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i met a traveler from a ravaged land,

who in one hand
held a map
that charted the paths of the stolen,
the trapped,
now bonds are broken,
she told me,
replaced with the hold
of history.
i sat to listen to the unfolding
of time
and before i could get my mind right,
as quick as light,
shed begun!
the year is 1"#1
$e%erson declares that the people of the &nited
'tates are blessed
by possessing a chosen country,
with room enough for our descendants to the
and thousandth generation. Two years later the Jeferson
Administration approximately doubles the size of the original states with the
Louisiana Purhase from !rane. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the
United States, p-.+/
so there it was,
the birth of a nation
nursed for centuries
by mothers
whod never held
their own to nurture.
i know well that legacy,
i thought.
to hell with this story again,
i thought.
so i moved for the door,
but before i could ghost,
she had more!
in the year 1"#0
1oussaint 23uverture
organi4es a slave revolt in "ispaniola# forms a guerrilla group and gains
ontrol o$er the entire island. Though Toussaint dies in prison in %&'(# this
5lack.led rebellion leads to independene from !rane and inspires
many other movements against slavery and for
independence. )ome of the )rench landowners 6ee to
Cuba, creating more plantations with subsequent
increased demand for slaves. To meet this demand# )pain allows
foreign $essels to transport sla$es. *.). shipowners play a ma+or part in this lurati$e
business. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United States, p-.+/
7n 1"#", $e%erson sends 8eneral $ames 9ilkinson to
Cuba to :nd out if the 'panish would consider ceding
Cuba to the &nited 'tates. )pain is not interested. %&', Joa-u.n
/nfante organizes a plan for o$erthrowing the )panish go$ernment in 0uba. 1$er the
next deades the )panish authorities use prison# exile# torture and death to -uell
insurretions. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United States, p-.+/
%&',2%&%' !ormer President $e%erson writes to his suessor# James
;adison# in 1"#*, 7 candidly confess that 7 have e$er
looked upon Cuba as the most interesting addition
that can be made to our system of 'tates. 3ith 0uba and
0anada# he says# we should ha$e suh an empire for liberty as she has ne$er
sur$eyed sine the reation. 5ut ;adison settles on a policy of
leaving Cuba to the domination of 'pain# a relati$ely wea4
ountry# while guarding against its sei4ure by any
mightier power. /n %&%'# ;adison instructs his minister
to 8reat 5ritain to tell the 5ritish that the &nited
'tates will not sit idly by if 5ritain were to try to gain
possession of Cuba . %&%& )pain allows 0uban ports to open for
international trade. 3ithin two years# o$er half of 0uba5s trade is with the *nited
)tates. %&6%2%&6( 3ith )im7n 8ol.$ar emerging as the 9reat Liberator in the battles
for independene raging in Latin Ameria# 0ubans organize an underground. !or
example# in %&6% Jos: !raniso Lemus and others form the )oles y ;ayos <)uns and
;ays= de 8ol.$ar aimed at establishing an independent republi. 3ithin two years# the
)panish arrest its leaders. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United
States, p-.+/
then she paused,
laughed a half laugh
and patted my knee
before proceeding!
you see, son,
she said,
its all about fruit.
and loot, i added.
and she smiled!
its the same economy.
believe me.
in April 6&# 1"-< "a$ing a-uired >ast and 3est !lorida from )pain a few
years earlier# the *nited )tates has expanded to within ,' miles of 0uba. /n a
letter to ?inister to )pain "ugh @elson# )eretary of )tate John Auiny Adams
describes the likelihood of &.'. anne=ation of Cuba
within half a century despite obstacles! 5ut there
are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation,
and if an apple severed by the tempest from its
native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground,
Cuba, forcibly dis>oined from its own unnatural
connection with 'pain, and incapable of self support,
can gravitate only towards the ?orth American &nion,
which by the same law of nature cannot cast her o%
from its bosom. 0ubans alls this poliy la fruta madura Bripe fruitCD
9ashington would wait until the fruit is considered
ripe for the picking. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United
States, p-.+/
now time is ticking,
i began to inter>ect,
but before i could
she was back!
Eeember ,# 1"-0 At the battle of Ayauho in Peru# )im7n 8ol.$ar leads the
defeat of the last )panish fores on the mainland. 'pain increases
in its remaining possessions# 0uba and Puerto ;io.
'ome Cuban landowners, fearful that independence
would mean the end of slavery as in @aiti, have
become anne=ationists in alliance with slaveowners in
the &nited 'tates who want Cuba as a slave state.
($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United States, p-.+/
5etween the 1"<#s and 1"+#s Cubas sugar industry
becomes the most mechani4ed in the world. 5y 1"A#,
sugar provides "< percent of e=ports, with 0# percent
of that going to the &nited 'tates, part of the
1riangular 1rade! sugar to the &nited 'tates, rum to
Africa, slaves to Cuba. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the
United States, p-.+/
As the nineteenth century wore on, slaveholders
began to purchase increasing numbers of African
women in an attempt to ensure the regimes health
and longevity.

(Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a Cevolution!
Dnslaved 9omen and the 8endered 1errain of 'lave 7nsurgencies in
Cuba, 1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs @istory, Golume -H, ?umber
1, 'pring -#10, p. 11+/
5y 1"01 Cubas slave population has increased from
about <*,### in 1++0 to about 0<H,###, over A#
percent of the population. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and
the United States, p-.+/
9hile the number of enslaved women continued to
lag behind those of men in the rural plantation 4ones,
these women nonetheless became critical to the
resistance movements that unfolded in the
1"0#s.(Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a Cevolution! Dnslaved
9omen and the 8endered 1errain of 'lave 7nsurgencies in Cuba,
1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs @istory, Golume -H, ?umber 1,
'pring -#10, p. 11+/
before she continued
7 had to ask
that she go back to her last point.
women you sayI
theres no way.
i only knew of one
and what shed done
/n late Eeember of %&F(# an enslaved woman named Jolonia
8angK informed her owner# >steban )anta 0ruz de 1$iedo# that
his sugar property was about to be engulfed in open
rebellion. (Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a Cevolution!
Dnslaved 9omen and the 8endered 1errain of 'lave 7nsurgencies in
Cuba, 1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs @istory, Golume -H, ?umber
1, 'pring -#10, p. 11A/
the old traveler smiled.
the trope of femini4ed betrayal is not new.
(Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a Cevolution! Dnslaved 9omen and
the 8endered 1errain of 'lave 7nsurgencies in Cuba, 1"0<E1"00,
$ournal of 9omenFs @istory, Golume -H, ?umber 1, 'pring -#10, p.
but contrary to what history will tell you,
slave women took part in, helped to organi4e, and
became leaders in the rebel movements of %&F( and %&FF.
)inding records of that participa. tion, however, can
often be characteri4ed with little irony as Bsearching
for the invisible woman. (Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a
Cevolution! Dnslaved 9omen and the 8endered 1errain of 'lave
7nsurgencies in Cuba, 1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs @istory,
Golume -H, ?umber 1, 'pring -#10, p. 11A.11H/
After Jolonia, perhaps the best known women of the
%&F(G%&FF struggles are two African.born women of the
2ucumL nation# !ermina and 0arlota.

)e$eral aounts ha$e haraterized
these two women as prinipal leaders in the @o$ember mo$ement# and muh of the
doumentary e$idene supports this laim.

3hat is lear in the reords is that
Carlota and )ermina stood accused of some of the
most dramatic acts of the insurgency, and both
women died as a result of this con6ict. Carlota was
found dead the morning following the rebellion on
one of the properties where slave combatants had
battled local militias. Muring the trials that followed,
)ermina was interrogated and kept imprisoned for
several months. 'he was one of eight accused
ringleadersNalongside seven menNto be e=ecuted by
a :ring squad, her body subsequently burned. 1o
witness this violent spectacle of state power, all the
other slaves of the mill were ordered to be present, in
addition to slave representatives from each of the
nearby estates. (Aisha )inch, B9hat 2ooks 2ike a Cevolution!
Dnslaved 9omen and the 8endered 1errain of 'lave 7nsurgencies in
Cuba, 1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs @istory, Golume -H, ?umber
1, 'pring -#10, p. 11+/
the story of these womens fate
left me wanting more
so 7 asked, >ust threeI
surely that couldnt be.
and again she looked at me and smiled.
son, 1o better understand the emergence and
disappearance of certain female :gures in the %&FF trial
records, scholars must view these records as part of a
colonial knowledge pro>ect that sought to discipline
and punish in particular ways. The questions that military
authorities posed were inspired by events that did in
fat take place# and the responses they reorded were most
certainly drawn from enslaved peoples statements.
5ut their questions were also formulated to select the
most visible, dramatic, and violent episodes of the
entire movement. ?ilitary oHials framed their -uestions in terms of
who killed, who set :re to buildings# who wrested
machetes, who released people from of shackles, who
assaulted white employees, who led rebels to nearby
plantations# and how the witness positioned himself or herself within these e$ents.
