Cinema of the Black Atlantic – Syllabus

AASD350 – Wednesdays 2-4:30 – fall semester 2023

This course (syllabus: HERE) examines the cinema of the black Atlantic world – in our case, that world between Africa and the Americas. In particular, we will watch and critically engage key filmmakers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States in order to understand cinema’s relationship to colonialism, liberation struggle, vernacular culture, and questions intra-racial diversity. We will also examine the relationship between race, nation, and fantasies about identity and meaning.

Filmmakers and films examined in the course: Read more

New Issue of Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy

Here is my Editor’s Note for the new issue of Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. The issue includes essays:

Jacques Lezra on Badiou

Norman Swazo on Derrida and the refugee

James Dutton on Stiegler

Dan Cook on Levinas

And a book forum on Geo Maher’s new Anticolonial Eruptions, with Maher’s response to critics Begüm Adalet, Althea Rani Sircar, Anna Terwiel, Kevin Bruyneel, and Henry Aoki.


1. Editor’s Note – JFFP – XXX no 1

On the Fecundity of Small Places

Here is the pre-print of my essay “On the Fecundity of Small Places,” due out in a volume Africana Studies: Theoretical Futures, edited by Grant Farred. It’s a fantastic volume. I like this essay, which argues against privileging of translatability and transparency, embracing instead the opacity of vernacular culture and its sense of place. Read more

Seminar on James Baldwin: A Syllabus

Here is the syllabus for my fall 2021 course on James Baldwin, which focuses exclusively on his non-fiction work. The course description is as follows:

This is a seminar on James Baldwin’s non-fiction, tracing his development of thought from early musings on Harlem, poverty, and racism to the late reflections on violence, antiblackness, and the compulsion of the United States to define itself through the abjection of Black life. We will trace this development through a set of distinct yet interconnected themes in Baldwin’s work: urban life, the problem of whiteness, his critique of Richard Wright, the meaning of African American language and culture, exile and home, and the complex intertwining of pessimism and hope.

This is a twist on a previous syllabus for a course on Baldwin, which had focused more on the 1956 Paris Congress and its implications for his work. My aim in this syllabus is to engage some of the same questions – namely, exile and Black identity – inside Baldwin’s work rather than in the wider context of the black Atlantic mid-century moment.

See syllabus: HERE

Reply to Miguel Gualdrón Ramírez’s review of Glissant and the Middle Passage

This is a really thoughtful and interesting review. I appreciate it so much because it engages with the possibilities of my book, but also asks some key questions – critical in formulation, though, honestly, I think they’re more a matter of clarification. It’s interesting to read readers. They find ways that your book might be significant (Miguel does that here in ways I so appreciate), and they find aspects that aren’t clear or remain under-articulated (he also does that in important ways). Super grateful for his thinkerly work in this piece. Read more

Conquest, Memory, Atrocity

My opening sequence in class this semester has generated the most interesting and searching discussions. I’m so happy with it.
We started with a couple of pieces to set grand, broad themes (Dussel, Mignolo), but the real content so far is, in order, Gibson’s Apocalypto, Las Casas’ brief report summary of Destruction of the Indies, and Carrasco’s La otra conquista.
The aim is to set up a conversation about representing, not indigineity as such, but memory of indigineity in relation to conquest. After all, there is no direct informant. Centuries have passed, so how do we form a sense of humanity in memory? How does the gaze form that memory? This is the “imagining” part of the course title “Imagining ‘the Americas’,” exploring how the past is constructed in different frames, with different interests, and toward different futures – whether in the 16th or 21st centuries. It really says something that that act of imagining is an ongoing, fraught process. How does the gaze form memory?

Read more

New Translation: Mbembe’s Out of the Dark Night

I’m so happy the translation of Sortir de la grande nuit is out (with another essay included). This is probably my favorite of Mbembe‘s work. Coupled with the translation of Politiques de l’inimitié (Necropolitics) and of course Critique de la raison nègre, this is some of the most compelling work on decolonization … really glad this is all available now for people who do not read French.

I have to say, too, that Mbembe is the only writer to get me excitedly back to looking at Fanon, whatever very real and deep reservations I have about Fanon and Fanon scholarship. But I think what’s now Out of the Dark Night opens really new horizons, especially in the “Epilogue”: Read more

Syllabus: Imagining ‘the Americas’

Here is a final draft version of the syllabus for my S’21 course “Imagining ‘the Americas.'” The course engages the question of how conquest and the Middle Passage haunt the memory and history of the hemisphere, infusing our language of self, other, and community and the pathologies and fecundities of cultural production. Our assertion is a plain fact: “the Americas” is a phrase synonymous with trauma and loss. Conquest and the Middle Passage are originary events that set in motion particular, peculiar, and site-specific notions of memory and history. How to understand these origins and their ghosts is explored through critical essays, polemics, poetry, film, and novels that blend fiction and imaginative history.

web – Imagining the Americas Syllabus S’21