Advertisement

Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 105–137 | Cite as

Afro pessimism

  • Lewis R. GordonEmail author
  • Annie Menzel
  • George Shulman
  • Jasmine Syedullah
Critical Exchange

Thoughts on Afropessimism

“Afropessimism” came out of “Afro-pessimism.” The elimination of the hyphen is an important development, since it dispels ambiguity and in effect announces a specific mode of thought. Should the hyphen remain, the ambiguity would be between pessimistic people of African descent and theoretical pessimism. The conjoined, theoretical term is what proponents often have in mind in their diagnosis of what I shall call “the black condition.” The appeal to a black condition is peculiarly existential. Existentialists reject notions of human “nature” on the grounds that human beings live in worlds they also construct; they produce their so-called essence. That does not mean, however, human beings lack anchorage. Everyone has to start from somewhere. Existentialists call that somewhere a condition or conditions for these reasons, and the world human beings produce or through which we live is sometimes called “human reality.”

Critics of existentialism often reject its human...

References

  1. Alexander, M. (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  2. Broeck, S. (2008) Enslavement as regime of western modernity: Re-reading gender studies epistemology through black feminist critique, Gender Forum: An international Journal for Gender Studies 22.Google Scholar
  3. Broeck, S. (2014) Legacies of enslavism and white abjectorship. In: S. Broeck and C. Junker (eds.) Postcoloniality-Decolonality-Black Critique. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, pp. 109–128.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, V. (2009) Social death and political life in the study of slavery, American Historical Review 114(5): 1231–1249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruyneel, K. (2016) Finding the settler in white settlerness: Settler memory, the U.S. Race Paradigm, and the fear of an indigenous futurity, vol 4. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association meeting, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
  6. Carter, J. K. (2013) Paratheological blackness. South Atlantic Quarterly 112(4): 23–45.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, K. B., M. L. King, Jr. and J. Baldwin (1963) The Negro and the American Promise. Boston, MA: WGBH Television Station.Google Scholar
  8. Coulthard, G. (2014) Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cullors, P. (2015) The Future of Black Life. December 15. http://patrissecullors.com/2015/12/31/the-future-of-black-life/.
  10. Deer, S. (2015) The Beginning and End of Rape. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, A. (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press.Google Scholar
  12. Day, I. (2015) Being or nothingness: Indigeneity, antiblackness, and settler colonial critique. Critical Ethnic Studies 1(2): 102–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fanon, F. (1952) Peau noire, masques blancs. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.Google Scholar
  14. Fanon, F. (1991) Les Damnés de la terre. Préface de Jean-Paul Sartre. Paris: François Maspero éditeur S.A.R.L./Paris: Éditions Gallimard.Google Scholar
  15. Francis, D. (2013) “Transcendental Cosmopolitanism”: Orlando Patterson and the Novel Jamaican 1960s. Journal of Transnational American Studies 5(1): 1–14.Google Scholar
  16. Freud, S. (1989) Civilization and Its Discontents. Translated by James Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  17. Gordon, L. (1999) Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism. Amherst, NY: Humanity/Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  18. Gumbs, A. (2008) “We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves”: A Dialogically Produced Audience and Black Feminist Publishing 1979 to the “Present.” Gender Forum 22, http://www.genderforum.org/issues/black-womens-writing-revisited/we-can-learn-to-mother-ourselves/.
  19. Gumbs, A. (2010) We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism 1968-1996. Doctoral Dissertation. Durham: Duke University.Google Scholar
  20. Gumbs, A. (2016) m/other ourselves: A Black queer feminist genealogy for radical mothering. In: A.P. Gumbs, C. Martens, and M. Williams (eds.) Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. Oakland: PM Press, pp. 19–31.Google Scholar
  21. Harney, S. and F. Moten (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. Wivenhoe/New York/Port Watson: Minor Compositions.Google Scholar
  22. Harney, S. and F. Moten (2015) Michel Brown. Boundary 2 42(4): 81–87.Google Scholar
  23. Hartman, S. (1997) Scenes of Subjection. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hartman, S. (2007). Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  25. Hartman, S. (2016) The Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women’s Labors. Souls 18(1): 166–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hartman, S. and S. Best (2005) Fugitive Justice, Representations 92(1): 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heidegger, M. (1971) Letter on Humanism. In: D. F. Krell (ed.) Basic Writings from “Being and Time” (1928) to “The Task of Thinking” (1964). San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, pp. 213–266.Google Scholar
  28. Holland, S. (2000) Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hong, G. (2006) The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and The Culture of Immigrant Labor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jackson, Z. (2011) Waking Nightmares. GLQ 17(2–3): 357–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jackson, Z. (2016) Sense of things. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 2(2): 1–48.Google Scholar
  32. Jaimes, A. (1992) The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  33. James, J. (2013) Afrarealism and the Black Matrix: Maroon Philosophy at Democracy’s Border. The Black Scholar 43(4): 124–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. JanMohamed, A. (2005) The Death-Bound-Subject: Richard Wright’s Archaeology of Death. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jarvis, G. (1977) The Theft of Life. Akwesasne Notes (September): 30–32.Google Scholar
  36. Kierkegaard, S. (1983) “Fear and Trembling”/Repitition: Kierkegaard’s writings, Vol. 6. Translated by Edna and Howard Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  37. King, T.L. (2016) New world grammars: The ‘unthought’ black discourses of conquest. Theory & Event 16(4).Google Scholar