Auestions li4e these indiate that the colonial authorities were
interested in prosecuting an easily identi:able set of
agitators, and punishing those whose belligerent
stagings of destruction had e=posed the fragility of
white control. 1heir queries thus reveal a patriarchal
commonsense that equated slave rebellion with
violent and combative activity, as well as with actions
that were plainly visible to Bor more to the point# direted atC militias
and plantation authorities. 7t was a logic that consistently
called attention to black men# and one that onsistently presumed
bla4 menIand ertain bla4 men at thatIshould be -uestioned and punished. 8ut
it was also a logic that occasionally threw into sharp
relief black women who enacted similar threats to
white bodies and property. 7n this way, the colonial
archive consumed women like )ermina and Carlota
through narratives of masculinity that made their
insurrections much more visible than others# and rendered
!ermina Band probably 0arlota had she li$edC dangerous enough to be exeuted
before a plantation publi. This reading of bla4 insurgent impulses also legitimated a
4indred set of logi that demanded spetaularly $iolent punishments of rebel sla$e
men# and of those women the state deemed e-ually threatening. 3hile it is lear that
women were hardly spared from publi disipline and men were often terrorized
behind losed doors# these same reords suggest that the olonial state was
partiularly in$ested in forms of publi punishment that ould be attahed to
aggressi$e resistane and ultimately to ertain forms of masulinity. There seems
then to ha$e been a lear lin4 in the olonial mind between bla4 masuline
misbeha$ior and publi punishabilityIa lin4 that rendered !ermina the only woman
to reei$e a formal sentene in the two ma+or re$olts that erupted in %&F(. 3hether
shouting to other sla$es to grab that fat white man or slash2 ing the o$erseer5s
daughter# the ations of 0arlota and !ermina Luum. were $iewed as immediately
threatening to the ustodians of the plantation world. And indeed they were. 5ut
theirs were also actions that became more relevant to
prosecuting authorities, in ways that those of women
whoNfor e=ampleNescaped the plantations during all
the chaos and confusion or 6ed to look for their kin
and loved ones or sought to protect themselves from
further violence did not.

As suh# the power of the
colonial state should not be the :rst and last
barometer of how these accounts are read, and the
people and activities they failed to ask about or
prosecute must also be taken into careful
consideration. The stories of women who were areful to highlight their
minimalisti in$ol$ement in$ite further deonstrution of the idea that few women
too4 part in these rebellions# and they ofer a ompelling window into the broader
ways one might understand the ma4ing of a rebellion. (Aisha )inch, B9hat
2ooks 2ike a Cevolution! Dnslaved 9omen and the 8endered 1errain
of 'lave 7nsurgencies in Cuba, 1"0<E1"00, $ournal of 9omenFs
@istory, Golume -H, ?umber 1, 'pring -#10, p. 1-1.1-</
)or slaves, D=ploiting the limits of the permissible#
reating transient zones of freedom# and reelaborating innoent amusements were
central features of everyday practice. Pratie is# to use ?ihel
de 0erteau5s phrase# a way of operating de:ned by the non2
autonomy of its Jeld of ation# internal manipulations of the
established order# and ephemeral $itories. ('aidiya @artman, 1**+,
Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-
Century merica, p. A#.A1/
1he refashioning of permitted pleasures in the e%ort
to undermine, transform, and redress the condition of
enslavement was consonant with other forms of
everyday practice for these invisible women and
men. 1hese small.scale and everyday forms of
resistance interrupted, reelaborated, and de:ed the
constraints of everyday life under slavery and
e=ploited opening in the system for the use of the
enslaved. ('aidiya @artman, 1**+, Scenes of Subjection: Terror,
Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century merica, p. A#.A1/
then she gave another smile
before she stood,
as if to leave.
thats it, 7 asked,
nothing moreI
the civil war,
she said as she collected her things
ends e%orts to anne= Cuba for slavery.
7n 1"HA, when the Civil 9ar ends, the African slave
trade ends in Cuba, but slavery itself continues. ($ane
)ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United States, p-.+/
then, in 1""H Dconomic conditions ha$e made it more
pro:table for most slaveowners to free their slaves
and hire them for work by the day, avoiding the
e=pense of year.round support. 3n 3ctober +# with only
about 6K#''' sla$es remaining# slavery is abolished in Cuba by
royal decree. ($ane )ranklin, 1**+, Cuba and the United States,
but slavery continues.
the clocks still ticking.
when will the fruit
be ripe for the pickingI
maybe sooner than later,
said the traveler,
as she gestured to nearby a newspaper.
economic engagementI
thats loot rightI
and fruit, she said,
as she began to leave.
then it hit me!
its the same economy.
1he slave was a commodity.
1he slave was a living ob>ect that could be used for
whatever purpose the master desired. 1he slave
e=ists under the threat of death, so the slave must
comply in order to stave o% this imminent destiny. The
sla$e5s only right then was a right to death G not to die an honorable
death, but simply to be consigned to a death in the
shadow of history. O 1his history continues after the
abolition of plantation slavery,(?icholas 5rady, JhM
Candidate at &C7, -#10, Ciding with Meath! Me:ning Anti.
5lackness, httpLMMprogressi$epupil.wordpress.omM6'%FM'6M6NMright2to2
we still remain the strange fruit to whet the
appetites of a nation. (?icholas 5rady, JhM Candidate at &C7,
-#10, Ciding with Meath! Me:ning Anti.5lackness,
then i looked back at the paper.
economic engagement, i though,
stands in stark contrast to what those invisible
women fought for.
their politics included a
refusal to cultivate the plantation,
to pick the fruit,
to be property,
or to reproduce that status.
they were improper mothers
who refused to willingly nurse generations of
with full knowledge of their worth,
they chose to invest in,
to mother,
proving that mothering# the prodution of radial diferene# when
done for ourselves as a reclamation of labor
and a re6e=ive intervention against the reproduction
of sameness,
is an alternate mode of production. (Ale=is 8umbs, -#1#,
9e Can 2earn to ;other 3urselves! 1he Queer 'urvival of 5lack
)eminism 1*H".1**H,p1*#.1*-/
what a revelation, i thought aloud,
and i wished to share it with the traveler
shed be proud,
i knew.
but she was long gone,
and i wished now for a few more moments of her
>ust enough to say, thank you mother
for your lesson.
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K#p%(2%F=
/ want to add that this position in ritial tension with apitalist ideas of family is also a position
out of time with the lo4 of de$elopment that used the same progress narrati$e to deploy
welfare reform domestially and strutural ad+ustment poliies internationally. !or all of these
reasons these 8la4 feminist literary produers inhabited the -ueer threat of the pathologized
8la4 mother. 'he who refuses to reproduce property reveals a
dangerous desire for something di%erent. 'he who refuses to
reproduce properly bears the mark of the alternative, the mark
of the criminal, the mark of the terrorist. 'he who refuses to
reproduce property must be busy teaching us something else.
'he who refuses to reproduce the status quo threatens to
produce a radically di%erent world.
@alberstam 1<
<Ja4# Prof. >nglish O *)0# The 3ild 8eyondL 3ith and !or the
*nderommons in The *nderommonsL !ugiti$e Planning P 8la4 )tudy# p.
?oten and "arney also study what it would mean to refuse whatQ they term the call to
order. And what would it mean# furthermore# to refuse to call others to order, to
refuse interpellation and the reinstantiation O of the law. 9hen we
refuse# ?oten and "arney suggest#Q we create dissonance and more importantly# we
allow dissonance to O continue E when we enter a classroom and we
refuse to call it to order, O we are allowing study to continue,
dissonant study perhaps, disorganizedQ study# but study that precedes our
call and will continue after we O have left the room. 1r# when we listen to musi#
we must refuse theQ idea that musi happens only when the musiian enters and pi4s upQ an instrumentD
musi is also the antiipation of the performane andQ the noises of appreiation it generates and the
spea4ing that happensQ through and around it# ma4ing it and lo$ing it# being in it while listening.Q And so#
when we refuse the call to order E the teacher picking O up the book,
the ondutor raising his baton# the speaker asking O for silence, the torturer
tightening the noose E we refuse order as the O distinction between
noise and music, chatter and knowledge, pain O and truth. These 4inds of
examples get to the heart of ?oten and "arney5sQ world of the underommons G the
undercommons is not a realm O where we rebel and we create critiqueD it is not
a plae where we ta4eQ arms against a sea of troublesMand by opposing end them. 1he
undercommons O is a space and time which is always here. 3ur goal G
andQ the we is always the right mode of address here G is not to end the O troubles but
to end the world that created those particular troubles as O the ones
that must be opposed. ?oten and "arney refuse the logic O that stages
refusal as inactivity, as the absence of a plan and as a mode O of
stalling real politics. ?oten and "arney tell us to listen to the noise O we make
and to refuse the o%ers we receive to shape that noise into O music.
