i just read, or saw, or watched something that i need to remember

...this is how i'm doing it...

- interested in blackness as a concept
- interested in music, sound and sonic histories
- interested in mapping, networks and lines of force

blackness, “black bodies” and the occupy movements

i’ve been wondering a lot lately what people of color generally, and black folks particularly, are supposed to be/mean for the Occupy movements. i’ve read so many accounts, watched video clips discussing, and had conversations with folks about the glaring absence of, particularly, “black bodies”* in the occupy movement.

it got me to thinking: if there could be a movement of students in Germany based on the Black Power Movement in the US — one that recognized the philosophic, material force of blackness IN ABSENCE of “black bodies” — what does the desire in the Occupy movements for colored bodies actually metastasize, what does the desire injuriously assume and spread about bodies that are black in contradistinction to a black(ness) philosophy that is material, a historicity of blackness that is embodied? [material and embodied insofar as i’m not making some argument that there should be a theory that is not corporeal, theory that is not active.] [and, note, the Black Power movement of Germany was not, from what i can tell, a resistance to bodies that are black; it was not a refusal to a set of politics called Black Power, embodied fully in folks like Angela Davis. rather, there was not a sense of “waiting” for particular bodies to verify the politico-ethical stance against the state.]

so on the one hand, there is an assumption that “black bodies” have some sorta affinity for social movements of resistance and i’d be all cool with that if, in fact, it was about the capacity for undoing the state and its violence directed at the masses. links, of course, to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements should be made; student sit-ins at lunch counters and financial aid buildings are appropriate analogues and prehistories. but what i seem to detect in most desires for black folks at Occupy movements is a shoring up against state violence and violation by desiring a blackened, colored frontline, matching the historic condition for being frontlined, the object of attack in the US. and that doesn’t sit well with me at all. the surprise with which folks name a “new” relation to police power as a result of the occupy movements is notable. new ain’t really new. often, the rejoinder has been, “well, some communities have always known that the state does not protect citizens, but rather, the interests of the state,” and the naming of folks such as Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Rodney King, Mumia Abu Jamal and, most recently, Troy Davis.

but this assumption, to me, is a bit troubling as it seems to imply that black bodies and state violence should be articulated together as a relation of continual violation against those bodies. those bodies come to stand in for a general purpose of the capacity of the state to inflict harm on the one hand, and the capacity to receive harm of the state on the other.

and though i’m fully convinced that blackness [the history of resistant objects] calls into being the violence of the state [“the conventionality and maintenance of the status quo are violent by nature; if you start opposing the status quo that violence that is implicit will come to focus on you” — blackness is this opposition to the status quo as an ontological force], i am radically against the sorta ethical obligation that those bodies are supposed to fulfill when that movement does not take into account the theological, philosophical concepts animating their desire toward such bodies in the first place. it’s like Hannah Arendt telling folks that she just wouldn’t do what the Negro Mother [of Elizabeth Eckford] did, placing her in harm’s way in Arkansas. what she did not account for, and what her philosophic engagements with blackness lay bare, is the fact that any Negro living in Arkansas in 1957 was in that particular condition of being targeted by the state for violence. they did not have to go to Little Rock Central High School, a separate space, in order to realize this truth. what this means, against Arendt, is that the violence of the state is always directed at certain communities in order to constitute its structure. the focus on the absence of black bodies, it seems to me, thinks about a relation to the state, to citizenship and to violence in ways that are aloof to the material conditions of the ways folks live lives daily.

