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liquid blackness 2, no. 6 (LB6) – Call for Papers: Black Ontology and the Love of Blackness

 

In conjunction with the 2016 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference, hosted here in Atlanta (Wednesday, March 30 – Sunday, April 3), liquid blackness has co-organized an event meant to resonate with Atlanta’s rich Civil Rights history while considering the urgencies of American race relations today. The event, which is part of the SCMS Host Committee Special Event, titled “Civic Encounters with Black Media and Black Lives,” on April 2 at the Center for Civil and Human Rights (100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NW, Atlanta, GA 30313), features a screening of Arthur Jafa’s Dreams are Colder than Death (2013, 52 min) followed by panel discussion between Jafa, film scholar Kara Keeling (University of Southern California) and African American philosopher George Yancy (Emory University). The screening begins at 8 p.m.

The film, by the acclaimed cinematographer of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991), John Akomfrah’s Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), and Spike Lee’s Crooklyn (1994) begins as a reflection on the legacy of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, conducted through interviews with African-American intellectuals and artists. The film, however, quickly detours toward more fundamental and open-ended questions including: “What is the concept of blackness? Where did it come from? And what does it mean for people of color living in America today?”

Woven together with lyrical slow motion images of ordinary black people mostly in outdoor spaces, images of water and cosmological images of deep space, the voices of some of the most powerful contemporary thinkers and artists in black studies and black arts engage in a meditation on the ontology of blackness and its relationship to life, death, and the concept of the human in the context of the “afterlife of slavery.”

Included in the film are: author/professor Hortense Spillers, poet and philosopher Fred Moten, filmmaker Charles Burnett, professor Saidiya Hartman, ex-Black Panther and professor Kathleen Cleaver, music producer Flying Lotus, musician and producer Melvin Gibbs, visual artists Kara Walker and Wangechi Mutu, and visual culture scholar Nicole Fleetwood, among others.

The location of the event is central to the conversation liquid blackness is invested in initiating. The Center for Civil and Human Rights offers an immersive, multi-mediatic and interactive environment and a rich archive documenting the Civil Rights Movement within its historic media landscape. Through its layout and architectural design, the Center promotes a view of Martin Luther King as a leader who continuously expanded his commitment, ultimately shifting from an investment in domestic civil rights to global human rights. This narrative bolsters the Center’s mission to foster personal investment in the rights of every human being. By putting Dreams are Colder than Death in conversation with the Civil Rights and Human Rights Galleries, the screening, panel discussion, and a visit to the Center might invite a retroactive reflection on MLK’s dream of black love and equality as sustaining a specific vision of what blackness is. In broader historical terms, it might also invite us to pause and wonder: under what circumstances has the question of the ontology of blackness become available as a way to reassess the legacy of Martin Luther King’s famous speech?

Through the words of Fred Moten, the film offers a possible answer by reflecting on the possibility to love black people—“Can black people be loved?” he asks, “not desired, not wanted, not acquired, not lusted after…Can blackness be loved?”—as well as what it might mean to commit to blackness against fantasies of flight. It is for this reason that the event is called, “Can Blackness be Loved?”

As a multi-racial research group that has focused on issues of blackness and aesthetics with particular attention to modes of artistic, creative, and affective liquidity in the visual arts of the black diaspora, liquid blackness is strongly invested in the implications of this question. Through a close engagement with Dreams are Colder than Death, we have identified a network of concepts with the intention to deepen the conversation around this question so that it continues to resonate. We welcome proposals for our next issue of liquid blackness – LB6  titled Black Ontology and the Love of Blackness on any work of art or topic that falls into the following theoretical, analytical, or meditative clusters articulated in Jafa’s film:

Epistemology:

  • “I know it”: blackness and knowledge; blackness and belief
  • Flesh memory and phantom limbs: role of embodiment in remembering, mourning, and empathizing; embodiment as both conduit and limit to empathy and grief
  • The aim, object, and practice of black studies
  • Types of knowledge that blackness affords and for whom?

Ontology:

  • Flesh and fungibility: availability “in the flesh” (Hortense Spillers)
  • Heavy presence/heavy nonpresence (Kara Walker)
  • Blackness and thingness
  • Blackness and personhood
  • The personal and the cosmic

Necropolitics:

  • Fragility of black freedom
  • Finality of death
  • Intimacy with death
  • Self-possession, self-determination, and the critique of ownership

Ethics:

  • Loving blackness/loving black people
  • Black love
  • Grief and grievability: shareability of black death/shareability of black mourning
  • Commitment to blackness against fantasies of flight

Form and Affect:

  • Chiasm and schism: figures of reversibility, reciprocity, and dividedness
  • Between the cosmic and the minute; the metaphysical and the everyday
  • Suspended motion: aesthetics of floating, slowness, and dis-alignment
  • Making space: the void, the empty, the still
  • Rendering flesh: aural puncta and sonic textures
  • Liquidity and flow
  • Blackness and the generation of energy
  • Blackness as jurisgenerative process: law making and law breaking; invention and deconstruction; form and freedom

Please send an abstract (maximum 500 words), 5 bibliographical sources, and a short bio to liquidblackness@gsu.edu no later than April 29, 2016. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by May 10, and complete essays (2,500–3,000 words) will be due on August 19. For more information, contact liquid blackness at the above email address.