/n the essay that many people already 4now best from this $olume#Q The *ni$ersity and the
*nderommons# ?oten and "arney omeQ losest to explaining their mission. Cefusing to be for
or against the O university and in fat marking the critical academic as
the player who O holds the for and against logic in place# ?oten and
"arney lead us O to the &ndercommons of the Dnlightenment where
subversive intellectuals O engage both the university and fugitivity!
where the work gets done, where the work gets subverted, where
the revolution is still black, still strong. 1he subversive intellectual,
we learn, is unprofessional, uncollegial, passionate and disloyal. 1he
subversive intellectual O is neither trying to e=tend the university nor
change the university#Q the sub$ersi$e intelletual is not toiling in misery and from this plaeQ
of misery artiulating a general antagonism. /n fat# the sub$ersi$eQ intelletual en+oys the ride and
wants it to be faster and wilderD sheQ does not want a room of his or her own# she wants to be in
the world#Q in the world with others and making the world anew. ?oten insistsLQ
Li4e Eeleuze. / belie$e in the world and want to be in it. 7 want to O be in it all the way to
the end of it because 7 believe in another world O in the world and 7
want to be in that. And / plan to stay a belie$er#Q li4e 0urtis ?ayJeld. 8ut that5s beyond me# and
e$en beyond me andQ )tefano# and out into the world# the other thing# the other world# theQ +oyful
noise of the sattered# satted eshaton# the undercommon refusal O of the academy
of misery.
1ransient Rones of )reedom
@artman *+
<)aidiyaD Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-
Century America# p. R'2R%=
>xploiting the limits of the permissible# reating transient zones of freedom# and reelaborating
innoent amusements were entral features of e$eryday pratie. Pratie is# to use ?ihel de
0erteau5s phrase# a way of operating deJned by the non2autonomy of its Jeld of ation#
internal manipulations of the established order# and ephemeral $itories. The tatis that
ompromise the e$eryday praties of the dominated ha$e neither the means to seure a
territory outside the spae of domination nor the power to 4eep or maintain what is in won in
Seeting surreptitious# and neessarily inomplete $itories. The refashioning of permitted
pleasures in the efort to undermine# transform# and redress the ondition of ensla$ement was
onsonant with other forms of e$eryday pratie. These eforts generally foused on the ob+et
status and astigated personhood of the sla$e# the pained and ra$ished body# se$ered
aHliations and natal alienation# and the assertion of denied needs. Jractice is not
simply a way of naming these e%orts but rather a way of
thinking about the character of resistance, the precariousness
of the assaults waged against domination, the fragmentary
character of these e%orts and the transient battles won, and
the characteristics of a politics without a proper locus. 1he
everyday practices of the enslaved encompassed an array of
tactics such as work slowdowns# feigned illness# unliensed tra$el# the
destrution of property# theft# self2mutilation# dissimulation# physial onfrontation with owners
and o$erseers that document the resistance to slavery. These small2sale
and e$eryday forms of resistane interrupted# reelaborated# and deJed the onstraints of
e$eryday life under sla$ery and exploited opening in the system for the use of the ensla$ed.
9hat unites these varied tactics is the e%ort to redress the
condition of the enslaved, restore the disrupted aSliations of
the socially dead, challenge the authority and dominion of the
slaveholder, and alleviate the pained state of the captive body.
"owe$er# these ats of redress are underta4en with the a4nowledgement that onditions will
most li4ely remain the same. This a4nowledgment implies neither resignation nor fatalism but
reognition of the enormity of the breah instituted by sla$ery and the magnitude of
domination. Cedressing the pained body encompasses operating in
and against the demand of the system, negotiating the
disciplinary harnessing of the body, and counterinvesting in
the body as a site of possibility. /n this instane# pain must be
recogni4ed in its historicity and as the articulation of a social
condition of brutal constraint, e=treme need, and constant
violenceD in other words# it is the perpetual ondition of ra$ishment. Pain is a normati$e
ondition that enompasses the legal sub+eti$ity of the ensla$ed that is onstruted along the
lines of in+ury and punishment# the $iolation and sufering inextriably enmeshed with the
pleasures of minstrelsy and melodrama# the operation of power on bla4 bodies# and the life of
property in whih the full en+oyment of the sla$e as thing supersedes the admittedly tentati$e
reognition of sla$e humanity and permits the intemperate uses of hattel. This pain might
best be desribes as the history that hurts2the still2unfolding narrati$e of apti$ity#
dispossession# and domination that engenders he bla4 sub+et in the Amerias. /f this pain
has been largely unspo4en and unreognized# it is due to the sheer denial of bla4 sentiene
rather than inexpressibility of pain. The purported immunity of bla4s to pain is absolutely
essential to the spetale of ontended sub+etion or# at the $ery least# to disrediting the
laims of pain. The bla4 is both insensate and ontent# indiferent to pain and indued to wor4
by threats of orporal punishment. These ontraditions are partly explained by the ambiguous
and prearious status often bla4 in the great hain of being2in short# by the pathologizing of
the bla4 body2this abhorrene then ser$es to +ustify ats of $iolene that exeed normati$e
standards of humanely tolerable# though within the limits of the soially tolerable as onerned
the bla4 sla$e. /n this regard# pain is essential to the ma4ing of produti$e sla$e laborers.
1he sheer enormity of this pain overwhelms or e=ceeds the
limited forms of redress available to the enslaved. 1hus the
signi:cance of the performative lies not in the ability to
overcome this condition or provide remedy but in creating a
conte=t for the collective enunciation of this pain,
transforming need into politics and cultivating pleasure as a
limited response to need and desperately insuScient form of
Misruption of JropertyPJroperties 8ood
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%K%=
/f we do the $iolene of ta4ing out the details and loo4 simply at the framewor4 ofered here
through repetition# a few things stand out. !irst the seond stanza beome a -ueer eho of the
Jrst stanza# but haunting# in the stutter of yourMyouMyourMyou# and the e$entual repetition of
the possessi$e yourMyourMyourMyour# beomes possession two senses. !irst# the
presence of the other that threatens humanism operates
through property, the invading other is all over the rightful
property of the human, disrupting its propriety presumptuousM
nightmare on your white pillow. The roah troubles the property owner5s desire and ability to
seure her property scuttling through the painted cracksPyou create
to admit me. Jroperty is the form through which the human
is haunted by its contingency# represented by the radial other. Property is a
form of life. Jroperty describes a manifestation of life, as in the
properties or characteristics possessed by a particular species.
And property is a pedagogical form, through which we learn to
value life di%erentially.
'urvival Jedagogy
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p,62,(=
'urvival. The ondition of bare life. The mythology of diferential Jtness. 1he
continuity of property and properties. 8ut sur$i$al is more than this.
)ur$i$al# as it emerges as a 4ey word in the theory and poetis of Audre Lorde and June Jordan
is a poeti term. 7t provides the basis for the reconsideration of its
own meaning, and the reconsideration of the meaning of
life, that whih sur$i$al -ueerly extends despite e$erything. 'urvival is a
pedagogy! secret and forbidden knowledge that we pass on,
educating each other into a set of skills and beliefs based on
the queer premise that our lives are valuable in a way that the
economi4ation of our labor, and the price of our 6esh in the
market of racism deny. 'urvival is a mode of inquiry, providing
a repertoire of critical insights, gained from discerning what
approach to a political and economic framework we can a%ord
from one moment to the ne=t. )ur$i$al is an afterlifeD by ontinuing to exist we
hallenge the proesses that somehow failed to 4ill us this time. )ur$i$al is a performane# a
set of aestheti in$oations that produe belief and resonane. 'urvival is a poetic
intervention into the simplistic conclusion of the political
narrative! we were never meant to survive. 1he we that was
never meant to survive is a challenge to the gospel of
individualism. 1he content of that we is at stake because
survival rede:nes who we are. !or those of us who onstitute the olletion of
people addressed by Audre Lorde5s TA Litany for )ur$i$al# the meanings of our
lives have been slandered within an economy that uses
narratives of racial inferiority, gender determinism, and se=ual
sub>ectivity to devalue our bodies, our breathing, our time. /f we
are sur$i$ors# who we are is the -uestion of sur$i$al# and whether we survive
depends on the generation of a set of relationships that
prioriti4es who we are to each other through our queer acts of
loving the possible collectivity represented in each of our
bodies.6 'urvival is a queer act for oppressed communities
because it interrupts the social reproduction of the sanctioned
deaths of those who were never meant to survive.
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K#p%,'2%,6=
Lorde5s T8la4 3omen and Anger5 appeared alongside an artile entitled T)ister Lo$e5 in whih
Alexis Ee Ueaux outlined a politis of lo$ing other 8la4 women that inluded but also
exeeded lesbian romanti lo$e. The expliitly diaspori tone of EeUeaux5s piee brings Lorde5s
latent diaspori $ision of mothering into $iew. Ee Ueaux opens her piee with a -uintessentially
diaspori statementL / am a Eaughter of Afria.

"owe$er to ma4e spae in this diaspori
$ision to inlude her sexuality# lass and gender Ee Ueaux explains that she must dress
myself in my own words# subtly indiating that# unmodiJed# a diaspori self2identiJation
dispossesses her on the le$el of the body.

