Kameelah Janan Rasheed – Annotated Reading List, October
Below is an inexhaustive list of texts I started before, during, and after the installation of in the coherence, we weep.
Cervenak, Sarah Jane. Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life. United States: Duke University Press, 2021.
I consider how Black women poets Samiya Bashir and Gabrielle Ralambo-Rajerison poeticize Blackness and Black gathering as quantum and astrophysical possibility where both Blackness and gathering are unmoored from a certain expectation of their holdable form.
To restate, the poets engage areas of science that, as Ashon Crawley (2017, 48) writes of quantum physics, offer a mode of study “that verifies the fact there are things that happen in the world, in the universe, that are not easily perceptible to human flesh.” […] In particular, the authors’ conceptual attention to the uncapturable phenomena of entropy and dark matter, for instance, gestures toward the galactic reach of the ecological to provide ongoing safe harbor for besieged forms of earthly togetherness. In sum, it is the aesthetic, or what we might call the cosmoaesthetic, that process the entry point for the authors’ artful engagements with Black gathering. That is, through experimental arrangements of words, particularly the spacing between them with respect to Bashir and passages with respect to Ralambo-Raherison, I argue that the writers deploy “quantum poetics” to convert the poem and page into a metonymic galaxy. Here’s Amy Catanzano’s definition (2011) of quantum poetics once more: “Quantum poetics investigates how physical reality is assumed, imagined and tested through language at discernible and indiscernible scales of spacetime.” […]
Along with the extra spaces before phrases and between words punctuation appears to be moved by an unseen gravitational movement. The “to”s give the impression of being pulled apart; the period and the semicolon, of being pushed, bombarded, out of place. I wonder if, given the title [“We call it dark matter because it doesn’t interact with light”], we thought of the propulsion and unanticipated arrangement of this prose proem’s words and punctuation as indicative of the page’s dark matter and energy. (60-61)
Crawley, Ashon. “That There Might Be Black Thought: Nothing Music and the Hammond B-3.” In CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Fall 2016), 123-150.
What one discovers through Bilali’s script, in the incomprehensible blackness, the incomprehensible celebratory nothingness of the script, is that one can say without saying, one can give while withholding as a matter, as the scripted, etched, written materiality, of praise. To write that which emerges as incomprehensible is to write nonreadability into the text, to write the necessity to think a different relation to objects, objects that are supposed to be easily captured as flesh on mediums, bateaus, and skiffs. To write the unasked question of being into the text by making markings that do not appear to readers as readable, Bilali’s document writes onto the page the question of being: What is this? And what of the one who scripted such irreducible incomprehension? (130)
Groom, Amelia. Beverly Buchanan: Marsh Ruins. London: Afterall Books. 2021.
Buchanan referred to the work as an ‘environmental sculpture’. Part of what this meant was that the shifting rhythms of light, season, weather and climate would determine how it appeared at any point in time. Making sculpture environmentally also implied a foreground of material vulnerability; the Marsh Ruins are continually decomposing through their ongoing exposure to sun, salt, heat, humidity, storms, tides and currents – not to mention the area’s increasingly extreme occurrences of hurricanes and flooding. There are also the material additions and subtractions brought on by the local birds, plants, insects, crabs and fish – and then there’s gravity, which is constantly at work on the sculpture. (13)
In a case like this, it could be said the demands for totality and stability would only reinforce the existing structures of power, and that in order to really grapple with these histories of irredeemable loss, fracture and subterranean subsistence, other ways of looking at needed. In Glissant’s words, ‘the attempt to approach a reality so hidden from view cannot be organised in terms of a series of clarification.’87 (79)
Because they are unbounded objects which exist through continual interaction with their surroundings, Buchanan’s environmental sculptures also bridge the distinction Schlegel made between things that have ‘become fragments’ over time and things that are ‘fragments as soon as they are written.’ The Marsh Ruins started out as ruins and continue to enact their own ongoing processes of ruination, so that their current state is co-authored by the artist and the site’s climatic and meteorological forces […] Buchanan’s stone pieces are absolutely entangled with their environment, which also means so that they have no stable form, remaining always in the ‘present participial’ tense. (82)
Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. M Archive: After the End of the World. United Kingdom: Duke University Press, 2018.
- Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (2005) is an ancestrally cowritten text. This means that in addition to the interventions this text makes in the ways we imagine transnational feminist accountability, movements from within the university industrial complex, layers of time and space in quantitative research, postnationalist Caribbean sexualities, radical feminist of color memory, and the labor economics of spirit work, to name a few of the enduring interventions this text has made over the past decade, the book itself also works to create textual possibilities for inquiry beyond individual scholarly authority. (ix)
Lavin, Sylvia. Kissing Architecture. Ukraine: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Kissing opens architecture to a means of expression founding in the touching of (at least) two surfaces, surfaces that in their twoness highlight either material or epistemological difference. It is not merely in the nature of the contact between the surfaces that the expression is produced but in the understanding of the membranes themselves. (30)
Lispector, Clarice. Água Viva. United States: New Directions, 2012.
So writing is the method of using the word as bait: the word fishing for whatever is not word. When this non-word–between the lines–takes the bait, something has been written. Once whatever is between the lines is caught, the word can be tossed away in relief. But that’s where the analogy ends: the non-word, taking the bait, incorporates it. So what saves you is writing absentmindedly. (15)
Mullen, Harryette. “Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded.” in The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be: Essays and Interviews. United States: University of Alabama Press, 2012.