  38. Lawrence, J. (2000) The Indian Health Service and the Sterilization of Native American Women. American Indian Quarterly 24(3): 400–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Leroy, J. (2016) Black history in occupied territory: On the entanglements of slavery and settler colonialism. Theory and Event 16(4).Google Scholar
  40. MacIntyre, A. (1977) Epistemological crises, dramatic narrative, and philosophy of science, The Monist 60(4): 453–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McNeil, D. (2011) Black devils, white saints and mixedrace femme fatales: Philippa Schuyler and the winds of change. Critical Arts 25(3): 360–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Martel, J. (2016) Stages of freedom. African American Intellectual History Society Blog. June 14, 2016. http://www.aaihs.org/stages-of-freedom/.
  43. Mitchell, N. (forthcoming). “On Afropessimsim; Or, The People Critique Makes,” Boundary 2.Google Scholar
  44. Moten, F. (2003) In the Break. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  45. Moten, F. (2008a) Black Op. PMLA 123(5): 1743–1747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Moten, F. (2008b) The Case of Blackness. Criticism 50 (2): 177–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moten, F. (2013) Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh). South Atlantic Quarterly 112(4): 737–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nietzsche, F. (1968) The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  49. Patterson, O. (1982) Slavery and Social Death. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Rand, J. (2008) Kiowa Humanity and the Invasion of the State. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Roberts, D. (1999) Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  52. Scott, D. (2004) Conscripts of Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sedgwick, E. (2003) Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, Or, You’re So Paranoid you probably think this essay is about you. In: E. Sedgwick (ed.) Touching, Feeling, Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham NC: Duke University Press, pp. 123–151.Google Scholar
  54. Sedgwick, E. (2007) Melanie Klein and the difference affect makes. South Atlantic Quarterly 106(3): 625–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sexton, J. (2008) Amalgamation schemes: Anti-blackness and the critique of multiracialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  56. Sexton, J. (2010) People-of-color-blindness: Notes on the afterlife of slavery. Social Text 28(2): 31–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sexton, J. (2011) The social life of social death: On afro-pessimism and black optimism. InTensions Journal 5 (Fall/Winter): 1–47.Google Scholar
  58. Sexton, J. (2016) Afro-pessimism: The unclear word, Rhizomes Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge 29.  https://doi.org/10.20415/rhiz/029.e02.
  59. Silliman, J., M. Fried, L. Ross and E. Gutierrez (2004) Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice. Boston: South End Press.Google Scholar
  60. Simpson, A. (2014) Mohawk Interruptus. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Simpson, A. (2016) The State is a Man: Theresa Spence, Loretta Saunders and the Gender of Settler Sovereignty. Theory & Event 16(4).Google Scholar
  62. Simien, E.M. (2016) Historic Firsts: How Symbolic Empowerment Changes U.S. Politics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Smith, A. (2005) Conquest: Sexual Violence and Native American Genocide. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Spillers, H. (1987) Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book. Diacritics 17(2): 64–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Spillers, H. (2003) Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Spillers, H., S. Hartman, F.J. Griffin, S. Eversley and J.L. Morgan (2007) Whatcha Gonna Do? Revisiting ‘Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.’ Women’s Studies Quarterly 35(1–2): 299–309.Google Scholar
  67. Sudbury, J. (2009) “Maroon Abolitionists: Black Gender-oppressed Activists in the Anti-Prison Movement in the U.S. and Canada.” Meridians 9(1): 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tinsley, O.N. (2008) Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14 (2–3): 191–215.Google Scholar
  69. Tuck, E. and K. Wayne Yang (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1(1): 1–40.Google Scholar
  70. Rubin, G. (1975) The traffic in women: Notes on the political economy of sex. In: R. Reiter (ed) Toward An Anthropology of Women. New York: Monthly Review Press, pp. 157–210.Google Scholar
  71. Weheliye, A. (2014) Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wilderson III, F. and S. Hartman (2003) The position of the unthought. Qui Parle 13(2): 183–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wilderson III, F. (2003) Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society? Social Identities 9(2): 225–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wilderson, III, F. (2007) The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal. In: J.A. James and F. Wilderson, III (eds.) Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wilderson, III, F. (2008) Biko and the problematic presence. In: A. Alexander, N. Gibson and A. Mngxitama (eds.) Biko Lives!: Contestations and Conversations. New York: Palgrave, pp. 95–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wilderson III, F (2010) Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Wilderson III, F., J. Ball, T. Burroughs and Dr. Hate. (2014) “We’re trying to destroy the world” Anti-Blackness & Police Violence After Ferguson: An Interview with Frank B. Wilderson, III, online zine, Ill Will Editions. http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/frank-b-wilderson-iii-were-trying-to-destroy-the-world-antiblackness-police-violence-after-ferguson.pdf.
  78. Winnicott, D. (2011 [1960]) The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship. In: L. Caldwell and A. Joyce (eds.) Reading Winnicott. New York: Routledge, pp. 152–169.Google Scholar
  79. Wolfe, P. (2006) Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native. Journal of Genocide Research 8(4): 387–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lewis R. Gordon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Annie Menzel
    • 2
  • George Shulman
    • 3
  • Jasmine Syedullah
    • 4
  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  3. 3.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Vassar CollegePoughkeepsieUSA

Personalised recommendations