)imilarly Lorde# writing a piee that addresses the
internalized hatred and anger that ma4es sisterhood between 8la4 women diHult# agrees
with Ee Ueaux that the artiulation of transnational lo$e and partnership between 8la4
women is a radial and poeti at of translation. The analyti that ma4es this translation
possible for Lorde is alled mothering# that queer practice of valuing
the contradiction of 5lack life as the reproduction of a di%erent
meaning of life , or the meaning of life as di%erence. ?y assertion is that the key
role of the pathologi4ed 5lack mother in the narrative >usti:cation of economic,
eugenic and state violence, queers the term mother , to the e=tent that it ruptures
the term. /n the ontext of this -ueered 8la4 mothering# mother is not merely a
name, role or even a sub>ect position# and is ertainly not a coherent person
with natural biological kinship, aSnity for and claim to a
certain patriarchally.linked set of children. ;other , in the
conte=t of the devaluation of life through racism, is split into
relationships severed by slavery and the state where some
mothers are severed from their children through sale and state accusations of
neglect and denied the ability to be social mothers for their biological children.
;othering, in the conte=t of appropriated a%ective labor# is the labor that so many
poor women of olor ha$e performed in the homes of wealthy families# is the
plantation nursing of property and proper heirs alike. /n this
hapter# / will loo4 at the ways in whih the term mother# in the ollaborating narrati$es of
sla$e ode# abortion law and welfare poliy# is split into at least two
functions, the literal labor of social reproduction for the
dominant class, and the continued reproduction of e=pendable
otherness TmPotheringU, which again# reproduces a social relation in
which life is di%erentially valued. Therefore Audre Lorde5s use of the word
mother as a $erb in her assertion 3e an learn to mother oursel$es# draws on the
disrupted status of the term mother as a oherent arrier for patriarhal soial $alues whih
the onstruted oxymoron of 8la4 mothering in the raist soial narrati$e has already
destabilized# towards the use of the harater Band ariatureC of the 8la4 mother as a hinge#
Jrst in the prodution of people as property and seond in the prodution of a state without a
soial ontrat Balso 4nown as neoliberalismC. Mrawing on the queered status of 5lack
mothering in the production of non .humanity and anti.social capitalism, 2ordes
intervention o%ers a queer alternative, where the survival of the term
mother, requires aTnU mPothering action! the production of a form of
di%erence which can produce an ethical social relationship to
each other. ?Mother is a $erb. 8la4 mothering# the prodution of radial diferene# when
done for oursel$es as a relamation of labor and a reSexi$e inter$ention against the
reprodution of sameness# is an alternate mode of prodution.
A1! &niversityPAcademic Co.3ption
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%2R=
This is spiritual and stolen wor4. 3e are the dream2hildren aressing doorways# loo4ing for
what breadrumbs were left here. Teaher2poet2$isionaries Audre Lorde and June Jordan did
BnotC sur$i$e their lifetimes. 3riter2publisher2renegades Alexis Ee Ueaux and 8arbara )mith
sariJed wealth# health# and stability to BalmostC lea$e a legay in print. / am a dreamhild#
ruial but ne$ermore alone# searhing basements# independent under2funded arhi$es# and e2
bay for e$idene. Lest our dreams reSet the death of theirs. This is for us# at one before and
after# see4ing another 4ind of now. !or those of us who li$e at the shoreline... 1his is for
those of us who live at the shoreline, and those of us who live
on the deadline, hustling to make a living o% ever more
glamorous analyses of systematic death. Mriven by the
intellectual marketability of the parado=! 1hough life is all we
can theori4e, some lives remain incomprehensible. Though death is
the limit of theory# some deaths are so preditable as to seem understandable. 3e are the
pur$eyors of the horizon# approahes to sensibility that ontinue to reede# beause life
esapes us# and death pre$ails. )or those of us who live on the shifting
edge of the world, close or brave or stupid enough to sell the
details of the line we walk# to guess the on$ersation between sea# sand and
air...for those of us who know the truth of erosion and bet
against it. This is for us. This pro+et is for those of us who create
theory, pedagogy and lifetimes# not out of thin air# but out of lines
walked, impossible futures lived, mothering survival. /n the wor4 of
reading this# you are mothering the idea of sur$i$al on -ueer terms# your engagement with
these words is a hapter in the sur$i$al of the experiments# ounternarrati$es# and poeti
inter$entions of the theorists and pratitioners under re$iew not only in a reuperati$e sense#
but in a transformati$e modality. 9e are the dreamed of children, who
pretend to a%ord the passing dreams of choice# and hoose eah other.
June Jordan already said it. 3e are the ones we ha$e been waiting for# Jnally outgrowing the
$anity of our waiting. 0ritial 8la4 Eiaspora Theorists# /5m alling you. Aueer !uturists /5m
alling you. This is for those of us who li$e here# at the shoreline. And though ritial sholars
of the 8la4 diaspora are sometimes ade-uately -ueer in their approahes# and though
-ueer theorists are sometimes anti2raist and transnational in their riti-ues# rarely do we
stand together for the same role all# or inhabit the same body of texts. 'ometimes we
kill each other o% into irrelevance for the sake of our own
cohesion. 2imits appear to provide clarity, even when it means
amputating the barely living bodies whose sacri:cial status
make our inquiry necessary. 3e are neighbors# if not housemates# if not soulmates
sharing organs. B)eeV 3e were ne$er meant to sur$i$e.C 8ut we want eah other. Erawing on Audre Lorde5s
theory of the eroti# this dissertation is loated at the point of a desired rendez$ous# the desire for our
diferently named and positioned analytis for eah other. The exellene# the fullness of our ritial
pratie omes# / thin4# from our willingness to li$e in this meeting spae. Wou are an audiene that / want
Bto existC. 8ut lest my lust for the possibility of you blind my pratie# this dissertation is a spae of
hallenge and lariJation. 3e were ne$er meant to sur$i$e# so what do we mean insteadV !or those of us
who are pratiing a diferent 4ind of mothering# in hildare olleti$es and non2patriarhal families# as
radial doulas and midwi$es# the period of experimentation between %,K&2%,,K by anti2apitalist anti2
imperialist 8la4 feminists ofers alternati$e theories of home through the anthology "ome 9irls# and June
Jordan5s anti2imperialist olletions of poetry Li$ing ;oomD alternati$e theories of domestiated labor
through June Jordan and Alexis EeUeaux5s elaboration of poetry as housewor4# in >sseneD alternati$e
ideas of family through Audre Lorde5s artiles on lesbian parenting and mothering oursel$es and eah
other# espeially rele$ant in a time period of eonomi shift when# similar to the ;eagan era# funding for
ommunity ser$ies li4e housing# welfare# healthare and eduation are delared ban4rupt while massi$e
amounts of state money goes towards military in$asions and pri$ate setor bailouts. !or those of us who
are organizing to end $iolene against women of olor in the fae of mass media $iliJation of sur$i$ors#
the forgotten strategies of these 8la4 feminists# who organized against polie brutality# rape# domesti
$iolene and womanslaughter are important to remember as we too stand on the onstant edges of
deision built by legal praties designed to riminalize self2defense by oppressed people while
downplaying the se$erity of rimes that draw on the logis of raial $iolene li4e noose2hangings# gang
rapes# tru4 draggings and the 4idnapping and torture of women of olor. !or those of us determined to
teah the world open# to instigate the unlearning of oppression and nurture the growth of li$able# lo$ing
logis# the pedagogial experimentation and faith of these 8la4 feminist professors# and ommunity
wor4shop failitators an impat what# how and if we teah in uni$ersity lassrooms and in our
ommunities in the age of what radial feminists of olor are now alling the Aademi /ndustrial 0omplex.
!or those of us who write# read and li$e the poeti as a radial pratie of ollaborati$e reation(# these
8la4 feminist poets ofer an intergenerational arhi$e with whih to engage as readers and pratitioners
of poetry# generating a deJnition of poetry that turns the BreCprodution of language into life itself and an
inter$ention into the pratie of form that ofers alternati$e forms of soiality and possibility for all of us.
)or those of us who hold out foolish hope that our borrowed
time in universities need neither kill our spirits nor tame our
vision, 7 o%er this critical literary work itself as a model of
intergenerational practice, a method of engagement and
survival full of faith, love and poetic falling apart as an
intervention into what we mean by scholarship and where that
ship should take us. This is spiritual wor4# an ofering made of lo$e. !or all of us.
3hih means this is ritial in more ways than one. B3e were ne$er meant to sur$i$e.C And
when the sun rises we are afraid it might not remain when the sun sets we are afraid it might
not rise in morning. 2from Litany for )ur$i$al And for this reason Bwe were ne$er meant to
sur$i$eC this critical work of love is also :lled with fear. )ear is
the primary te=t. )ear is the instigator of this archive. Dvery
word e=amined here was born in a conte=t of fear. )ear that
the violence would never stop, fear that the resistance would
be forgotten, fear that words would never be enough. 5ut they
decided it was better to speak. And to write.
