Wishing Against Hope: The Radical Prospects of Afro-pessimism

Discussion

Wishing Against Hope

The Radical Prospects of Afro-pessimism

‘’I am the wish in the wishbone
that white people break for good luck’’

The Last Poets – Black Wish

‘’Give a dog a bone, leave a dog alone
let a dog roam and he’ll find his way home
Home of the brave, my home is a cage
and yo I’ma slave til’ my home is a grave’’

DMX – Ruff Ryders’ Anthem

In a recent elucidation of the conceptual project of Afro-pessimism, scholar Jared Sexton referred to a pressingly apt metaphor that hinted at the restrictions that are inevitably placed on the thought and affect of black social life whenever it attempts to articulate its grievances within the congregation of the multitude. Sexton, pace Cedric Kyles, juxtaposes the black ‘’wish factor’’ against the white ‘’hope creed’’ whereby the latter’s hopes of overcoming a conflict sutures a gap in the white/non-white divide that renders the former’s calls for confronting an antagonism without an auditor. In its stead it is reacquainted with an age-old watchdog unleashed to roam and police. However, at an altogether different fissure, namely the breaking point at which the forked bone is made to split by the push and pull of the nonblack adversaries (say the conflict of Thanksgiving or the articulation of orientalism and war), resides the ‘’pained body’’ of the black. The black of slavery and slaveness. In this space, otherwise known as ‘’the hold of the ship’’, helping us to elaborate on this black wish against an antiblack hope (and in giving the dog a bone to choke on!) on the pod today are Patrice Douglass, Nicholas Brady, Kevin Cobham and Omar Ricks.

 

Check out Nicholas Brady’s work at https://outofnowhereblog.wordpress.com/ and the Baltimore grassroots organization he is affiliated with at http://lbsbaltimore.com/

Check out Omar Ricks at http://cosmichoboes.blogspot.co.uk/ and https://berkeley.academia.edu/OmarRicks

Check out Patrice Douglass at https://uci.academia.edu/PatriceDiannaDouglass

Kevin Cobham can be reached on facebook under Kevin Bismark Cobham

The Dummy Men! The Decolonial Anthropology of Asmerom Legesse

Discussion

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Going up a day later than it should have is our second entry into the dummy men series which will consist of one-to-one chats on the topics of decoloniality, white supremacy and antiblackness as they relate to the particular experience and position of the the speakers’ background. In this pod we speak on the seminal 1973 text written by Harvard Emeritus Professor Asmerom Legesse on his expansive study of the Oromo in Southern Ethiopia entitled Gada: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society.

In what will run for a few consecutive sessions, we will attempt to introduce the text to new readers and hope to offer an accessible conversation to complement the reading of the text by weaving in points of interest for the broader discussion on decoloniality. For instance, Ato Asmerom’s highly critical position on the practice of applying eurocentric disciplines of anthropological study on colonized peoples as informed by Frantz Fanon whose writings were in fresh circulation during the decade Ato Asmerom conducted his field research in Ethiopia; the influence his explication of the concept of liminality had on Sylvia Wynter in her study on blacks in the U.S; and his stretching of Claude Levi-Strauss’ and Victor Turner’s structuralist models of the study of indigineous peoples considering their implementation under the paradigm of coloniality.

Please refer to the material below for the relevant texts by Professor Asmerom and Wynter and click on this link for an introduction to the work of Levi-Strauss .

 

Don’t fall for the dummy man!

 

 

https://zelalemkibret.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/gada-asmerom-legese.pdf

No-Humans-Involved-An-Open-Letter-to-My-Colleagues-by-SYLVIA-WYNTER

 

 

The Dummy Men! Trailing the Afropolitan Nightmare

Discussion

Before the money, there was love

But before the money, it was tough

Then came the money through a plug

It’s a shame it ain’t enough

– Joey Bada$$ ~ Paper Trails

 

In his album earlier this year Joey Bada$$ crafted a refreshingly mature song that spoke towards the catch 22 situation that the concept of money and material capital imposes on black people’s sense of uplift (or as he puts it in an affective mode that consistently relays back to his St. Lucian heritage: the bottom that is the plantation). The conundrum being the material capacity to address the original situation of collective poverty lives in an inverse relation temporally to the immaterial love that emerges in poverty.

This kind of after-the-fact consciousness is at the heart of the politics of a global class now freely identifying as Afropolitan. A politics that has at best left itself open to, and at worst has openly applied neoliberalist frameworks of ‘development’, ‘progress’, and the usual gushing of identitarian analyses of the self. It is hoped that Vitamin D with today’s discussion will add to the already rich dialogue that has developed ( see links below for articles discussed in the pod) from a perspective informed by structural violence as explicated through the discourses of decoloniality and Afropessimism (whether old or new).

