CFP Rhizomes Special Issue: Black Holes: Afro-Pessimism, Blackness and the Discourses of Modernity (Deadline June 1st)

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Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge
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Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge

Special Issue, Black Holes: Afro-Pessimism, Blackness and the Discourses of Modernity

Abstracts due by June 1st

Deleuze and Guattari deploy the image of the black hole to describe the grotesque disfigurations – the pores, blackheads and little scars – pockmarking the "semiotic face of capitalism." It is an apt analogy for the unsettling position of blackness in relation to contemporary thought and political practice. In this special issue of Rhizomes we use the black hole as a conceptual starting point to consider how racial blackness serves as a vortex disrupting the smooth administration of late-capital and our resistance to it. An increasingly precise challenge is on the table that has largely been met with silence by radical theorists and activists alike. This challenge, what is often expediently called, "afro-pessimism," has targeted the foundations of modern critical thought and declared them ineffective given their inability to engage what Wilderson describes as "the structural relation between Blacks and Humanity as an antagonism (an irreconcilable encounter) as opposed to a conflict." The tributaries of this resistance run through Hortense Spillers' critique of the Freudian/Laconian model of psychoanalysis; in Saidiya Hartman's formulation of the "after-life" of slavery; in Joy James' interrogation of Foucault's "elision of racial bias" in the genealogy of punishment; in Frank Wilderson's critique of civil society in neo-Gramscian scholarship; in Fred Moten's challenge to Homi Bhabha's notion of the third space; and Jared Sexton's chiding of Agamben for proposing that the project of political philosophy could be reconstructed through the figure of the refugee.

We hope to extend debate on such objections and to probe the disruptive and antagonistic position of blackness more generally. Any appeals to a normative liberal subject or enlightenment project are knocked off center by the arguments generated by the above body of work. Nevertheless, entire manuscripts, in fact entire disciplinary fields, are being produced without so much as a nod to the experiences of the black body as an organizing principle in such constructs.

In this issue we seek essays and artwork in a range of disciplinary fields and narrative styles—from the philosophical to the aesthetic to the personal—that engage the legacy of the black experience as well as the symbolic and corporeal alienation of the black subject. Contributions need not specifically engage Deleuzian encounters with blackness, nor the black hole concept, however the organizing principle of this issue stems from the tension between established disciplinary theory and the destabilizing power of blackness as a point of departure for any number of critical investigations.

We welcome creative submissions on the antagonisms produced by blackness as well as those that work within the boundaries of academic disciplines. Possible paper topics may engage but are by no means limited to developments and intersections with:

Capitalist anti-blackness, value, and the value form

Afro-pessimism versus afro-optimism

Arguments for and/or against the "end of blackness"

Neoliberalism and the "afterlife of slavery"

Immigrant social movements and the legacy of anti-black racism

Queer politics, blackness, and contingency

The silence of anti-blackness

Obama, electoral politics and Afro-pessimism

Negotiating anti-blackness and political alliances among people of color

Blackness as an aesthetic influence upon and within the visual, written or musical arts

Biopolitics, blackness, and the carceral state

Ontologies of blackness

Urban geography and the fixing and mobilization of anti-blackness

Please submit a 500 word abstract to Dalton Jones at by June 1, 2014. Final essays for those abstracts accepted for publication will be due September 1, 2014.