'urvivalV 7ntervention into 'pace W 1ime
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%&'2%&%=
Poetry# this -uestion suggests# is the only way to ma4e the onnetions between diferentiated
people and plaes e$ident# without ma4ing them ine$itable. The suppressed histories of the
in$isibilized labor fores onneting the existing and remembered great ities sur$i$e in this
poem as traes# and that sur$i$al inter$enes into the meaning of these plaes in the
prodution of spatial diferene. 2ordes performance of spacing partiipates
with "enri Lefeb$re5s pro+et in The roduction of S!ace to reveal the production
of distance and di%erential power, possibility and signi:cation
as a political process enforced by violence.
characteri4es the poem itself as an artifact for survival and
survival here means an intervention against the meanings of
space and time enforced by dominant modes of both +ournalism and
history. "ere# in this poem# survival is a poetic intervention against a
global capitalist Tneocolonial, neoliberalU organi4ation of
space, necessary, because the prior de:nition of space says
we were never meant to survive. 1r in Lorde5s words in the penultimate
stanza of the poem !istory is not kind to us" #e restitch it #ith living"
$ast memory for#ard" into desire"into the !anic articulation"of #ant #ithout
having"or even the !romise of getting$ 1he restitching of a di%erent,
perhaps quilted,
relationship between space and time is a
response to the unkindness of history to us the oppressed
audiene on$ened by Lorde5s Litany for )ur$i$al. The desperate need artiulated by this
poem and the $iolene that it re2presents is a pani artiulation with ma+or gaps to bridge
and no promises or ground to wal4 on the way. The losest we ome to Jlling the spae are the
two gasps oh lo$e and oh 3illie that see4 to reate intimay or aountability between the
spea4er and the person who she addresses. This poem partiipates in the prodution of desire
and s4ethes towards a possible relationship# appropriately Jlled with blan4 undetermined
@istoryPJrogressVGiolence that we can survive
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%'62%'R=
/n their redeJnitions and -ueer in$oations of sur$i$al# Lorde and Jordan theorize a relationship
to the future# parenting and sexual freedom that see4s to interrupt the reprodution of the
$iolene they ha$e sur$i$ed on interpersonal and systemi le$els. 1he temporality of
survival means that there is a way of understanding the
present that presumes and produces a time after the normalcy
of the violent situation# after the time of normalized gendered $iolene. As "azel
0arby points out in %econstructing &omanhood, ;ape itself should not be regarded as a
transhistorial mehanism of women5s oppression but as one that a-uires speiJ politial or
eonomi meanings at diferent moments in history.
The onept of sur$i$ing that Jordan
and Lorde ta4e up also suggests that gendered $iolene# though systemi# is not ine$itable
beause the politial and interpersonal dynamis that result in normalized and institutionalized
gendered $iolene do not have to be re!roduced$ 1his is a necessary futurism,
an intention that our love will outlive the interpersonal and
systemic attacks that threaten the survival of our bodies and
our spirits. 'urvival in this sense is an intervention into time
and also a diasporic intervention into space, because the
enactment of dispersion on the bodies of people and land on
this planet through the mechanism of global capitalism has
operated through a logic of gendered physical, se=ual, cultural
and economic violence, which undervalues the lives, bodies
and time of people based on a logi that is gendered# raialized and spatiatlized whih
+ustiJes through the di$ision of the global south from the global north through a proess of
imposed debt# whih further under$alues the labor of nurturing and the publi setor Bshools#
hospitals etC in the global south. /n polemi and poetry# June Jordan and Audre Lorde
respeti$ely argue for a logi of sur$i$al that is both futuristi and solidarity2dri$en# aross
spae and time. 9e mean more than the violence mapped upon us.
9e survive even our own lifetimes. 9e were never meant to
survive. And we do it anyway.8rea4 it down. )ur $i$ al. Life underneath waiting
to embrae all of us. )ur$i$al is a poem written in a orner# found waiting in a basement#
forgotten. 'urvival is when the TunUtimeliness of your word is more
important than the longevity or strength of one body. The Jrst
deJnition of sur$i$al in the 1xford >nglish Eitionary is The ontinuing to li$e on after some
e$ent# remaining ali$e# li$ing on. 'urvival is a futuristic word. 'urvival
pro>ects forward because it supposes itself, the reader and the
sub>ect to e=ist after something else, something unacceptable,
unlivable. 'urvival is about living after and through something
that is not life, a system that is incompatible with life. 2ife.
5eyond the deadly circumstance of the biopolitical framework
in which certain lives are e=pendable. A seond more obsure and
anthropologial deJnition of the word sur$i$al is ontinuane of a ustom# obser$ane# et.
after the irumstanes or onditions in whih it originated or whih ga$e signiJane to it
ha$e passed away. This deJnition of sur$i$al# often used in Afrian diaspora studies to
desribe e$idene and traes of Afrian ustoms that li$e on the praties of 8la42identiJed
ommunities in a $ariety of 3estern ontexts# an be -ueerly reframed.)ur$i$al# in this sense
is about the reprodution of a soial form beyond the soial world in whih it was reated. This
$ersion of sur$i$al# referening a soial world that was not reprodued# but a ustom that
remains nonetheless# pro$ides a -ueer spae for the understanding of a -ueer future.
/nSuened by Ea$id >ng and Ea$id Xazan+ian5s wor4 on mourning# this dissertation deals with
the politial signiJane of remains# and the loss that ma4es them into remains# but also
$alues the existene of remains as e$idene of the possibility of hange.

"ow will our desire
exeed a system so deadly that it alls us to want something elseV ?y engagement with the
term sur$i$al in the wor4 of these two radial 8la4 feminist authors is an attempt to
reati$ate the hope that our sur$i$al will obliterate the $iolent hegemoni narrati$es that ma4e
a radial# leftist# -ueer 8la4 feminism neessary. /n this hapter / read Jordan and Lorde#
respeti$ely# in order to examine the linguisti ontext in whih the term sur$i$al beomes
neessary and the poeti inter$ention through whih the meaning of sur$i$al an shift.
Mrawing on this multiplicity and the queer temporality in the
word survival, 7 use survival here to imagine a futuristic
relationship in the present that does ?31 presuppose the
reproduction of that present in the future. 1hus 7 :nd the word
survival generative and evocative to desribe the praxis of 8la4 feminists
who imagined that their praties# inompatible with the world reprodued by the dominant
narrati$e of their time# would sur$i$e as traes in a future beyond their ageny.
;otheringV Challenge to Cap
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%,K2%,&=
/n this hapter / argue that B-ueerC 5lack mothering is dangerous because
it has the potential to disrupt global capitalism at the point of
reproduction. 1he demoni4ation of 5lack mothering plays a
central role in the normali4ation of the anti.social logic of
neoliberalism, which operates through the deprivation of
public social resources such as education, food and housing.
1he criminali4ation of 5lack mothers not only >usti:es the
reallocation of public resources towards the private interests
of the wealthy# it also reates and enfores a mythi narrati$e that responsibility for
food# soial eduation and housing are indi$idual problems instead of ommunity onerns. As
Patriia "ill 0ollins points out in 8la4 !eminist Thought# the criminali4ation of
5lack mothers diverts attention from the political and
economic inequality a%ecting 5lack mothers and children and
suggests that anyone can rise from poverty if he or she only
received good values at home.%& )he also pointed out the 8la4 domesti
wor4ers who partiipated in 8onnie Thornton Eills %,&' study taught their hildren not to
defer to white people# and not to beome domesti wor4ers# refusing to reprodue their role as
an exploited labor fore.%, /n other words 5lack mothers are dangerous if
they teach 5lack children to value themselves and not to
revalori4e racism. The riminalization of 8la4 mothering is onstruted but the threat
of 8la4 mothering is real. 8la4 mothering is a threat beause it enats a -ueer alternati$e to
the soial reprodution of heteropatriarhy. 5lack mothering as a form of -ueer literary
prodution is a threat because it challenges the values of western
capitalism, starting with one of its central value statements!
