Aimé Césaire

This is the epigraph to Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. I just purchased this text and haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. It is a mixed-media project and along with her work in Citizen: An American Lyric, I am excited to read this as I think about public intellectuals and […]

Jacob Lawrence’s “Play” (1999)

Museum of Modern Art: “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North” (through Sept. 7).  In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of African-Americans left the rural South for the industrial North in search of jobs, homes and respect. Officially, this MoMA show is meant to mark the […]

James Baldwin on Moral Apathy…

I’m terrified at the moral apathy — the death of the heart which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long, that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say, and this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters. […]

from Paul Celan’s “Ansprache”

Only one thing remained close and reachable amid all losses: language. Yes, language.  In spite of everything it remained unlost [unverloren].  But it had to go through its own lack of answers [Antwortlosigkeit], through terrifying silence [furchtbares Verstummen], through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech.  It went through and gave no words for what happened; […]

Imre Kertész and the Nobel Lecture

Heureka! “Whereas I, on a lovely spring day in 1955, suddenly came to the realization that there exists only one reality, and that is me, my own life, this fragile gift bestowed for an uncertain time, which had been seized, expropriated by alien forces, and circumscribed, marked up, branded – and which I had to […]

Claudia Rankine

I just read Citizen: An American Lyric and I was struck by the urgency with which it touched me, made me want to handle it, read it again as if I had never experienced her words. There was so much truth in this book that, for a moment, I didn’t understand that it was not written just […]

The Imperfect Longing

I gave a conference paper on (Re)Mapping the Black Atlantic at DePaul University in 2013. It was on the anniversary of Paul Gilroy’s seminal work The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness. I spoke on Sam Selvon’s short novel The Lonely Londoners and the idea of a desiring language – one that Frantz Fanon named as the urgency of ‘reciprocal recognitions.’ […]

Identity as Cultural Production in Andrea Levy’s ‘Small Island’

This is an article that was published in 2012 after a truly rigorous peer review process. Identity as Cultural Production in Andrea Levy’s Small Island Abstract: Andrea Levy’s Small Island (2004) presents a counter-history of the period before and after World War II (1939-1945) when men and women from the Caribbean volunteered for all branches of the […]

On Stuart Hall, the Humanities and Humanism

I need to process this but I must first offer it to you…. A terrific essay by Rebecca Wanzo of Washington University: On the Passing of a Black Intellectual As Hall once framed the argument in a discussion of his own field, “against the urgency of people dying in the streets, what in God’s name […]

The “Unhomely”

Much of my writing and teaching gravitates toward the idea of the unhomely. I take it from Homi Bhabha and Martin Heidegger as cited in the introduction to Bhabha’s The Location of Culture: To be unhomed is not to be homeless, nor can the ‘unhomely’ be easily accommodated in that familiar division of social life into […]