Wilderson ignores African diaspora and thus provides an incomplete picture of blackness within civil society
Ba 11, Saer Maty Ba is a professor at Portsmouth university, “The US Decentred From Black Social Death to Cultural Transformation” http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2304/2474, NN
And yet Wilderson’s highlighting is problematic because it overlooks the ∂ ‘Diaspora’ or ‘African Diaspora’, a key component in Yearwood’s thesis that, ∂ crucially, neither navel‐gazes (that is, at the US or black America) nor pretends to ∂ properly engage with black film. Furthermore, Wilderson separates the different ∂ waves of black film theory and approaches them, only, in terms of how a most recent ∂ one might challenge its precedent. Again, his approach is problematic because it ∂ does not mention or emphasise the inter‐connectivity of/in black film theory. As a ∂ case in point, Wilderson does not link Tommy Lott’s mobilisation of Third Cinema ∂ for black film theory to Yearwood’s idea of African Diaspora. (64) Additionally, of ∂ course, Wilderson seems unaware that Third Cinema itself has been fundamentally ∂ questioned since Lott’s 1990s’ theory of black film was formulated. Yet another ∂ consequence of ignoring the African Diaspora is that it exposes Wilderson’s corpus ∂ of films as unable to carry the weight of the transnational argument he attempts to ∂ advance. Here, beyond the US‐centricity or ‘social and political specificity of [his] ∂ filmography’, (95) I am talking about Wilderson’s choice of films. For example, ∂ Antwone Fisher (dir. Denzel Washington, 2002) is attacked unfairly for failing to ∂ acknowledge ‘a grid of captivity across spatial dimensions of the Black “body”, the∂ Black “home”, and the Black “community”’ (111) while films like Alan and Albert ∂ Hughes’s Menace II Society (1993), overlooked, do acknowledge the same grid and, ∂ additionally, problematise Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP)∂ policing. The above examples expose the fact of Wilderson’s dubious and ∂ questionable conclusions on black film
Social death theory is wrong –it ignores black insurrection and cultural heritage – proves violence is contingent and reform is possible
Ba 11, Saer Maty Ba is a professor at Portsmouth university, “The US Decentred From Black Social Death to Cultural Transformation” http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2304/2474, NN
Red, White and Black is particularly undermined by Wilderson’s propensity for ∂ exaggeration and blinkeredness. In chapter nine, ‘“Savage” Negrophobia’, he writes:∂ The philosophical anxiety of Skins is all too aware that through the Middle ∂ Passage, African culture became Black ‘style’ ... Blackness can be placed ∂ and displaced with limitless frequency and across untold territories, by ∂ whoever so chooses. Most important, there is nothing real Black people ∂ can do to either check or direct this process ... Anyone can say ‘nigger’ ∂ because anyone can be a ‘nigger’. (235)7∂ Similarly, in chapter ten, ‘A Crisis in the Commons’, Wilderson addresses the issue of ∂ ‘Black time’. Black is irredeemable, he argues, because, at no time in history had it ∂ been deemed, or deemed through the right historical moment and place. In other ∂ words, the black moment and place are not right because they are ‘the ship hold of ∂ the Middle Passage’: ‘the most coherent temporality ever deemed as Black time’ but ∂ also ‘the “moment” of no time at all on the map of no place at all’. (279)∂ Not only does Pinho’s more mature analysis expose this point as preposterous ∂ (see below), I also wonder what Wilderson makes of the countless historians’ and ∂ sociologists’ works on slave ships, shipboard insurrections and/during the Middle ∂ Passage,8 or of groundbreaking jazz‐studies books on cross‐cultural dialogue like ∂ The Other Side of Nowhere (2004). Nowhere has another side, but once Wilderson ∂ theorises blacks as socially and ontologically dead while dismissing jazz as ∂ ‘belonging nowhere and to no one, simply there for the taking’, (225) there seems to ∂ be no way back. It is therefore hardly surprising that Wilderson ducks the need to ∂ provide a solution or alternative to both his sustained bashing of blacks and anti‐∂ Blackness.9 Last but not least, Red, White and Black ends like a badly plugged ∂ announcement of a bad Hollywood film’s badly planned sequel: ‘How does one ∂ deconstruct life? Who would benefit from such an undertaking? The coffle ∂ approaches with its answers in tow.’ (340)
Blackness is not ontological but instead contingent and subject to change
Hudson 13 — Peter Hudson, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2013 (“The state and the colonial unconscious,” Social Dynamics, Volume 39, Number 2, Available Online to Subscribing Institutions via Taylor & Francis Online, p. 265-266)
