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

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."

and

"[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,
a.-

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.

excitement!

excitement!

moth’s powder [02.18.10]

from: a
to: a
Thursday, February 18, 2010, 11:12 PM
subject: mp

i’ve been watching all these youtube videos of older black women singing in churches and their voices have moved me because they sound, for lack of a better word quite honestly, “wet.” you should know what i mean…remember the cassette tape [yes, a throwback i know] that i’d play in the car on our long trips up and down 95 or 85 or back and forth on 40 or 10, the tapes from convocations in memphis and specifically the way Emily Bramm Bibbey [her name just sounds sanctified, holy and full…like she just ate a goodass meal she cooked] would walk up to the mic and without pleasantries – the only sound you’d hear being the movement of the microphone towards her mouth – would belt out

one day at a tiIiIiIiIiIiIiIme, sweet jesus!

…that kind of voice, her kinda voice. or even Loretta Oliver from Fellowship in chicago [just in case you think i have a pentecostal bias, though Loretta grew up pentecostal, Fellowship is baptist] singing

wonderful savior is he! 

wherein her voice sounds of its climbing out of the depths from the wonderful, reaching the apex by he! or her singing   

it’s a hiIiIiIighway up to heaven…ooOOooOOooOOh!

though sung with a much more rapid velocity than Bibbey’s, Oliver’s voice likewise uses melismatic rupture as hallucinatory of a bubbling vitality, a bubbling life. like i said, their voices sound “wet” but i’m not too sure how to translate this to “paper” [though, i suppose, if you think of the screen as “paper,” then you can think of the lowercaseUPPERCASE alternation as attempting to visually represent the shaking of the voice, its refusal of being stilled, its fugitivity, its wayward nature, its lack of decisiveness, indexed by the repetition of interplay]. 

well.

the point i’m getting at is that there are voices that, for me, sound as if they were submerged in some deep, mysterious, watery grave and those voices struggle for their own resurrectional capacities to be heard in and through such wet substance. to be underwater is to be, we know, beneath the surface and this below and beneath makes anyone standing above – on a ship’s deck, for example – inaudible. it’s not as if the sounds do not exist below the surface of a body of water; indeed, there are sciences dedicated to listening to the sounds underwater. the vibrations that produce sound, audibility, the soundscape, move more quickly and further and further still underwater. so it’s not as if life is not occurring in any underneath or underwater inhabitation; it is that one must position oneself securely within the folds and underneaths that are generally discounted as listless, lifeless.      

so, like i said, i’ve listened a lot to Emily Bramm Bibbey and Loretta Oliver and couldn’t shake the feeling they kept giving me. i put a status on facebook saying, simply, that their voices sounded “wet” to me, and other than a few “likes,” there was no conversation that ensued, which was cool. i figured saying it out in public would make the “feeling” their voices gave me go away. but, of course, this week was also the week that i had my students read about the Zong massacre, particularly the poetry that Philips produced by using the court case … amazon has a better description of it than i do: 

In November, 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that some 150 Africans be murdered by drowning so that the ship’s owners could collect insurance monies. Relying entirely on the words of the legal decision Gregson v. Gilbert—the only extant public document related to the massacre of these African slaves—Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be told. Equal parts song, moan, shout, oath, ululation, curse, and chant, Zong! excavates the legal text. Memory, history, and law collide and metamorphose into the poetics of the fragment. Through the innovative use of fugal and counterpointed repetition, Zong! becomes an anti-narrative lament that stretches the boundaries of the poetic form, haunting the spaces of forgetting and mourning the forgotten.

