Animating Blackness - NEMLA 2019

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
NEMLA 2019 - March 21-24, 2019, Washington, D. C.
contact email: 

Since 2005, when Sianne Ngai first developed the concept of “animatedness” to describe the ways that racialized bodies are made machine-like through external manipulation, Ngai’s work has continued to provide a useful foundation for investigating representations of black voices and black bodies in African American literature and culture. This session seeks papers that will contribute to this broader scholarly conversation by considering the ways in which black bodies have continued to be voiced, mediated, automatized, and silenced by external forces. As Saidiya Hartman notes in her seminal monograph Scenes of Subjection, the captive body is made to “speak the master’s truth,” a puppetry that intensifies the dimensions of the captive body’s subjugation. At the same time, black subjects--consider famed impersonators as varied as Frederick Douglass and Richard Pryor--have also used racial puppetry as a valuable mode of re-asserting bodily control.

By thinking carefully about the relationship between black voices and black bodies, this panel will seek to re-focus current critical thought to account for and accommodate the ways that a black literary or political subject might use black animatedness in productive ways. Through this framing, we aim to re-think and move beyond configurations of black literary production as purely (or most authentically) tragic. What animates the black subject? How is the black body mechanized by racial violences--and by racial pleasures--in African American literature? What is the relationship between black animatedness and other industrial processes? What are the particular limitations on and possibilities of the black animated body? How have black bodies been animated in African American literature, in both reparative and destructive ways?  The papers in this panel will address these questions by exploring how animation (fictional, performative, visual) is constitutive of black critical thought.

Possible topics include: lynching, minstrelsy, impersonation, ventriloquism.

This panel considers the ways that the black body speaks--or is made to speak--in the American public sphere. This session seeks papers that will consider the ways in which black bodies have continued to be voiced, mediated, automatized, and silenced by external forces. At the same time, black subjects have also used racial puppetry as a valuable mode of re-asserting bodily control. By thinking carefully about the relationship between black voices and black bodies, this panel will seek to re-focus current critical thought to account for and accommodate the ways that a black literary or political subject might use black animatedness in productive ways.

Please submit abstracts (300 words or less) directly to the convention website at https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/17590. Address all inquiries, clarifying questions, or concerns to Amadi Ozier at amadi.ozier@rutgers.edu.