This is a polemic from two black individuals. So if this is perceived as an attack on someone who may have identified with this Afropolitan formation then that perception will have merit. Vitamin D would be much more interested in communicating with and to those ‘transnationals’ who would use these resources as an opportunity for ethical reflection and asking questions that should really be posed immediately after that reaching of the point of arrival proverbially refered to as ‘the promised land’. What did this land promise?, Has the promise been fulfilled?, Was this promise what was initially desired?, Could this land even deliver on what it did promise?,  and most importantly, should we now make the same promise to those (left?) behind us?

To return to the (un)expected wisdom of a rapper from Bed-Stuy born barely 20 years ago who is yet intuitive enough to know not to let the necessity of dreaming freedom for the self (‘I gotta get my momma off the scene’) get in the way of discerning just what is gained and lost in that very act (‘cash ruined everything around me’).

When Afropolitans dream, are they also not slumbering? When they slumber, are they not perpetuating the nightmare for others? Here’s to a different trail entirely.

 

Links discussed in the pod :

http://africasacountry.com/why-im-not-an-afropolitan/

http://africainwords.com/2013/02/08/exorcizing-afropolitanism-binyavanga-wainaina-explains-why-i-am-a-pan-africanist-not-an-afropolitan-at-asauk-2012/

https://books.google.be/books?id=rQbiP0M5tCUC&pg=PA26&lpg=PA26&dq=mbembe+afropolitanism&source=bl&ots=QpfYVKNFfj&sig=-keRFQLmeATL3fB3ng9at_R7izQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zYPeUuKnILPdygPrr4DICQ#v=onepage&q=mbembe%20afropolitanism&f=false

Law, Race, and Political Blackness in the UK

Uncategorized

What is it like to be a black criminal lawyer in a white supremacist racist colonial system? How can one exercise a decolonial critique of this system knowing that fair treatment is not be found within its bounds? Further, what does it mean to practice law at all when this system is the predominant incriminating agent of non-white people, chief pretender to be the unquestioned dispenser of justice, and historically sanctions the violence of ‘law enforcement’ all at once? Helping us think through these questions is Kevin Bismark Cobham who is a Cambridge educated criminal defence lawyer who also defines himself as a movement lawyer, Pan-Africanist and community activist based in London. We also discuss a notion of ‘political blackness’ which is peculiar to the UK and look at its origins, goals and limitations in the context of a global understanding of blackness as formed by the violence of modernity, ‘the bowels of the slave ship’, and ‘the furnace of the plantation’.

 

Decolonial Strategies Today and the Limitations of the White Left

Discussion, Uncategorized

Today Vitamin D welcomes for a second time Dr. Ramon Grosfoguel with whom we recently caught up at a function he was attending in London. Following from our last chat with Ramon he speaks to the contemporary political applications of decolonial thought this time around. What does decoloniality demand of the traditional white left? What is the role of the ‘nation-state’ in the global project of decolonization? How have our politics of liberation been historically co-opted to reproduce the same colonial logic they set out to thwart? In his usual gracious spirit and dedication towards the decolonial project Ramon tackles these and other topics including the necessity of disenchantment with the white man for any decolonial politics to bear fruit, the importance of having a critique of the state from an indigenous perspective giving the examples of Ecuador and Venezuela, the colonial relationship that connects police brutality in the U.S.A to the occupation of Palestine and much more.

 

The Souls of Muslim Folk: Islam and Decolonial Futures

Discussion

Vitamin D recently caught up with Dr. Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley at the ‘Institutional Islamophobia’ conference held in London where he was gracious enough to spend some time with us to go over his background both as a decolonial scholar and an activist engaged in various liberation struggles.

We were also joined by the OOMK collective’s Hudda Khaireh as we touched on the Western university’s complicity in the expansion of eurocentric projects, the uneasy discourse of ‘Muslimness’ as an identity in the West as well as the Islamicate world’s place within the colonial matrix generally , and finally, Dr. Bazian’s own intellectual engagements with the Duboisian concept of double consciousness and formulation of a liberation theology based on Islamic principles.

The End to a Means‏

Audio Documentary

‘And if they reject such an empire, it can be imposed on them by way of arms, and such a war would be just according to the declarations of natural law […] In sum: it is just, convenient, and in conformity with natural law that those honorable, intelligent, virtuous, and human men dominate all those who lack these qualities.’ – Ginés de Sepúlveda

‘The starving fellah, Fanon pointed out, does not have to inquire into the truth. He is, they are, the truth. It is we who institute this ‘Truth’. We must now undo their narratively condemned status’ – Sylvia Wynter

‘I don’t think I ever claimed, or meant to claim, that Afro-pessimism sees blackness as a kind of pathogen. I think I probably do, or at least hope that it is, insofar as I bear the hope that blackness bears or is the potential to end the world.’ – Fred Moten