some lives are valuable and some are not. This dissertation examines
-ueer 8la4 feminist literary prodution as a spae for alternati$e meanings for B8la4C life
based on the sur$i$al of dangerous and de$ious bodies Bof wor4C. / argue that it is no
oinidene that the entral 8la4 feminist texts# inluding the groundbrea4ing anthology
"ome 9irlsL A 8la4 !eminist Anthology# June Jordan5s anti2imperialist poeti text Li$ing ;oom
and the autonomous women of olor run and lesbian entered Xithen TableL 3omen of 0olor
Press all signify at the point of reprodution# the pathologized feminized 8la4 home. These
literary manifestations were part of a broader inter$ention into the meaning of 8la4 life# at the
point of reprodution Bthe pathologized 8la4 motherC# whih were the rasion d5etre for the
ontemporary 8la4 feminist mo$ement. >xploring the narrati$es of raialized mothering
written in the legal and politial rhetori of the *nited )tates in its domesti and global
enatments of neo2liberalism# this hapter ontexualizes the poeti brea4 theorized by June
Jordan# Alexis Ee Ueaux and Audre Lorde in their relamation of the term mother and the
tropes of housewor4# hildare and other labors of sustenane for a 8la4 -ueer sur$i$alist
A1! &niversityV Class Jrivilege
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%,F2%,K=
This hapter applies a -ueer theory of the potential meaning of mothering to the literary
historial ontext of 8la4 feminist literary prodution. And while the :gure of the
impoverished 5lack mother is a :ctional character created to
teach and perpetuate national and economic narratives of
death, there are also poor 5lack women who do the labor of
mothering their communities. As 0athy 0ohen points out# poor 8la4 mothers
and 8la4 mothers who reei$e publi assistane are -ueered# riminalized and mar4ed as
de$iant with in the popular imagination. %R As Premilla @adasen douments in 3elfare
3arriors# poor 5lack women also mobili4ed the term mother
within the welfare rights movement in order to draw attention
to the labor of mothering.%K /n 9rassroots 3arriorsL Ati$ist ?othering#
0ommunity and the 3ar on Po$erty # @any A. @aples ontextualizes the work of
women in community action programs of the war on poverty
programs in the conte=t of activist mothering that is not
necessarily biological.%N 7t is important in this hapter and in the pro+et as
a whole not to con6ate the 5lack feminist literary workers, who had
a privileged level of educational access, with the impoverished
5lack women who are most impacted by the economic violence
that the pathologi4ation of the :gure of the 5lack mother
>ustifes. "owe$er# the way in whih Lorde# Jordan# Ee Ueaux and )mith engaged and
disrupted the dominant narrati$e of 8la4 mothering is not merely theoretial and should be
understood with the ontext of this wider rhetorial# if not literary# use of the term mother as a
mobilizing term for 8la4 women who insisted on an alternati$e logi during the rise of
neoliberalism. 9hile each of the writers that this dissertation
focuses on had access to intellectual connections and
resources that other women did not have at their disposal,
each of these writers also su%ered economic consequences for
their decision to challenge the literary and academic means of
production in which their work was uneasily and problematic
situated. After her di$ore June Jordan really was a single 8la4 mother with no money for
food# waiting for freelaning he4s to ome in and ontemplating 4eeping her young son with
her parents so that he ould eat. Alexis Ee Ueaux5s refusal to tra$el the path of least resistane
with in the publishing# writing and teahing industries left her without stable healthare#
resulting in a number of late2diagnosed tumors and ulers whih she was only able to treat
beause she was nominally on >ssene ?agazines staf e$en at a point when she was not on
the payroll. Audre Lorde wor4ed in toxi and radioati$e onditions in a fatory in order to earn
money to sur$i$e and to go ba4 to shool. Though she ne$er had an exess of money she
ontinually sent her tax returns as ontributions to Joseph 8eam for 8la4M1ut magazine# to Pat
Par4er for wor4shops in prisons# to the 0ombahee ;i$er 0olleti$e for photoopying osts.
8arbara )mith desribes literally rolling oins from hange she searhed for in her home to be
able to pay the expenses of Xithen Table Press. 1hese e=amples are not
intended to provide class cred to writers who clearly had
and have a di%erent level of class mobility from many 5lack
women. 7 o%er these e=amples to conte=tuali4e the choices
these women made to identify with their accountability to their
communities against the norms of capitalism, and to remind
readers that the consequences in terms of health, career and
marketability are not coincidental, but are part of the narrative
that punishes 5lack women for creating products and
processes that e=ceed and disrupt the narrative that rebirths
inequality in economic terms.
A1! Queer 1heoryP;othering is
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# pR'2R6=
7f queer theory is meant to challenge the reproductive
narrative as it emerges in social institutions, then queer
theorists must disrupt the reproduction of a racist narrative
that criminali4es the birth and mothering of 5lack life. The seeming
ontradition between mothering and -ueer inter$ention o$erloo4s the fat that# as 0athy
0ohen argues in Pun4s# 8ulldaggers and 3elfare AueensL The ;adial Potential of Aueer
PolitisV 5lack mothers are queer threats to the social order.FN This
dissertation argues that 5lack mothering queerly disrupts a
reproductive narrative about what TwhoseU life is worth, a
narrative that says that 5lack life is worth less and that life
itself can be valued and used di%erentially based on race,
economic status, gender et. 9hen queer theory argues against
the child, and criminali4es mothering as an inevitable consent
to the reproduction of the status quo, queer theory
JAC17C7JA1D' in a reproductive narrative that denies the
agencies of mother, particularly poor and raciali4ed mothers, in
order to reproduce the di%erential use values of marked
bodies in a capitalist system that turns di%erence into pro:t
through violence. 7f we reground our queer intervention in a
queer of color critique# whih was in a large part de$eloped by the 8la4 feminists
under disussion in this dissertation BAudre Lorde# June Jordan# 8arbara )mith# Alexis
EeUeauxC# who were expliitly in$ested in mothering and the domesti as sites of intelletual
and politial prodution of an alternati$e soial $alue for life itself# we will be able to
actually intervene in the narrative that is reproducing our
oppression. There is a reason that the entrist state efeti$ely ma4es same2sex
parenting illegal# and that the religious right tries to ban -ueer teahers from shools. 1he
pedagogical work of mothering is e=actly the site where a
narrative will either be reproduced or interrupted. 1he work of
5lack mothering, the teaching of a set of social values that
challenge a social logic which believes that we, the children of
5lack mothers, the queer, the deviant, should not e=ist, is
queer work. Therefore# as a -ueer theorist / theorize that wor4. 7 am both
pointing out the complicity of a race.neutral Ti.e. whiteU
queer construction A?M critique of the reproductive narrative
in the CDJC3M&C173? of the pro>ect of di%erential life value
through the criminali4ation and targeting of raciali4ed
mothers, as well as arguing the importance of an genealogy of
queer theory# whih as argued by ;oderi4 !erguson among others# starts with 8arbara
)mith5s Towards A 8la4 !eminist Literary 0ritiism and the 0ombahee ;i$er 0olleti$e
)tatement. 8uilding on the wor4 of !erguson# ?unoz# >$elyn "ammonds and others# assert
that a queer of color critique illuminates and queers the
reproductive narrative through which queer theory has
constructed its own genealogy.
;ust 7ntervene in ;asculine @istory
)inch 10
<AishaD T3hat Loo4s Li4e a ;e$olution5L >nsla$ed 3omen and the 9endered
Terrain of )la$e /nsurgenies in 0uba# %&F(G%&FF# Journal of 3omenYs
"istory# Uolume 6K# @umber %# )pring# p%%F2%%K=
These inter$entions were transformati$e in part beause they om2 pelled a reimagining of
resistane that entered on women and foregrounded the daily deisions that most sla$es
made# and in part beause they ofered a paradigm for sla$es5 oppositional politis in plaes
that did not produe exessi$e numbers of armed re$olts or during long moments of apparent
-uiet. 7n revisiting the intellectual genealogy on slave womens
resistance, it is also important to centrally locate the
interventions that black feminists made into twentieth.century
histories of struggle. Li4e the ontributions abo$e# transnational black
feminism provided a set of theoretical frame. works,
epistemological positions, and methodological questions that
revo. lutioni4ed the understanding of what constituted political
sub>ectivity and political opposition. 1hese and other feminist
theoretical innovations can therefore o%er critical signposts
for the study of enslaved womens history. The reent publiation of
AfroubanasL historia# pensamiento y prZtias ultura2 les onstitutes a partiularly
groundbrea4ing ontribution to bla4 feminist theory and praxis in 0uba and Latin Ameria#
and is therefore ritial to the way in whih / oneptualize sla$e women5s politial
onsiousness in the nineteenth entury. 'ome four decades after the call for
gendered histories was :rst sounded, however, women
continue to be invisible in most histories of organi4ed slave
protest. 9hile this dearth of literature remains deeply
troubling, the insights of the last four decades also underscore
the dangers and limitations of casting everyday or unorgani4ed
resistance as categorically di%erent from collective, organi4ed
protest. 9hat might happen to our picture of rebellion# for
example# if scholars were to see rape, se=ual assault, pregnancy,
birth control, and so forth as pivotal to the organi4ation, form,
and outcome of slave insurgenciesI 7n the spirit of these
questions 7 endeavor to think with, rather than in opposition
to, the literature on daily resistance. 'uch an approach
ultimately suggests a way to conceptuali4e slave insurgency as
a challenge to white patriarchal control, as much as a
confrontation against racial violence. /n late Eeember of %&F(# an
enslaved woman named Jolonia 8angK informed her owner,
Dsteban 'anta Cru4 de 3viedo, that his sugar property was
about to be engulfed in open rebellion. Jolonias infamous
confession has since passed into mythology as the event that
sparked the unraveling of a mammoth movement in western
and central Cuba.

