Thursday, February 15, 2007

Alisha Gaines: Shuck n Strategy

for Alisha


some of us
were made
for TV

some of us
can animate
the mundane

some of us
speak flat spaces
into declarative
remixing ruts
into interrogatives

some of us
open our hands
so minstrel spirits
fall through
and recolor
the everyday making
of same

at least one us

Treva Lindsey: Historicizing Creativity (and recreating History)

for Treva

has a code
like morse

like the bottom
of a hard-spoken

fortifies itself
with costumes
such that
the visual
beomes lyrical

to the song
yet to be

or the dance
we should be
stretching for

all ready

Monday, February 12, 2007

Aisha Peay: A Critical Attitude

for Aisha

i think you carve

your statements

into iron

round and solid

sounds of knowing

or maybe you shake

sand and gravel

through hardcover wings

firmly out towards yes

i would call you

a subtle detective

or a calm and self-sufficient

rescue mission

looking for what

i believe

we all


bravery supplements (shortwave listenings Feb 2007)

Jennifer Brody (Northwestern)
Cynthia Brown (Greensboro TRC)
Sharon Holland (Northwestern)
Fred Moten (USC)
Aishah Simmons
Monica Dillon
Johnetta Cole (Bennett)
Valerie Kaalund (Bennett)
Marianne Hirsch (Columbia)
Wahneema Lubiano (Duke)
Mark Anthony Neal (Duke)
Charles Piot (Duke)
Pedro Lasch (Duke)
Diane Nelson (Duke)
Maurice Wallace (Duke)

So the English Department has just had a search for senior African Americanists. This is a very very good thing, not just because it would be great to have more people in our department who are absolutely brilliant about my interest, but also because it provided me the opportunity to listen to Jennifer Brody, Sharon Holland and Fred Moten explain and demonstrate their approaches to African American Studies at exactly the moment (my exams are in 1 month!) that I am thinking hardest about what kind of scholar I want to be. In addition, the African and African American Studies Department held a a town hall meeting entitled "Shut Up and Teach?" in response to the hateful threats that faculty members at Duke have been getting due to their stances against sexism, racism, sexual violence, and oppression more generally during the increased visibility brought on by the Lacross team scandal.

So I get the message. Now (as always) is the time for me to think and rethink and be accountable for my relationship to the Universe(city) (a formulation that I first saw...after writing it...on the cover of re)magazine @ Columbia..but which Fred Moten also deployed in a conversation last week). The general message is this: Alexis BE as BRAVE as YOU ARE!

So Jennifer Brody in the first of these talks seemed to be about as brave as I already am. Her talk was affirming in that she (see my earlier shortwave listening comments about Judith Butler and the scene of address) took care to directly address her audience..and seemed to be a very good reader of us, and of what may have been socially expected at her (though when I asked her about her process of reading us..she avoided the question). Witnessing J-Bro's constant and prodigious and almost unbelievable social readings and the resultsit produced makes me think about my own practice of social reading. Do I want to by the type of reader that shape-shifts to fit into the ways that I am interpellated within a university or departmental context? Do I need to strategically cheerlead the existing process into which I may be assimilable? Or do I want to reflect those expectations in a different and more risky way? Does the practice of reading my environment need to be a reproductive act in that I give the image back to the giver and name myself into the family line or is there a way to read and be responsible to every environment while still making and empahsizing the more multi-sited approach that I have (developed the difference I want to make)?

Sharon Holland is braver and more brazen that I am. She is comfortable with the shared and exchangeable terms that the academy values. Even though it's Jennifer Brody's talk that was actually about a sculptor (afro-native woman loving Edmonia Lewis)Holland seemed to actual perform some kind of dexterous ability to manipulate a wide range of ideas with a passion that I found contagious. She made me want to be braver and more confident in my ideas.

Fred Moten (if this is all relational...which it is) reminded me of some of the content that resonates with that bravery for me. And it is interesting that I use the word content because for me theoretical bravery has a lot to do with form...with a poetic approach to theorization that actually dwells in the literature it engages in and experiments with the language in which it is and is not possible to describe the logics we live. Something, in other words. Something far beyond the expectations of simple argument and persuasion and mastery that I cannot afford (because of the mastery and enslavement that it reproduces). And it is important to note that this is not only an approach to words themselves (though of course Moten i a noted poet) it is also an approach to the structure of the Universe(city) which hE acknowledges as appropriated resources that belong to the people...and we are the leaks through which they get the power of these resources back.

And of course the AAS faculty and African Americanist English Faculty that is at Duke already attracted and selected these thinkers in the first place. Which reminds me that though I look for unscholarly refuge (say by listeningto former councilwoman and member of the Greensboro Truth and Reconcilation Council responding to the racist murders of community organizers, there is ample bravery to be found (so ironically as I mentioned to Kriti this week) in this unlikely and strangely seductive yet barely tolerable place called the university.

Wahneema Lubiano almost brought me to tears during the shut up and teach session with her passionate reminders of our successes. Of the fact that we don't need to look to the media for what our success is...because they will not represent it...because it is just THAT powerful. In Wahneema's definition BlackStudies (oneword...i'd like to the title of Audre Lorde's poem) is homeless and Moten affirms this. BlackStudies is never complete and was created by students and is and must be always critical. (Citing Bambara and Spillers among others). It is clear to me that Wahneema creates the context in which creative critique is (to also paraphrase Bambara) irresistible.

*here i should note that this past thursday i...along with the rest of the artistic response crew spent a miraculous day at Bennett College while they hosted Aishah Simmons and Monica Dillon. Aishah Simmons (besides her gracious shout out of UBUNTU) also mentioned that Audre Lorde (through spirit and poetry) and Toni Cade Bambara (in person) were the women who let her know her brilliance and means. So it is infinitely appropriate that we performed an arrangement of Lorde's Litany for Survival and it is is appropriate that Wahneema calls on Bambara's words and style to create the space and the demand for critique and community building in the academy.

So Charles Piot gave a reflection of the blog of one particular vector of hate towards the 88 faculty member who spoke out in support of students andagainst the repression and silencing of issues of sexual violence. Mark Anthony created a genalogy of black public intellectuals (co-produced by each other and the times in which they lived) who will use alterntive and mass media forms to "fight fire with fire."

Pedro Lasch and Diane Nelson peformed the relationships that they envisioned. Lasch created a series of questions about power, knowledge, fear and love that he hopes will generate more questions (and if the Q&A session which lasted almost an hour is any evidence his performance was effective) and Nelson solicited audience participation to read about the repression of intellectuals during the CIA sponsored Civil War in Guatamala and performend interconnection by having some of her graduate students give loops of string to people of the audience. The point is that our connection to each other is dangerous, embattled, and necessary.

*Nelson's presentation which looked at the terms "articulate" "disarticulate" and "inarticulate" to investigate the politics of speech in resistance also connected to a (anthro department sponsored) talk by Columbia University's Mariane Hirsch who writes about the transmission of holocaust survivor memories across generations (her generation is self-identified as the "hinge" generation).

Maurice Wallace got specific about the types of connections that we need in a very author as producer kind of way, pointing out the participation of professors in the service economy of alienated laborin the university..the excesses of which are constantly policed through a process that includes divisions between support staff, faculty and students. He also presented brilliant anaylsis (alongside Mark Anthony Neal's emphasis of the multiple publics that black intellectuals speak into)of the ways in which we are constituted by and IN public...the ways in which our race, gender and sexuality are already public issues. So what would it mean if we did NOT speak in public about public issues?

What indeed? Thank the universe(city) for making it possible for me to hear my name called so variously and with with such grace.