‘I knew that no matter how far from home I traveled, I would never be able to leave my past behind. I would never be able to imagine being the kind of person who had not been made and marked by slavery. I was black and a history of terror had produced that identity. Terror was “captivity without the possibility of flight,” inescapable violence, precarious life. There was no going back to a time or place before slavery, and going beyond it no doubt would entail nothing less momentous than yet another revolution.’ – Saidiya Hartman

Today Vitamin D is happy to share a recent audio documentary entitled ‘Ending The World’ which was produced to contribute to an exhibition entitled ‘Visions of the Future’ hosted by OOMK (www.oomk.net). Members of the Decoloniality London (DL) network were asked what the titular phrase means to them and how they see it being made manifest. The last three quotations above are in some shape or form responding to Sepúlveda’s historical justification for the earth to be governed by colonial means. Moreover, they are building on the early clarion calls made by Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon to move towards a total transformation of the world and so the voices in the recording attempt to speak to this demand while also extending and elevating it to contemporary discourse.

The people heard here will also be organising and facilitating an upcoming study programme on decoloniality which is due to have its launch day on 14 March.  As a part of DL, Vitamin D will be releasing additional information about this project in the near future and will also link to the relevant website as things get finalised.

In the mean time, check out this short piece on what it might mean to take the cry to ‘end the world’ as a serious strategy of liberation from the colonial matrix of power.

Do get in touch if you’d like to register for the launch event.

Frantz Fanon and the Struggle for Decolonial Ideas

Discussion

On today’s episode Vitamin D is glad to welcome Professor Lewis R. Gordon to introduce the life, works and thought of one Frantz Fanon and his immense impact on contemporary discourses of decoloniality and beyond. Lewis has been writing on Fanon, Africana philosophy and black existentialism for over 30 years and has tirelessly engaged in the struggle for decolonial ideas all over the Global South.

In our conversation we delve right into a short biography of Frantz Fanon and his importance for decolonial and humanist thought and praxis whilst Lewis also shares with us prescient critiques of current intellectual and political trends such as Afropessimism and intersectionality as well as the state of decoloniality itself.

Also, please bare with us as we had some technical difficulties in recording this one and we would also like to thank Lewis again for making time for us even though he was under the weather.

 

Books:

Lewis R. Gordon.    Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existentialist Thought

                                     Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism

                                   An Introduction to Africana Philosophy

Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity.

Jane Anna Gordon. Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Walter Mignolo. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options.

Feminism and Colonial Difference

Discussion

Today we have academic researcher Sara Salem who is based at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands and Fatuma Khaireh who is a member of the OOMK collective In London. We chat about the histories of feminist movements, gender as a Eurocentric (mis)conception and the limits of intersectionality. Thanks to Sara for making time for us during her short stay in town and Fatuma for making it such a lively discussion!

 

Books mentioned in podcast:

T.Denean Sharpley-Whiting. Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms

Denise Ferreira da Silva. Toward a Global Idea of Race

Saidiya Hartman. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America; Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route.

Hortense Spillers. Black, White and in Color.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.

Abdelmalek Sayad: The Suffering of the Immigrant.

A Genealogy of the Emergence of Decoloniality

Discussion

In today’s podcast Vitamin D reached out to Dr. Roberto D. Hernandez of San Diego State University to talk about the concept of decoloniality and the history of its emergence within the context of his own political formation as a Chicano activist raised in San Ysidro – blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border and the site of the busiest port of entry in the world. In what is hoped to be the first segment of a two-part discussion we touched on the post-1992 quincentenary protests of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas as a rife period for reformulating questions of colonization. Roberto talks us through the novel and radical sentiments informing the political movements of that time and how they tie in with emergent theories of European Modernity as coloniality. We also discuss Chicana/Chicano identity, the thought of Anibal Quijano, the synthesis of major third world theories into an analysis of decoloniality, and Roberto’s work on border logic and indigenous knowledge systems.

This podcast constitutes as part of Vitamin D’s commitment to introduce the concept of decoloniality to listeners who may or may not be actively studying or engaged in the politics of liberation through a colonial lens. Roberto helps us think through the differences between decolonial thought emerging out of the Latin-American context in the late 1980s and the existing schools of South Asian subaltern studies and theories of Orientalism, as well as between colonialism as a relationship between a colony and its mother nation predicated on notions of territorial sovereignty and coloniality as a globally operating logic of power. We learn that decoloniality as a novel theory of liberation of oppressed people emerges as a synthesis of existing models of liberation such as dependency theory, internal colonialism and world systems theory – all of which are defined and explained by Roberto in today’s pod. Lastly, we touch on the colonial knowledge systems that have given us, among other things, national borders and how mainstream discourses of immigrant/emigrant serve to perpetuate and further entrench the logic of borders. This latter area is what will be the topic for our second part of the conversation in the near future.