;any histori. cal accounts of the conspiracy
of 2a Dscalera begin their chronology with this discovery# and in
so doing loate Polonia5s dislosure at the heart of a long and bloody in-uisition that spanned
outward through the pro$ine of ?atanzas. Polonia5s re$elation thus onstitutes its own
reation story# if one of a peuliar 4ind. "ers is a story that imposes its own ending at the
preise moment that it announes its beginning. At one# the massi$e sla$e mo$ements of
%&FF are thrust into na4ed $isibility and unra$eled in sanguine horror. Palonia onse-uently
stands Jgurati$ely at both the mo$ement5s genesis and its undoing. 8ut commencing
the story of 1"00 at the moment of Jolonias declaration also
necessarily equates a womans betrayal with the unleashing of
a black bloodbath, and e%ectively disappears a much longer
tra>ectory of black political struggle in rural Cuba. Jolonia,
until recently, was practically the only woman that readers of
2a Dscalera would encounterIPolonia# whom they -ui4ly learned was a
traitor. 1his story of female treachery is a familiar one that
persists through. out the history of slave movements in the
Americas. Although women were hardly the only ones who
acted as informants to white authorities during times of
unrest, men who revealed rebel plots were often implicitly
femini4ed through their role as domestic servants or, indeed,
through the very act of traitorship. As suh# the trope of feminized betrayal is
often a entral feature in the story of bla4 rebellion. The story of Polonia 9angZ# howe$er# is
but one of many in the rural opposition of the %&F's. Contrary to what the
historiography would sug. gest, slave women took part in,
helped to organi4e, and became leaders in the rebel
movements of 1"0< and 1"00. )inding records of that
participa. tion, however, can often be characteri4ed with little
irony as searching for the invisible woman.

As militias rounded up
bla4 onspirators and insurgents# female witnesses were usually brought in to testify in far
fewer numbers than their male ounterparts. 3hen these women were -uestioned they
fre-uently said $ery little# and# if they did pro$ide information# it was rarely about their own
in$ol$ement. 1hus to narrate the participation of women in rebel
slave movements is in many ways to push the archive to its
furthest limits, and perhaps even to rearrange the categories
of what it meant for slaves to collectively revolt.
Chetorical Dthic 5ad
Ani *0
<Er. ?arimbaD 'urugu: An African-Centered Criti(ue of )uro!ean Cultural
Thought and *ehavior# p.(6&2(6,=
/t has been part of the posture of the moral philosophers of Duropean
culture to disa$ow ultural ommitment# yet their work has contributed
signi:cantly to the survival and intensi:cation of the
rhetorical ethic2the hyporisy and the deeption that onstitute a $ital and deJniti$e
part of the ontent of >uropean ultural imperial2 ism2and# therefore# to nationalisti ob+eti$es.
To begin with the Platoni2inSuened utamawazo pro$ides the theoretial basis for a
oneptual ethisD an ethial system# the themes of whih are onsidered to be $alid# as long
as they are onsistent in terms of the logi of that system. 9hat is XethicalX
becomes what is XrationalX and Xlogical.X 1he most XethicalX
statement is the purest abstraction. As "a$elo4 orretly obser$es# the
individual XthinkingX psyche becomes the seat of morality and
the individualFs ability to act ethically is based on his ability to
think Xrationally[D i.e.# [abstratly.[ 1he result# again# is Xtalk.X 1he
Duropean idea is that words divorced from action# feeling#
commitment# from human involvement can them. selves be
relevant to Band properly informC human interation2as long as they are
part of a consistent synta=D an appro$ed semantial system. 1his pursuit
itself is an e=ercise in self.deception. Primary ultures are
haraterized by an Xe=istential ethicX B)tanley EiamondC that is based on
and refers to actual behavior. Duropean culture gives rise to
semantical systems and instead of being concerned with the
inconsistency between XwordX and XdeedX Bwhih ould onei$ably be
the determinant of ethial behaUiorC# the moral philosophers are merely
concerned with verbal and what they call XlogicalX
inconsistency. 3ne result of this characteristic of the culture is
a tendency to make philosophers the most irrelevant of
people and to e%ectively divorce their work from any
decision.making capacity or role that in any way in6uences
the ethical behavior of Duropean peoples. 9hat this tradition
has done instead is to support the culture in its ability to use
words without meaning# and to support Duropeans in their
quest to deceive others and themselves as well. The body of
literature 4nown as [ethial theory[ has to a large degree been
ondui$e to the growth of moral hyporisy in >uropean ulture. 7t is
the XliberalX academic tradition in ontemporary >uropeanM
>uropean Amerian ulture that uses the rhetorical ethic best to
sup2 port the ob+eti$es of >uropean hau$inism. /ngeniously these
theo2 rists use the semantial systems of the moral philosophers#
the [brotherhood[ rhetori of the 0hristian statement and empty
abstrations li4e [humanitarianism[ and [uni$ersalisti ethis[ as
e$idene of the ideologial ommitments of the >uropeans and
therefore as indies of the nature of >uropean ulture. 1hey are
Xcritical,X because they say that the imperialistic behavior of
the Duropean has represented a con6icting theme or
XnegativeX tendency in >uropean de$elopment. 1he result of their
theories, however, is that they succeed in making the
Duropean responsible for everything.the XgoodX as well as
the XbadX.and in the end the good far outweighs the bad
and will, of course, triumph along with Xreason.[
2anguage is 5odily
8umbs 1#
<AlexisD 3e 0an Learn to ?other 1ursel$esL The Aueer )ur$i$al of 8la4
!eminism %,K&2%,,K# p%N26'=
7f fear can be imprinted on our bodies, marking our danger
and our deviance in languages of race, queerness and terror,
there must be such a thing as embodied writing. /n this pro+et / re$ise
a tendeny in Afrian Amerian literary theory and the spo4en word poetry mo$ement to
reonnet ab+et bodies to the potential of the word through a relamation of orality. / argue
that the body is not only spoken. 7t is also written. This pro+et has been
nurtured and fed by on$ersations# inter$iews and spo4en ad$ie and in$o4es poems#
speehes and lesson2plans that were sometimes written to be spo4en. !urther# / ha$e read
almost e$ery text disussed here out2loud passionately to or with someone. "owe$er# this
pro+et also depends on texts that only sur$i$e in out2of print boo4s# notes for pro+et that no
one remembers# and letters written by dead spea4ers who ouldn5t aford their telephone bills
while they were ali$e. / insist in this pro+et that the words left and found that
make up the archive of this pro>ect are bodily remains even if
they lived only in the pressure of hands on pens and
typewriters, even if they never inhabited a mouth. 1he danger
of the words studied here is that they are bodily, they live,
produce and disrupt. 3ne danger of these words is that they
might be spoken, shaking the lies that silence them in the
moment, but the further danger of these words is that they
might survive, they might re.member and be remembered.
1hey might become intergenerational. The further danger is that / might
ha$e aess to those words and use them now. 3e were ne$er meant to sur$i$e. ?emory is
the lastBingC danger. And when these dangerous words sur$i$e# they sur$i$e in writing. These
four 8la4 feminists and many more# under atta4# wrote to sur$i$e. A 8la4 feminist reading
of 1f 9rammatology# Ja-ues Eerrida5s theory of writing# shows us that writing is the
specter of deviance in language. Eerrida examines 'assures
privileging of the spoken word as the true language, superior
to the written word and attributes )assure5s e$aluation to a desire for
autoproductivity and complete authority. 7f language is divine
it must be pure# in the air. Jure language must be free from the
danger of materiality. 3riting# the bodily# formed# dar4 reSetion of the spo4en
word# for )assure# must always be deri$ati$e. Just li4e Thomas Jeferson5s belief that Phillis
3heatley annot be a poet# only a parrot# 'assure believes that writing can
only mimic the purity of spoken language.6K To be lear# / am not
attributing )assure5s anxiety about the purity of language to a raialized pani# but / am
de$eloping a 8la4 feminist theory of writing in whih# as "ortense )pillers explains#
oppression is inscribed and engendered on the 6esh of
enslaved Africans in America.6N 7f the body itself becomes an
inscription, writing, in its dangerous materiality, can be
imagined to be linked to that most dangerous of bodies in the
American le=icon, the deviant 5lackTenedU
femini4edPmasculini4ed body, imagined to produce further
5lackness that must be tamed and cannot be. 1ne ould say that
'assure# in his theory of pure language# wants the word to have a
dependable father, a stable lineage, towards the dream of one
author, who could be pointed to as the owner of his speech.
9riting is dangerous because it is 5lack, deviant, bodily,
unpredictable, diasporic. 3ho 4nows what will happen with those words one they
materialize# when they an tra$el so far from the father2spea4er. They ould mean anything.
5lack feminist anti.capitalist anti.imperialist writing is a
further danger in 'assures proto.dream of e=treme
intellectual property, because 5lack women are not supposed
to have authority to begin with.6& Eerrida5s deJnition of writing insists that
language is not stable, neither in production nor in circulation,
but is unpredictably TreUproduced in play, coproduced in social
use, surviving and remaking itself through the necessary
tension of di%erence. /n the hands of these diaspori 8la4 feminist theorists of
diferene# intergenerationality and futurity# )assure5s desire for pure language is as
impossible and useless as ?oynihan5s desire for a 8la4 patriarhal imitation. ?ama5s baby#
Papa5s maybe. /n their wor4 as writers# teahers and anti2apitalist publishers Lorde# Jordan#
EeUeaux and )mith show us that language is not owned, it is not even
inheritable, though the desire of power will continue to
pretend that it is, and will continue to buy and sell it. )o dar4.