on the other hand, the desire for particular bodies seems to run rather consistent with both theological and philosophical notions of purposiveness, where particular marginalized figures come to stand in for the limit of the availability for transformation [theologically] or nature [philosophically]. we see this in folks like Great Awakening preachers George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards: both owned slaves but were “encouraged” by the fact that their blacks received “salvation” … always on some, “even the Negro and the Indian would be converted” by their powerful preaching on behalf of the sovereign figure. their ideas about the purposiveness of these marginal characters set into motion their astonishment, shock, and eventually, pleasure gained from “even these” being converted. Kant, as i’ve rambled otherwise, philosophically thought the Negro/black’s purpose in the world was to demonstrate general purposiveness that exists in nature. this general purposiveness was bodied forth in the skin color, color interarticulating with the mental capacity [if it’s white, it’s right / if it’s black, stay back]. 

what leaps out at me is how the conversion of Indians and Negros verified, for Whitfield and Edwards, the rightness of the sovereign [they were both Calvinists who believed in predestination of human station, human position…the slave was, in their theology, “born that way” *cue Lady Ga…no, cue Carl Bean*]. and for Kant, the color of blacks verified the rightness of nature and her hierarchizing. so yeah. it’s weird to think about the ways “black bodies” have not shown up for the Occupy movements and how this has been documented as a problem of hospitality. and, sure, i’m guessing hospitality is one of the reasons black folks have not turned out en masse to Occupy movements. but i’m more intrigued by why this absence is glaring [that is, what sorta occularcentrism animates such concern]. and though hospitality may be one of the animating features to resistance, i’m also wondering if there is a theological, philosophical ethics of “black bodies” that undergirds particular Occupy movements.

— — — 
* “black bodies” is in quotes because, following Butler, we must keep asking what a “body” is in terms of discursivity. 


Angela Davis

This is the full-length video of Angela Davis’s lecture “Abolition Democracy and Global Politics,” delivered on October 30, 2008 at The Great Hall, The Cooper Union. This video was created by the Barnard Center for Research on Women. For additional videos and podcasts of this event and others like it, please visitbarnard.edu/bcrw.

(Source: lookingforoisin, via str-crssd)

Angela Y. Davis on Prisons

"The dividends that accrue from investment in the punishment industry, like those that accrue from investment in weapons production, only amount to social destruction. Taking into account the structural similarities and profitability of business-government linkages in the realm of military production and public punishment, the expanding penal system can now be characterised as a ‘prison industrial complex.’"


"This political economy of prisons relies on racialised assumptions of criminality - such as images of Black welfare mothers reproducing criminal children - and on well-documented racist practices in arrest, conviction and sentencing patterns to deliver up bodies destined for profitable punishment. Coloured bodies are the main raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time. Once the aura of magic is stripped away from the imprisonment solution, however, what is revealed is racism, class bias and the parasitic seduction of capitalist profit within a system that materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants, while it devours the social wealth needed to address the very problems that have led to spiralling numbers of prisoners."

i am committed to the task of perpetually becoming black. this is not a burden, but a delight, a joy, the value of fugitivity. becoming black means being against white supremacy in all of its guises, the rejection of the processes of constraint and repression that seek to violently inhibit the flourishing of life (and that more abundantly, even). so yeah, everyone can participate and be committed to this task, not just black folks. indeed, it is necessary for us all. come with me? say you’ll go.

i sorta think this is cute

omg butters omg

i sorta think this is cute


omg butters omg

Michelle Koerner on Capitalism & Fugitivity

"[T]he analysis of capitalism must be concerned with the critique of contradictions that emerge within a captive society but also must go further in considering what escapes these contradictions. Such a consideration…necessitates the construction of an alliance between revolutionary concepts and that life existing dominant order codes as minor, criminal, or outside thought."


"[F]ugitivity, rather than simply being a renunciation of action, already carries with it an active construction: a line of flight composes itself as a search for a weapon. [Fugitivity] affirms a politics where escape is always already a counterattack."