it’s like youtube knew that i’d be having my students read about this particular massacre and this poetry that emanates from such underwater mausoleum and found a sonic, spiritual, ecstatic parallel to such praise and lamentation. so though i was initially against it because i did not want my students to confuse the pleasure of singing in a church with the pain Philips tries to echo [and it is indeed an echo, a hollowed out, previous to situation, recitation of sound that produces proximity by way of nearness to a source without ever laying claim to the conditions of such emantional force; echo because it is the reflection of sound waves, waves as in ocean and water? perhaps], i played clips of Bibbey and Oliver singing while we discussed the book. i looped several of their songs and sermons [i had no idea until this week because of youtube that Bibbey was assistant pastor of a church in new york for a while] and while we talked about Philips’s poetry, their songs and sounds of watery upheaval were playing in the background [i initially wrote and deleted blackground, but i’m not so sure it’s wrong]. if Philips’s poetry dives into the water to receive a word from the submerged, Bibbey and Oliver’s voices attempt to extend outward from the same sorta condition of submergence. 

it’s not simply that their voices struggle from some sorta underwater dwelling. their voices sound of gurgling, the flow of sonic resource that from within them – in a broken, irregular current – come rushing out. gurgles make me think of bubbles and bubbles are from underwater, making me consider the air necessary for such encapsulated plea to be released to swim to the surface. the gurgle is nothing other than the sign of life of the submerged, the sound of water current attempting to eclipse such breath and breathing. the bubble is formed because some air from a body or organism was taken with them either as a thrown away, discardable material substance – such as the captives aboard the Zong ship – or taken with them as a decision to throw oneself overboard because, as the testimony service song says, they’ve got a hiding place, even in the overboarded underwater world. what i’m not saying simply enough is that one takes air, which is to say life, with them and the gurgle and bubble is the fact of the capacity to take things with you, in you, even in the face of conditions that would attempt to take away even your capacity to hold shit in… 

anyway.

Bibbey and Oliver’s voices come to us, in all of their force and magnitude, as evidence of having been submerged but having, also and most importantly, survived any attempt at drowning. i guess the question that keeps coming to me is this: are their voices, with the “wet” sound, rehearsing an ontic condition of the submerged that keep coming to us again and again? why would such a “wet” sound be so pleasurable, why does it move the congregation in such endurational ways? what is the capacity of the “wet” voice to show signs of life even if gurgling, bubbling, from horrific conditions of drowning? maybe Philips’s poetry, attempting to sing something of the breath and vitality of the more than 150 drowned captives, and the “wet” voices of Bibbey and Oliver are a part of the same aesthetic production…or something. a different kinda baptism.

i’ve been thinking about breath a lot lately, and not simply because of my foray into bikram practice. i’ve also been having lots of trouble sleeping lately, yet and still, all over again. you keep coming to my mind from way below me, in my stomach, in my heart and i feel night sweats on my brow, i awakening with labored and belabored breath. i attempt to sleep and i feel faint, as if i were about to be carried away by currents too forceful for me to fight but i still struggle within the currents…and against them. it’s as if i would black out each time i lay head to pillow but this blackening would be too weighty to bear and i’d never wake up. so i’m exhausted a lot, tired a lot and only fall asleep after i can literally no longer stand or sit or lay. it just comes to me and i awaken hours later. but each time i wake up, hard of breath, out of breath, tired from breath, i only have just enough breath left to squeeze out your name, moth’s powder, as if the name itself were agitational torque working in and through my body.

corny way to say i miss you, right? lol…but i do. and at least i’m laughing a bit more about it, about us, these days. though, as i said, sleep is difficult. dtim still thinks i should contact your mother, say hi or some shit…and shit, valentine’s day just passed and i didn’t even say i love you. but that, you already know. and still, i do.

anyway.
a.-

enlightenment thought and blackness

The fourth section of such “observations” is where Kant explicitly speaks about race and racialization, of the black, in some consistently problematic but certainly, programmatic, which is to say, choreographic ways.

 

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the ridiculous. Mr. Hume challenges anyone to adduce a single example where a Negro has demonstrated talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who have been transported elsewhere from their countries, although very many of them have been set free, nevertheless not a single one has ever been found who has accomplished something great in art or science or shown any other praiseworthy quality, while among the whites there are always those who rise up from the lowest rabble and through extraordinary gifts earn respect in the world. So essential is the difference between these two human kinds, and it seems to be just as great with regard to the capacities of mind as it is with respect to color.

