic approach


ZELEZA, 05, dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, previous professor and chair of the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and president of the African Studies Association (PAUL TIYAMBE, “REWRITING THE AFRICAN DIASPORA: BEYOND THE BLACK ATLANTIC”, African Affairs, 104/414, 35–68, Oxford Journals)
As a historian and an African migrant who travels on a Canadian passport and is resident in the United States, a member of the so-called new or contemporary African diaspora for whom Africa — to which I go several times a year and where I plan to spend all my summers — remains a pressing existential reality, my concerns go beyond charting the contours of black modernities in the diaspora, to exploring the long and complex histories of African dispersals and diasporas in various parts of the world and their implications for and engagements with Africa. This agenda, historicizing and pluralizing the African diasporas and mapping their multiple identities and identifications with Africa, and sometimes the lack thereof, in fact transcends the racial essentialisms that worry Gilroy and his ilk so much, even as they spend most of their time talking about race and dissecting the ‘fictions’ of blackness or the dangers of ‘raciology’,8 all in the vain hope that the world will become, to quote Toni Morrison, ‘raceless or unraced by assertion’.9
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