(Source: genre.dukejournals.org)

moth’s powder [02.21.10]

from: a
to: a
Sunday, February 21, 2010, 8:47 PM
subject: Re: mp 

so i know there’ve been times i’ve thought to myself that is when i fell in love with him and each time, each and every time, it’d be some different time … nothing consistent or whatever. but i guess it just means that there were several, various moments when i knew i had to love you. but that one time you called me all the way the fuck out? i guess now it’s hilarious but then? then, it was just hurtful because i couldn’t figure it out. sitting at a diner – as we always did – and me expressing to you

but i didn’t know you were really into me … i didn’t think i was attractive enough for you

you called out the bullshit i didn’t even know was there.

you must think everyone else in the world is shallow as hell … and you must think that you’re the only one who could possibly “like” [yeah…the finger thing you did there] someone for reasons both physical and otherwise. you must think you the smartest dude in the world and that’s the reason nobody likes you. that? that’s that bullshit. i’m sitting across the table from you right now telling you that i “like” you and you still won’t hear me?

and i sorta just sat there stunned. stunned because it made so much sense but i didn’t even know i was thinking it or something. like, with each enunciation of why are you into me was both a doubt and desire. so i guess doubt and desire sorta reside right next to each other, along the same sorta harmonic scale, though distance separates the two concepts. doubt and don’t … where don’t is what indexes doubt. i did not want to give in to the possibility of you. that i was – finally, though i’d been wanting it for a long time – i was falling for something that was real and i was vulnerable and who has the time for that shit?

of course, i didn’t argue with you then. you had that effect on me. but i’d argue, or resist a bit at least, now. it’s not that i thought i was smarter than everyone else. it’s just that i didn’t know what to think of myself. that’s all. unsure. doubtful. letting the don’t verb itself as a the constitutive force of my life, my love. so, sure, there may have been some narcissism or some egotistical baggage weighing down my misreading of you, making it appear that nobody could ever want me because i conceived myself as so unique and different – and though i think we’re all unique and different or whatever – i used that to buttress my resistance to connecting with you. not so much shallow as just ignorant. can i get off with a my bad? lol.

but i dunno. maybe there’s a hint of narcissism and shallowness whenever anyone declares that their difference is an impediment to connection. reminds me of one of my students last week. we were talking about the nature of all this gospel music i keep having them listen to. so after we’d listened to Emily Bramm Bibbey and Loretta Oliver, and after the subsequent conversation about their voices sounding “wet,” this dude – who NEVER talks in class – speaks up and says [i allow my students to cuss because, well…i cuss a lot in class…lol], he said

their voices do sound wet! and it seems like those voices are just dying. Professor A! i never listened to gospel music before this class but hearing all these voices, and how they’re on the verge of death, just makes me think about the slave stories you had us read and i was reading this guy named Orlando Patterson and how slaves are socially dead and i totally get it now!

it’s like…i wish i wore glasses just so i could take the glasses off my face, close my eyes, throw my head back, and give a looooong, pulsating sigh. it’s like…an affront to everything i’d been trying to teach in the class. those voices? those voices bespeak life…and to sound all like a bible, life abundantly. even on the very literal sense, a voice enunciating itself is made possible by breath…by animus…by spirit. and to think of a voice as enunciating death is to have made a declaration from a very particular, peculiar position that life was never possible for those voices in the first place. anyway. there was narcissism and not just more than a little bit of shallowness in his set of concerns. the sort that declares without reservation that some things for some individuals is not possible because of some unavoidable, inescapable condition. what’s so weird is that it took his emphatic, excited opening up that allowed me to see that i was totally against “social death” categorically but allowed the idea to animate the way i behaved with you. and that shit’s corny. 

i only wish i had your eloquence to call him out in the ways you called me out. i said something hopefully, at least partially, helpful.