 

In the lands of the blacks can one expect anything better than what is generally found there, namely the female sex in the deepest slavery? […] Indeed, Father Labat reports that a Negro carpenter, whom he reproached for haughty treatment of his wives, replied: You whites are real fools, for first you concede so much to your wives, and then you complain when they drive you crazy. There might be something worth considering, except for the fact that this scoundrel was completely black from head to foot, a distinct proof that hat he said was stupid. [1]

 

The capacity of Enlightenment philosophy to understand anything about the Negro, anything of the black, is immediately inhibited by the aversion, the choreographic gathering and placement to the side, of thought that animates Kant’s rendering of some others’ thoughts. That is, Kant first must acquiesce to Mr. Hume and then to Father Labat, and they act as the verifications for and the grounds of such philosophic thought. But what is coordinated here, in time, in space, as a choreographic arrhythmia at the heart of his theorizing? Though stated a few years later from his writing about these Observations, Kant’s theory of Enlightenment is the escape from sociality and sociability in order to think oneself alone; the scholar, the philosopher, the subject emerges when that individual thinks for himself without the aid of others. Throughout the whole of his observations, Kant’s glance alone was enough to think the various peoples of the world, prejudicial though his thoughts may have been. But when it came to the Negro, to the black, to the concept and ground of thinking such Being, Kant deferred to others, he entered into the very conditions which Enlightenment would so escape.

 

Color comes to stand in for the set of mental incapacities of the black. The incapacity to think, the inability to be anything otherwise than stupid, Kant would find on the epidermal structure. The epidermis, then, is purposeful insofar as it makes it acceptable and expedient to necessitate a social project of thought in order to declare a truth, a social project that was the antithesis to the formation of the scholar, of the philosopher, of the subject. So who, then, would declare such erroneousness about the Negro, about the black? And if the Enlightenment is constituted by the incapacity to think a certain set of objects by way of enlightened coordination, what can we state of those objects? How do those unthought objects avoid, and by what politics is this avoidance; and how is this avoidance ontological, previous to the situation of Enlightenment?

 

Enlightenment thought, we might say, is not yet begun. An enlightened philosophy of blackness was not achievable for Kant. As the skin stands in for a certain incapacity to think, this philosophical tradition was constituted by that irreducible incapacity. What does it mean that the object that resisted the glance, quite literally previous to Kant’s answering the question of enlightenment, cannot be thought anti-socially? The “logical” possibility for Enlightenment and for a universalism is broken down before its enactment by the concept of blackness, the figure of the black, the Negro. To establish an Enlightenment depends upon a glance at, which is at the same time an aversion for, blackness wherein the object of the glance, of the averted gaze is placed off to the side – the periphery – of thought.

 

Enlightenment is the coordination of such displacement, it is the choreographic itinerary and protocol for claiming an object by refusing its counterfactual. We must think the grid created by such thought and what slipped through the cracks. This grid is the zone of articulation for the irreducible unrepresentability of blackness as belonging, as “proper” and property. This zone lays bare blackness as “irreducibly disordering,” as the resistance to being owned even in the place of the mind. Blackness and subjectivity are constantly at odds and Kant rightly stumbled upon it as an emergence of a social. His vulgar dismissal of blackness still displayed the constitutive nature of blackness: the production of a sociality. This is not to claim that sociality, of itself, produces only good things but rather to highlight the inescapability of sociality. It’s that blackness runs through him as a negative charge, so scary that he subsequently must theorize a way around and against this sociality. This indeed is Enlightenment.



