The Unspoken Imperative of Black Freedom: Black Literatures and Coalitions Towards Liberation
“When Black people get free, everybody gets free. #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.” – Alicia Garza
Alicia Garza’s comments in A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movementcontinue to index the significance of Black lives to the project of liberation in the United States, and in the world. Her statement points out the unrecognized reach of black struggle for freedom, and demands that we consider how coalitions and other ways of working/thinking beyond existing individualized modes opens up new avenues for literary thought. Moreover, Garza echoes the views of liberation and coalition building expressed in women of color feminism in collaborative manifestos such as the Statement by the Combahee River Collective, and contemporary critical works that show how black experience is entangled through multiple geographies. Given the historical and ongoing racial upheavals incited by police brutality, state violence, the alt-right/white supremacists, immigration, and the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the need for constructing effective coalitions to resist oppression continues to be an urgent matter within Black literature writ large. As Garza’s remarks remind us, the project of liberation, often shouldered by Black people globally, is a project that encompasses the freedom of others as well. As such, this seminar envisions a critique of power and the State grounded on coalitional work. It questions disciplinary and institutional formations that resist or impede the production of collaborative work on resistance, whether in an academic or literary/artistic setting.
Moreover, the seminar aims to explore the relationships between the BLM movement, global black experiences, literature, and the arts. It asks:
How do global social movements organized around freedom and liberation intersect with literature and the arts?
How can imaginative writing, critical theory and artistic projects benefit from coalitions and collaboration?
How can we re-think literary and critical theory without the singular figure of the author?
Relatedly, we seek to explore how contemporary literature and writing depict blackness (regional and global), resistance, coalitions/allyhood, intersectionality, racializing assemblages, biopolitics, women of color feminism, and queerness.