the idea of natal alienation and estrangement along with the idea of inhibited honor, i can do without. i’m not really into social death because, well, seems that it depends upon a continual misreading and misrecognition of the conditions of life, the fact of the irrepressible nature of life. it grows. those voices aren’t on the verge of death any more than any one of us is on the verge of death: death is a fact of life and not the other way around. the capacity for Bibbey and for Oliver to dig down more deeply and take another breath IS LIFE. the ability for the slaves gathered in brush harbors in secret, performing theological conviction with the ring shout for HOURS until, at the point of exhaustion, they’d fall out and laugh – using more breath after breath had been thought to be nothing other than evacuated – IS LIFE! Harriet Jacobs in her grandmother’s crawspace, unable to see almost anything but listening to the voices of her children, and her children hearing coughs from the crawlspace so much so that her son “knew” she was alive, there, caring and watching – literally – over them, and pushed other children away from the area so as to make sure no one else would hear her, him acting in a reciprocal moment of care and protection? that’s LIFE, dude.

then it hit me. sure. we were sinning, according to some. we went to diners and smiled. we went to the movies and laughed – loudly – together. we held each other and fucked a lot. we sang and played and made music. we held hands. we argued…too much. we loved. we breathed each other. every.damn.day. we could not be separated, not even when folks said all kinds of shit about us, youtube comments or just in passing. didn’t matter. because we had something in us, between us, that exceeded any of those desires to regulate and repress that which we had: life. couldn’t be contained. and a love like that is possible, not when one (me? lol) continues to believe their own hype about how great – and thus, unlovable – they are. the love to which we arrived was possible because breath exists, life exists and was waiting for us to realize it. or waiting for me to accept it.

i hate that you’re gone but all i do is think about your nearness to me. i have yet to have a night that does not remember you. and  i am sad. maybe more some other time. for now, i just want to breathe in the body of this bourbon [a poor attempt at punning, i know].

this is my prayer,

on enthusiasm & theologic-philosophic self-determination

"In the quest for an end to religious dispute, enthusiasm (along with superstition) held pride of place as the enemy of reason. All the moderate leaders of the early-eighteenth-century revival, therefore, took aggressive action to distance themselves from the threat of enthusiasm. Most of the moderates, including George Whitfield and Charles Wesley, actively discouraged bodily manifestations while they were preaching. Others, such as Jonathan Edwards in New England and James Robe in Scotland, not only discouraged these bodily manifestations, they joined with ministerial critics of the revivals, such as Charles Chauncy, and Enlightened skeptics, such as David Hume, in actively seeking to explain them" (Fits, trances, & visions : experiencing religion and explaining experience from Wesley to James, 19).

Enthusiasm, as a categorical denunciation, shares with other concepts — such as delusions, experience, madness or pathological religious despair. These concepts were aestheticized as bodily manifestations of choreographic protocols and itineraries through the movements, motor behaviors and spatial peregrinations of bodies in response to some divine call or encounter. What intrigues is that at the same time that the body becomes targeted as the site of regulation against religious enthusiasm, experience and despair is the same historical moment that bodies were being refashioned from labor to capital [from the way bodies produce work to bodies that are worked].

The circum-Atlantic trade that Joe Roach writes about as the trading of coffee, sugar and — most vulgarly — human flesh [all as cargo] was foundational to a global capitalist system that had within it the necessity to reconceptualize choreographies by way of geographies, cartographies and topographies, or what we might simply call the “New World Project.” Both da Silva and Jennings discuss the necessity of a new spatial logics in the process of racialization, the way the ground upon which imperialism stood was intentionally — even when subconsciously — conceptually theologized and philosophized as chaste, as available for missionizing, exploring and exploiting. This land was available because of the indigene peoples who populated it, those who purportedly lacked civility, “true” religion and, thus, the proper means toward Christian civilization [thus they would need to be compelled by violent force, so argued José de Acosta]. The New World Project was always and everywhere the interarticulation of religious, economic and racial logics by means of a dissociative violent force.