[1] Kant, Louden and Zöller, pp. 59, 61.

holy quietness and black flesh

"Holy quietness does not mean to hold your mouth shut and not praise God. It means that the spirit hushes all the flesh. The Lord is in His holy temple and let all the flesh be silent before Him. This quietness will let the Spirit speak out in praises and shouts and song. It is holy quietness in heaven, when the praise is like the voice of ‘many waters’ and ‘mighty thunderings.’ (Rev. 19:6) We want this holy quietness all the time, so we will get used to heaven before we get there."
The Apostolic Mission, Feb-March Issue, 1907

so what is so very cool about this is how the word “flesh” serves as substitution for the word “earth” in the scripture (that they do not note; Hab 2:20). and what occurs when we think about the above statement regarding “holy quietness” if refracted through the distinction Hortense Spillers makes between flesh and body [where the distinction she makes is that the body is captive, but the flesh is liberated; that flesh is “before the ‘body’” as it were, that it is the “zero degree of social conceptualization that does not escape concealment under the brush of discourse or the reflexes of iconography”]? here, the writer in the Apostolic Mission makes the distinction, by way of conflation, earth and flesh. would it be going too far to say that the desire for the flesh to be quieted is a way to recuperate the historic condition of being relegated to *only* the flesh? that rather than abandoning such an idea, that having flesh is a bad thing, that this religiocultural moment and movement decided to pronounce the sacredness of the flesh? and that the flesh, so relegated - historically ripped apart, severed, disregarded - still allows access to heaven on earth? 

YES!

(via pussiesandpoets)

praying to the east & politics of avoidance [a brief comment]

Of note are the following passages of Cornelia Bailey, a woman born and raised on Sapelo Island who cherishes the traditions there: 


If you had been standing on the white sands of this island at dayclean in 1803, or a little later, you might have seen a tall, dark-skinned man with narrow features, his head covered with a cap resembling a Turkish fez, unfold his prayer mat, kneel and pray to the east while the sun rose. This was Bilali, the most famous and powerful of all the Africans who lived on this island during slavery days, and the first of my ancestors I can name.[1]

And,


When I’d go to say my nightly prayer, I’d better not, I repeat, I’d better not let Mama catch me with my head turned to the West. I was up for a good fussing at if she did. […] The first thing I learned when it came to directions was Eat and West. Forget the South and the North. I knew at an early age that the sun rose in the East, so it was easy to pinpoint, and I knew the West, because the sun sets there and the darkness begins. So I knew my directions and who I was supposed to be praying to and who I was supposed to be avoiding. It was god resides in the East. Pray to God, not the devil.[2]

Directionality matters and it carries the material trace of the purposiveness of movement toward social ecstasy. We might say that the posture of prayer is directional and has particular force when engaged with a social choreography. And the politics of avoidance is enacted at the level of this social choreography that is nothing other than a reservoir of memory and dissent. We might even consider that the posture towards the east, in prayer and praise, in the New World after the fact of Middle Passage becomes a moment to acknowledge ancestry of stolen love, life. The western world, the direction towards which they were brought and newly inhabited, was animated by the philosophy of aversion for the objects, for the things, for the persons found in the East.

Thus, directionality serves as memorial. As the first of her ancestors that she can name, Bailey utters Bilali and his posture towards the east as an important fact of memory. That memory is a fact of the materiality of the body; memory is embodied and is prompted at each performance of the turn to the east. The politics of avoidance is also prompted by way of directionality. Bailey states that from a young age, she knew that the direction of her prayer was a pointing toward a who in either direction, and that she had to, with each performance, avoid the devil, the demon, the daemon. What when the devil is the averted gaze? What when the averted gaze leaves unbothered the thing so averted? And how does the politics of avoidance turn as the instantiation of the bridge, that ontological rupture as resistance against any occasion of aversion? 

Sapelo is the ground upon which the convergence of influence occurs and if the reverberations of Bilali are felt through directionality, what of dance? Is there a relationship between the circumambulation around the Kaaba and the Ring Shout that Bilali and his descendants index? The relationship might just be borne out on another excess, another accouterment, another throw-away material trace: the Turkish fez.



[1] Cornelia Bailey and Christena Bledsoe, God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man : a Saltwater Geechee Talks About Life on Sapelo Island, 1st edn (New York: Doubleday„ 2000), p. 1. 

[2] Bailey and Bledsoe, p. 157.