Many of my imagined reads have yet to encounter my work. Most of them are not even born yet. About one-third of my pleasure as a writer comes form the work itself, the process of writing, a third from the response of my contemporaries, and another third in contemplating unknown readers who inhabit a future I will not live to see. (3)
I am curious about the “unconscious” of language, suggested by the various indirections of metaphor, metonymy, euphemism, periphrasis, and taboo word deformation. I am equally interested in the materiality of language itself, the physical presence of words and letters on the page, so I am fond if word games, such as acrostics, anagrams, paragrams, lipograms, univocalics, tautograms, charades, homophones, spoonerisms, and palindromes that draw attention to the manipulable properties of letters and words. I like the possibility of scrambled words and syntax, of secret or alternative meanings, of words hidden within other words, as in equivoque, cryptograms, and cryptographic riddles. (7)
Pope.L. Proto-Skin Set. New York, NY: Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 2017.
By family relations, I mean a set of shared aspects to things in the set.
Protos and SS proper are a set of things together conceptually but separated by time; a dynamic open set where shit happens over time. So, one hinge which pivots all these things together is language, specifically language which seeks to describe a world or a possibility of a world–sometimes our world, sometimes a possible, parallel world. (n.p.)
Description always introduces a kind of loss in doing its work.This is no accident. It is a necessity. When creating a description we must always re- inscribe against that loss. The back and forth is unavoidable. It’s the deal we make with language- a deal that we ignore to one degree or another. And to an extent, wehave to ifwe are to succeed at describing anything at all. But it is this conflict that makes writing interesting to me. And if somehow miraculously language helps us to picture a world, then there we are standing there agape with our mouths open letting the flies in.
So, is description separate from the thing it describes? Of course, that is its beauty. It’s like ‚the ritual is not the gods‘ kind of thing and that makes the ritual important: that it cannot be the gods, rather it is a conduit to the gods. That’s its utility… and its futility. (n.p.)
Post, Tina. Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression. United States: NYU Press,
In this materialist sense of variable scopic saturation seems to refigure the longstanding African American interpretive paradigm of fugitivity, the snes is partially correct. Fugitivity is critically important within African American cultural and visual theory for obvious reasons, and my thinking builds on works that analyze black strategies of visual fugitivity that include anti-portraiture and the material trace. Material transparency is therefore not synonymous with fugitivity, but rather ie one strategy within the larger, graduated set of strategies that might be called fugitive. Unlike forms of fugitivity that tropologize the disappearance of escape, transparency does not absent the black body from sight. Rather it references, performs, or surrogates, in whole or in part, the black body in ways that complicate its scopic availability. (105)
Rider, Bhanu Kapil. Schizophrene. United States: Nightboat Books, 2011.
On the night I knew my book had failed, I threw it – in the form of a notebook, a handwritten final draft – into the garden of my house in Colorado. Christmas Eve, 2007. It snowed that winter and into the spring; before the weather turned truly warm, I retrieved my notes, and began to write again, from the fragments, the phrases and lines still legible on the warped, decayed but curiously rigid pages. (i)
Some, Malidoma Patrice. Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman. United Kingdom: Penguin Publishing Group, 1995.
In the culture of my people, the Dagara, we have no word for the supernatural. The closest we come to this concept is Yielbongura, “the thing that knowledge can’t eat.” The word suggests that life and power of certain things depend upon their resistance to the kind of categorizing knowledge that human beings apply to everything. (8)
Some, Malidoma Patrice. The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community. United States: Penguin Publishing Group, 1999.
For indigenous people, to utter mean two things: first, it signifies nostalgia for our true home, because language tempts us with the possibility of returning home to meaning, And where does meaning reside in its fullness? In nature. So language implies nostalgia for our true home, which is nature. The word nostalgia here should not be taken lightly. It implies that language as we have it is a vehicle toward the Source but should never be mistaken for the Source itself.
Second, to utter means to be in exile. Indeed, to the Dagara, every time we speak, it is as though we are confessing our own exile, our distance from the Source. The ability to utter testifies to the fact that we are far removed from the vast array of meaning that is out home. (50)
The Holy Qur’an (18:109)
Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.”
Wilk, Elvia. “This Compost: Erotics of Rot.” in Death by Landscape. United Kingdom: Catapult, 2022.
Reading can be sticky, as it absorbs the reader. According to Carson, the boundary-disintegrating experience of erotic love is akin to the experience of encountering the written word. Reading requires something particular of the reader’s mind and does something particular to it. In early oral cultures, where sound is the primary mode of communication, information enters and exits consciousness in a fluid way, requiring less focused concentration than looking, and much less concentration than reading. But reading requires one to block out the other senses. A communication system based on literacy demands visual focus in an exercise of self-control. And when written, information becomes a fixed entity rather than flexible, open-ended, alive, updatable. In an oral culture, whatever gets committed to memory and repeated might be incorporated into a story. But a written story is converted into the corpus of text rather than carried within the body of the person who speaks.
Like the space between letters, the space between lovers is necessary to make meaning from their union. Without the gap, there is no longing to be felt. Texts require boundaries. Selves require boundaries. Only when a boundary materializes can it become a site for transgression. (32-33)
Wilk, Elvia. “The Word Made Flesh: Mystical encounter and the new weird divine.” in Death by Landscape. United Kingdom: Catapult, 2022.
In the essay called “Weird Ecology,” the writer David Tompkins compares Area X to a “hyperobject,” a term philosopher Timothy Morton uses “to describe events or systems or processes that are too complex, too massively distributed across space and time, for humans to get a grip on.” Global warming, black holes, and mass extinction are contemporary examples. For medievals: God, The mind can edge close to the hyperobject, understanding parts of it but never comprehend its totality. Hyperobjects can certainly be measured and analyzed, but will never be encompassed by measurement and analysis. Media theorist Wendy Hui Kyong Chun has said: “You can’t see the climate; you can only see the weather,” Or, as the biologist from Area X says, “When you are too close to the center of a mystery there is no way to pull back and see the shape of it entire.” (89-90)