We will get to the trading in flesh momentarily, but first: the possibility of producing a New World Project depended upon what da Silva critiques as self-determination. Self-determination, for her, is a concept invented by Western philosophic tradition to account for, and theorize about, the ones presumed to be "without thought, will, or volition" and this is most assuredly a racial/ist category.  The concept of self-determination is the assumption of European man as a thinker, with will, with volition and both the indigenes of the Americas and the black/Negros of Africa are without such possibility. The New World Project was animated by the concern for articulating this self-determination, this ability to be Enlightened, to think for oneself. And it is not the “determination” that is of import but the concept of “self” that is nothing other than a racial/ized category of coherence, stasis.

Andrea Smith goes on to extend da Silva, stating that the "central anxiety with which the western subject struggles it that it is, in fact, not self-determining." As the protestant movement — in all its critical productivity as commentary regarding the regulatory apparatus of the Papist tradition — was still anchored to this desire for western subjectivity, for a true self-determination of thought, will and volition. The indigene in the Americas and the black in Africa would come to stand in as the materiality of difference against which this western subject ideal was constructed, around which it was constituted.

Da Silva and Jennings also, lastly, think about displacement as philosophic in the former and theologic in the latter, that is, matters of the mind that produce the material engagements with blacks and indigenes. Jennings, particularly,  goes to great lengths to demonstrate the relationality of different non-western peoples to the ground, to their environs: from the ways land inhabits the theo-ethical sociality through veneration of ancestors, to the ways a divine energy may be said to infuse peoples, places and things, to the ways land is remembered as holding memory. The arrival of Europeans into the now New World, bringing along with them disease, foliage and Christ, displacing indigenes and forcing them to work in mines [as only one such example], introduces a radically different relation to the land upon which one stood and, thus, a different theological vision. On the other hand, uprooting millions from various nations and bringing them to climes and work conditions different from which they departed is part and parcel of this project of new theological violence.

Bodies uprooted, transferred, displaced. Ways of life uprooted, transferred, displaced. Bodies and ways of life as the material configuration of philosophic-theologic choreographic aversion. It is no wonder, then, that enthusiasm — that concept which easily slipped, for the self-determined ones, into notions of experience, madness and pathology — was targeted as the stumbling block to self-determination, to universality. It is no wonder, then, that enthusiasm had to have its material resonance as a manifestation on the exteriority of the body and that manifestation — so easily thought to belong only to those who lacked self-determination [thought, will, volition] — was radically critiqued as in need of regulation.  

Great Awakening revivals & Racial/ist Logics

so at this point, i have a pretty round understanding of the Great Awakening revivals, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, other figures in these revival moments, Calvinism and Puritanism … and, well, yeah. its not lookin too pretty. 

a racial/ist logic - based on New World subjectivities of discrete purity of difference — was the life blood of revival moments. “Indians” and “Blacks” were utilized as the most marginal test case scenarios for the possibilities of God’s saving grace [sorta like a Kantian formation of the "purposiveness" of Negros as the grounds for thinking about the nature of objects and teleology]. Dreadfulness, sadness and fear (particularly, of death and hell) were foundational claims for prompting majorities towards salvation. salvation, then, as a “new and living way” was a gathering around the concepts of scarcity rather than abundance, dread rather than pleasure, contempt rather than joy. [to be sure, folks who were converted after these revivals spoke of pleasure and joy; but the grounds for such possibility were only after-the-fact of such theologically otherwise claims.]

think of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," an “execution sermon” preached by Jonathan Edwards against the New York Negro “rebels” who refused to confess to wrongdoing in 1741, as one such example.

so we might say that that which marginalizes, that which — according to a calvinist, christological doctrine — separates humanity from the divine figure, becomes that which makes or forms this christologically converted subject position. the “elect” as a community, as those predestined — according to this racial/ist logic — functions both as an amorphous mass that is nothing other than a grouped articulation of what Denise da Silva calls "transcendental poesis" [fancy for “subjectivity”] that depends upon coherence, regulation and removal of difference.

but what if there were a gathering around abundance, around pleasure, around joy? we might call it the commons, we might call it queerness, we might call it blackness, we might call it pentecostness.