”Allow grief to take you into a political terrain that no one can satisfy”
Today’s episode will speak to Dr. Selamawit Terrefe and Dr. Frank Wilderson III focusing on the political discourse and theoretical project of Afropessimism. This conversation was recorded a day after the guests conducted a workshop introducing the key elements of the theory’s formulation as well as its implication for black-led movement organisations, and took on questions and comments from the black participants present on the day. Following from that, the position of blackness within the symbolic order, and in turn, the differently gendered positions within the intramural, constituted some of the most stressed talking points as were Afropessimism’s implications and relevance for black people across the globe, particularly those whose liberation discourse is tied to the claim to land.
Even as this podcast’s emphasis has been on the decolonial theorization of the coloniality of power, its ontological as well as epistemological predominance through and via the prime organizing principle of “race” on subjects not racialized as white throughout modernity, the last three episodes of Vitamin D have signalled a sharp turn towards blackness as a singular position in the modern world. This is not to say that blackness has no relationship to the “colonial matrix” but that it sits rather uneasily within its “version of events” and its rendering of global structure(s) of power. Colonial power is diffused globally in such a way, we are told, that the slave, the native and the worker share a common space-time and its assumed that the slave has access to a classed, gendered and sexed integrity all the while blackness as a limit case, the sine qua non inhabitant of the zone of non-being and social death, is harnessed to stand in as the showpiece recipient of coloniality’s most egregious violence.
The producers of this podcast will endevour to explore the singularity of global antiblackness and the resistance to it by black people across the world from this point forward. As black people resist in various ways, we will insist that the acme of such resistance is Afropessimism. Alluding to a popular Fanonian theme of asphyxiation and freedom, decolonial scholars tell us that ”coloniality is the very air we breathe”. To which we respond: ”decoloniality inhales the slave to lend itself a radical posture as slavery is what has had all of humanity on life support.” Its buoyancy as a radical theory depends on the slave’s exsanguination. Breathe in, bleed out.
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‘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.