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 designated 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 differently, the “curvature of intersubjective space” (Critchley 2007, 61) and thus, the specific modes of the “othering” of “otherness” are nowhere decided in advance (as [end page 265] a certain ontological fatalism might have it) (see Wilderson 2008). 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 specificity of colonialism, of its constitutive axis, its “ontological” differential. A crucial feature of the colonial symbolic is that the real is not screened off by the imaginary in the way it is under capitalism. At the place of the colonised, the symbolic and the imaginary give way because non-identity (the real of the social) is immediately inscribed in the “lived experience” (vécu) of the colonised subject. The colonised is “traversing the fantasy” (Zizek 2006a, 40–60) all the time; the void of the verb “to be” is the very content of his interpellation. The colonised is, in other words, the subject of anxiety for whom the symbolic and the imaginary never work, who is left stranded by his very interpellation.4 “Fixed” into “non-fixity,” he is eternally suspended between “element” and “moment”5 – he is where the colonial symbolic falters in the production of meaning and is thus the point of entry of the real into the texture itself of colonialism. Be this as it may, whiteness and blackness are (sustained by) determinate and contingent practices of signification; the “structuring relation” of colonialism thus itself comprises a knot of significations which, no matter how tight, can always be undone. Anti-colonial – i.e., anti-“white” – modes of struggle are not (just) “psychic”6 but involve the “reactivation” (or “de-sedimentation”)7 of colonial objectivity itself. No matter how sedimented (or global), colonial objectivity is not ontologically immune to antagonism. Differentiality, as Zizek insists (see Zizek 2012, chap- ter 11, 771 n48), immanently entails antagonism in that differentiality both makes possible the existence of any identity whatsoever and at the same time – because it is the presence of one object in another – undermines any identity ever being (fully) itself. Each element in a differential relation is the condition of possibility and the condition of impossibility of each other. It is this dimension of antagonism that the Master Signifier covers over transforming its outside (Other) into an element of itself, reducing it to a condition of its possibility.8
Social death is an oversimplification of the condition of blackness
Brown 9, Vincent Brown is a Charles Warren Professor of American History, Professor of African and African American Studies, “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery,” http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/vbrown/files/brown-socialdeath.pdf, NN
Slavery and Social Death was widely reviewed and lavishly praised for its erudition∂ and conceptual rigor. As a result of its success, social death has become a handy∂ general definition of slavery, for many historians and non-historians alike. But it is∂ often forgotten that the concept of social death is a distillation from Patterson’s∂ breathtaking survey—a theoretical abstraction that is meant not to describe the lived∂ experiences of the enslaved so much as to reduce them to a least common denominator∂ that could reveal the essence of slavery in an ideal-type slave, shorn of meaningful∂ heritage.6 As a concept, it is what Frederick Cooper has called an “agentless∂ abstraction” that provides a neat cultural logic but ultimately does little to illuminate∂ the social and political experience of enslavement and the struggles that produce∂ historic transformations.7 Indeed, it is difficult to use such a distillation to explain the actual behavior of slaves, and yet in much of the scholarship that followed in the∂ wake of Slavery and Social Death, Patterson’s abstract distillates have been used to∂ explain the existential condition of the enslaved.∂ Having emerged from the discipline of sociology, “social death” fit comfortably∂ within a scholarly tradition that had generally been more alert to deviations in patterns∂ of black life from prevailing social norms than to the worldviews, strategies,∂ and social tactics of people in black communities. Together with Patterson’s work∂ on the distortions wrought by slavery on black families, “social death” reflected sociology’s∂ abiding concern with “social pathology”; the “pathological condition” of∂ twentieth-century black life could be seen as an outcome of the damage that black∂ people had suffered during slavery. University of Chicago professor Robert Park, the∂ grand-pe`re of the social pathologists, set the terms in 1919: “the Negro, when he∂ landed in the United States, left behind almost everything but his dark complexion∂ and his tropical temperament.”8 Patterson’s distillation also conformed to the nomothetic∂ imperative of social science, which has traditionally aimed to discover universal∂ laws of operation that would be true regardless of time and place, making the∂ synchronic study of social phenomena more tempting than more descriptive studies∂ of historical transformation. Slavery and Social Death took shape during a period∂ when largely synchronic studies of antebellum slavery in the United States dominated∂ the scholarship on human bondage, and Patterson’s expansive view was meant∂ to situate U.S. slavery in a broad context rather than to discuss changes as the institution∂ developed through time. Thus one might see “social death” as an obsolete∂ product of its time and tradition, an academic artifact with limited purchase for∂ contemporary scholarship, were it not for the concept’s reemergence in some important∂ new studies of slavery.9
Equating present conditions with slavery annihilates agency—their ontological account is wrong.