)o de$iant. 3rite it downL 2anguage is comothered, shaped and
reshaped in community, a constant reminder that the
transition from the maternal to the material, from person into
property is never fully successful, and assimilation is not
achievable. 3riting is $isible# 8la4 wa$es against white ontext. Language is neessary
only beause diferene persists and writing is the reminder# here#at the shoreline.
'ocial 2ifeV 'ocial Meath
'e=ton 1-
<JaredD Ante2Anti28la4nessL Afterthoughts#
A living death is a much a death as it is a living. ?othing in
afro.pessimism suggests that there is no black TsocialU life,
only that black life is not social life in the universe formed by
the codes of state and civil society# of itizen and sub+et# of nation and
ulture# of people and plae# of history and heritage# of all the things that olonial soiety has
in ommon with the olonized# of all that apital has in ommon with labor G the modern world
system. <6(= 5lack life is not lived in the world that the world lives
in, but it is lived underground, in outer space. This is agreed. That is to
say# what ?oten asserts against afro2pessimism is a point already aHrmed by afro2pessimism# is# in fat#
one of the most polemial dimensions of afro2pessimism as a pro+etL namely# that bla4 life is not soial#
or rather that black life is lived in social death. Eouble emphasis# on li$ed and on death.
ThatYs the whole point of the enterprise at some le$el. 7t is all about the implications of
this agreed upon point where arguments TshouldU begin# but they annot
ByetC proeed. 9ildersonFs is an analysis of the law in its operation as
Xpolice power and racial prerogative both under and after slaveryX
B3agner 6'',L 6F(C. 'o too is ;otenFs analysis# at least that +ust2less2than2half of the intelletual
labor ommitted to the ob+et of bla4 studies as riti-ue of Bthe anti2bla4ness ofC 3estern i$ilization.
5ut ;oten is >ust that much more interested in how black social life
steals away or escapes from the law, how it frustrates the police
power and, in so doing, calls that very policing into being in the :rst
place. The poliing of bla4 freedom# then# is aimed less at its dreaded prospet# apoalypti rhetori
notwithstanding# than at its irreduible preedene. The logial and ontologial priority of the unorthodox
self2prediating ati$ity of bla4ness# the [impro$isatory exteriority[ or [impro$isational immanene[ that
bla4ness is# renders the law dependent upon what it polies. This is not the noble ageny of resistane. /t
is a retiene or relutane that we might not 4now if it were not pushing ba4# so long as we 4now that
this pushing ba4 is really a pushing forward. )o# in this per$erse sense# black social death is
black social life. The ob+et of bla4 studies is the aim of bla4 studies. 1he most radical
negation of the anti.black world is the most radical aSrmation of a
blackened world. Afro2pessimism is [not but nothing other than[ bla4 optimism.
'ocial 2ifeV 'ocial Meath! Jerm
'e=ton 1-
<JaredD Ante2Anti28la4nessL Afterthoughts#
3hereas PattersonYs detrators ta4e to tas4 his historial soiology for its inability and
unwillingness to fully ountenane the ageny of the perspeti$e and self2prediating ati$ity
of the sla$e# his supporters Bor those engaging his wor4 through generous riti-ueC do not fail
to remar4# e$en if they rarely highlight# that what is most stunning is the fat that the onept
of soial death annot be generalized. /t is indexed to sla$ery and it does not tra$el. That is#
there are problems in the formulation of the relation of power from whih sla$ery arises and
there are problems in the formulation of the relation of this relation of power to other relations
of power. This split reading was e$ident immediately# as indiated in a ontemporaneous
re$iew by ;oss X. 8a4er. 8a4er obser$es# against the neoonser$ati$e ba4lash politis of
[angry white males[ and the asendane of another raialized immigration disourse
alternating# post2i$il rights# between model minority and barbarians at the gateL [The mere
fat of sla$ery ma4es bla4 Amerians diferent. @o amount of tortured logi ould permit the
analogy to be drawn between a former sla$e population and an immigrant population# no
matter how low2Sung the latter group. /ndeed# had the 9reat )oiety programs persisted at
their highest le$els until today# it is doubtful that the mass of Amerian bla4s would be
measurably better of than they are now[ B8a4er %,&(L 6%C. 8a4erYs refusal of analogy in the
wa4e of his reading of Patterson is pegged to a ertain realization [brought home#[ as he puts
it# [by the daunting fore of PattersonYs desription of the blea4 totality of the sla$e
experiene[ BibidC. 7 want to hold onto this perhaps unwitting distinction that
8a4er draws between the mere fact of slavery# on the one hand# and the
daunting force of description of the slave e=perience# on the other.
7n this distinction, 5aker echoes both the problem identi:ed by
;oten in his reading of my co.authored piece as a certain
con6ation of the fact of blackness with the lived e=perience of
the black B?oten 6''&L %N,C and the problem identiJed by "artman as a ertain
onSation of witness and spetator before the senes of sub+etion at the heart of sla$ery
B"artman %,,NL FC. / onede that ;otenFs delineation is precise Bthough its
pertinene is in doubtC and that it encourages a more sophisticated
theoretical practice# but "artmanYs onlusion# it seems to me# is also aurate in a
sort of non2ontraditory oinidene or o$erlap with ?oten that situates bla4 studies in a
relation Jeld that is still generally under2theorized. Cather than approaching
Tthe theori4ation ofU social death and Tthe theori4ation ofU
social life as an XeitherPorX proposition# then# why not attempt to
think them as a matter of XbothPandXI 3hy not artiulate them through the
supplementary logi of the opulaV /n fat# there might be a more radical
rethinking available yet. /n reent years# soial death has emerged from a period
of lateny as a notion useful for the ritial theory of raial sla$ery as a matrix of soial#
politial# and eonomi relations sur$i$ing the era of abolition in the nineteenth entury# [a
raial alulus and a politial arithmeti that were entrenhed enturies ago.[ This [afterlife of
sla$ery#[ as )aidiya "artman terms it# hallenges pratitioners in the Jeld to -uestion the
pre$ailing understanding of a post2emanipation soiety and to re$isit the most basi
-uestions about the strutural onditions of anti2bla4ness in the modern world. 1o ask
what it means to speak of Xthe tragic continuity between
slavery and freedomX or Xthe incomplete nature of
emancipationX, indeed to speak of about a type of living on
that survives after a type of death. !or 3ilderson# the prinipal impliation of
sla$eryYs afterlife is to warrant an intelletual disposition of [afro2pessimism#[ a -ualiJation
and a ompliation of the assumpti$e logi of bla4 ultural studies in general and bla4
performane studies in partiular# a disposition that posits a politial ontology di$iding the
)la$e from the world of the "uman in a onstituti$e way. This ritial mo$e has been
misonstrued as a negation of the ageny of bla4 performane# or e$en a denial of bla4
soial life# and a number of sholars ha$e reasserted the earlier assumpti$e logi in a gesture
that hypostatisizes afro2pessimism to that end. <%N=
Jroliferation of Mi%erence
?ealon *"
<Jefrey T.# Liberal Arts ;esearh Professor of >nglish and Philosophy at
Penn)tateD ;efrainingL 8eoming 8la4# Sym!loke K.%# p&(2,R=
8ut insofar as our dominant oneptual odes are not well set up to handle suh a
BnonConept# this is easier said than done. All too often# in a 4eal to make
claims about the contestatory nature of African.American
culture, we leave behind some of the comple=ities of the
issues at hand. This has been espeially noticeable, for e=ample, in the
so.called gangsta rap debate, where e$eryone from aademi ritis to
radio tal4 show hosts has been -ui4 to ta4e sidesL either gangsta rap is an
authentic e=pression and e=tension of African.American
cultural traditions, or its a commercial ploy that reinforces to
white suburbanites all the most vicious stereotypes
surrounding black culture. 1his debate poses an all.too.
familiar either"or# and postmodernism has# if nothing else# made ritis suspiious of
the either"orL why either"or and not both"and# as they sayV 3ell# it seems to
me that the supposed postmodernist both"and solution to the either"or
dilemma is actually more dangerous than the dilemma itself . All
too often# this both"and names a moment of <>nd Page &N= complete
assimilation, the erasure of African.American otherness
altogether. /f gangsta rap is both an authenti expression of ontemporary bla4
experiene and a rae2baiting sales ploy# this conveniently closes down a
comple= web of debate by totali4ing and smoothing over all
the categories involved! the both"and solution presupposes
that we know enough about the categories under
considerationIgangsta rap# Afrian2Amerian experiene# the musi industry# white
suburban youthImerely to onSate them or reate a singular relation among them. 8ut it
seems that if we are# following 8ara4a and Eeleuze# to take account of a
culture of becoming, we cannot merely go from the dialectical
separation of the either"or to the dialectical assimilation of the
both"and , rather, we need a critical vocabulary to open the
movement of becomingNto enact the s$eci%city of the
di&erence in re$etition #ith a di&erence . 1o describe this
open.ended movement of transformation, then, we need a
force that goes not from either"or to both"and , but# as Eeleuze and
9uattari put it# from either"or to either or or or or or or or or or or or . . . D not
from di%erence to assimilation, but from di%erence to
di%erence to di%erence.