Nadine Ehlers, Professor, School of Social Sciences, Media, and Communication Faculty of Law, Humanities, and Arts University of Wollongong, 12 [“Racial Imperatives: Discipline, Performativity, and Struggles against Subjection,” p. 9-12, footnote from p. 145]
While I deploy these terms for analytic convenience, the study pivots on the desire to make dear tbe false homogeneity of subjects that are denoted by these terms and the arbitrariness of race per se. In the same moment that I employ these terms as critical tools of analysis, then, I hope to expose the mechanisms of their production and mark possibilities for their rearticulation.The final portion of this study is concerned with examining what forms of agency and resistance are possible within the context of this binary construction of black and white identities. Guiding this analysis is the question of how individuals struggle against subjection and how racial norms might be recited in new directions, given that the coercive demands of discipline and performative constraints make it seem like race is an insurmountable limit or closed system. That race operates as a limit appears particularly so for black subjects. For despite the fact that all subjects are produced and positioned within and by the discursive formations of race, the impact of that positioning and what it means for experience is markedly different. Black subjects are situated within an antiblack context where the black body/self continues to be torn asunder within the relations of civil society. This means that, as Yancy (2008, 134 n. n) insists, " the capacity to imagine otherwise is seriously truncated by ideological and material forces that are systematically linked to the history of white racism!'
A number of scholars have examined these realities and advanced critical accounts of what they identify as the resulting condition of black existence. David Marriot, for instance, argues that "the occult presence of racial slavery" continues to haunt our political and social imagination: "nowhere, but nevertheless everywhere, a dead time which never arrives and does not stop arriving" (2007, xxi). Saidiya Hartman, in her provocative Lose Your Mother: A journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007) refers to this haunting as slavery's afterlife. She insists that we do not live with the residue or legacy of slavery but, rather, that slavery lives on. It 'survives' (Sexton 2010, 15), through what Loic Wacquant (2002, 41) has identified as slavery's fu nctional surrogates: Jim Crow, the ghetto, and the prison. For Hartman, as echoed by other scholars, slavery has yet to be undone:
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. (2007, 6)
Frank B. Wilderson III, in his Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structures of U.S. Antagonisms (2009), powerfully frames slavery's afterlife as resulting in a form of social death for black subjects and, more than this, he argues that black subjectivity is constituted as ontological death. For Wilderson, " the Black [is) a subject who is always already positioned as Slave" (2009, 7) in the United States, while everyone else exists as "Masters" (2009, 10 ).8
Studies of slavery's afterlife and the concept of social death have inarguably made essential contributions to understandings of race.9 The strengths of such analyses lie in the salient ways they have theorized broad social systems of racism and how they have demanded the foregrounding of suffering, pain, violence, and death. Much of this scholarship can be put or is productively in conversation with Foucault's account ofbiopolitics that, as I noted earlier, regulates at the level of the population. Where sovereignty 'took life and let live,' in the contemporary sphere biopolitics works to 'make live.' However, certain bodies are not in the zone of protected life, are indeed expendable and subjected to strategic deployments of sovereign power that 'make die.' It is here that Foucault positions the function of racism. It is, he argues, "primarily a way of introducing a break into the domain of life that is under power's control: the break between what must live and what must die" (2003b, 254). Thus, certain bodies/subjects are killed - or subjected to sovereign power and social death- so that others might prosper. 10
In Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997), Hartman examines the 'must die' imperative of social death understood broadly as a lack of social being-but she also illuminates how, within such a context, slave "performance and other modes of practice . .. exploit[ed), and exceed[ed] the constraints of domination" (1997, 54, my emphasis). Hartman analyzes quotidian enactments of slave agency to highlight practices of "(counter)investment" (1997, 73) that produced "a reconstructed self that negates the dominant terms of identity and existence" (1997, 72). 11 She thus argues that a form of agency is possible and that, while "the conditions of domination and subjugation determine what kinds of actions are possible or effective" (1997, 54), agency is not reducible to these conditions (1997, 55).'2 The questions that I ask in this analysis travel in this direction, and aim to build on this aspect of Hartman's work. In doing so I make two key claims: first, that despite undeniable historical continuities and structural d)'namics, race is also marked by discontinuity; and second, race is constantly reworked and transformed within relations of power by subjects. 13
For Vincent Brown, a historian of slavery, ''violence, dislocation, and death actually generate politics, and consequential action by the enslaved" (2009, 1239) . He warns that focusing on an overarching condition or state potentially obscures seeing these politics. More than this, however, it risks positioning relations of power as totalizing and transhistorical, and it risks essentializing experience or the lived realities of individuals. 14 I scale down to the level of the subject to analyze both (a) how subjects are formed, and (b) how subjects – black and white alike – have struggled against conditions in ways that refuse totalizing, immutable understandings of race. This book does not seek to mark a condition or situa tion then, but instead takes up Brown's challenge (made within the context of studies of slavery) to pay attention to efforts to remake condition. Looking to those efforts to remake condition and identity grapples with the microphysics of power and the practices of daily life, enacted by individuals and i11 collective politics, to consider what people do with situations: those dynamic, innovative contestations of (a never totalizing) power. Echoing the call raised by Brown (2009, 1239), my work focuses then on "examining ... social and political lives rather than assuming . . . lack of social being" in order to think about how subjects can and have "made a social world out of death itself" (Brown 2009, 1233) or how, more generally, race can be reconfigured within the broader workings of what I am calling racial discipline and performative imperatives.
But in addressing the quotidian and those efforts to remake condition and identity, this study insists on a shift in perspective in terms of how power is thought about. As I have remarked, I am not focused on biopolitics or what can be seen as solely sovereign forms of power that are deployed to condition who will live and who will die. Instead, I am concerned with disciplinary power, which is articulated simultaneously but at a different level to biopolitics (and despi te the exercise of sovereign forms of power} (Foucault 2003a, 250). For Foucault, this form of power is not absolute, nor does it exist in opposition to resistance. Rather, power is seen as always fragmentary and incoherent, and power and resistance are seen as mutually constitutive. Disciplinary power is productive, in that it generates particular capacities and forms of subjectivity (and, necessarily, agency). And finally, though subjects are formed in power, they are not reducible to it, not determined by power.
14. Historian Vincent Brown, in his "Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery" (2009), has examined a number of scholars who seemingly take up such a viewpoint, in that they broadly position blackness as a totalizing state that, historically and in the present, renders slavery synonymous with social death and blackness as always already synonymous with slavery. Brown focuses specifically on the academic uptake and what he sees as the problematic distillation and extension of Orlando Patterson's (1981) concept of"slavery as social death;' where social death indicates a lack of social being. As a scholar of slavery, Brown is most concerned with examining the limitations of this idea in relation to the enslaved, but he is also interested in how the idea is used in relation to the present. For Brown, Patterson's "slavery as social death," and contemporary usages of this concept to account for the present, advance a troubling transhistorical characterization of slavery He argues in line with I-Ierman Bennett (quoted in Brown 1009, 1133), who has observed:
As the narrative of the slave experience, soclardeath assumes a uniform African, slave, and ultimately black subject rooted in a static New World history whose logic originated in being property and remains confined to slavery. It absorbs and renders exceptional evidence that underscores the contingent nature of experience and consciousness. Thus, normative assumptions about the experiences of peoples of African descent assert a timeless, ahistorical, epiphenomenal "black" cultural experience.