This site is committed to publishing essays, images, and other forms of expressions which advocate a wider optic for apprehending race, one that recognizes the pivotal role that plantation America(s) played, as a key space for the practice of race, but one that moves beyond these Americas, to grasp the relational and singular productions of these identity constructs and practices. For Global Blackness announces itself through its attentiveness to the global production of states of unfreedoms that stitch together life on a planet led by those who believe in models of economic growth that proceed roughshod over the majority of the planet’s inhabitants and ecologies. And whose vision of the world is undergirded by an economy of aesthetics and affect that marginalize and deride the contributions of the ‘othered’ ones. We seek not only to disclose and analyze the debilitating conditions of race, but to highlight the disruptive counter-modes of dwelling and being that continue to re-emerge as strategies of shaping and sharing more humane alternatives.

For Black Lives and Rethinking GLOBAL BLACKNESS – An Exploratory Proposal

Michaeline Crichlow and Patricia Northover ©

In the multiplying violence committed against black bodies as we go through the global Covid 19 pandemic and for their refusals, resonating in a globalizing movement affirming ‘black lives matters;’ an attention to ‘Global blackness,’ here inaugurates an appeal for a new mode of analysis. One that at once recognizes the pervasiveness of ‘race’ – as an inchoate construct and political assemblage- in the structuring of dominance and for managing, ordering, violating and identifying rights of belonging through a focus on bodies, spaces, practices and identities conjured through ‘blackness.’ In broaching this perspective, we wish to take an important cue from Stuart Hall’s insightful engagement in his 1980 essay on Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance, by insisting that one must provide a view that eschews false equivalences that generate a ‘one size fits all’ paradigm that extrapolates from one set of historical circumstances to a myriad others.

Accordingly, we proffer an approach for addressing ‘global blackness’ that deals less with the affinities of identity attached to diaspora studies, as these studies tend to privilege such identities, often without questioning the very idea of how and why racializations of certain populations, or spaces, emerge in the first place.   ‘Global Blackness’ here announces an optic that is not simply about a dialectic of identity,  but rather is attuned to a politics of the non-relational  as produced within the hegemonic narratives of what constitutes modern ‘being-in-the-world’; narratives that have been evolving since the onset of the modernity/coloniality relation.  In other words, since the European project for the colonization of the ‘world’.  For the polymath, Sylvia Winter the coloniality of being/power/truth/ freedom offers a certain over-represented framing of ‘Man,’  that is set against the ‘human’ and operationalized within the terms of  “bio-evolutionarily determined differentials and degrees of genetic value between human hereditary variation-  whether defined by ‘race,’ ‘class,’ ‘ethnicity,’ ‘religion,’ ‘nation,’ ‘economic bloc,’ or ‘ways of life.’ ” This she argues “has served since the nineteenth century to enable the stable functioning of the status organizing principle or criteria around which the ‘ism’ hierarchies of our contemporary world systemic order, as well as those of its nation-state units, have organized themselves. ”   (ibid). Global blackness sympathetically extends this colonial frame of reference but it seeks to sustain its own set of questions about the underlying principles organizing and arranging such hierarchies associated with the production managing, sustaining,  and even creation of  the topologies and topographies, forces and geographies of ‘race’ and ‘blackness’ around the globe.

A focus on the questions raised by lived experiences of ‘blackness’ generally and in the ‘black diaspora,’ have generated rich studies disclosing the similarities even equivalences of racial stratification around the world. These perspectives disclose the racialized conditions under which blacks labor across the Americas, especially in the US and Brazil, but this scrutiny has also been applied in the African continent where a form of blackness ostensively rules, but is filtered through other prisms such as ‘ethnicity,’  religion and grand narratives of hi/story ( human identity stories). For example, in accounting for the comparative effects of these racial inequities William A. Darity (2009), drawing on his theory of stratification economics, has argued that structural and racial biases result in blacks lower socioeconomic positioning globally in the Americas and Africa, comparing these blacks to the status of Dalits, the untouchables in India.  The question that is implicitly raised here however, concerns the extent to which the particular structural dynamics targeting those “peoples who pass visible markers signaling African descent” extend to those who apparently do not bear such ostensive ‘race traits,’ like the Dalits?  If an overlap exists, could all populations who endure similar conditions of precarity be, by extension,  rendered as suffering an equivalent marking in blackness ? And if not, how do the racial forces addressed in stratification economics work to incorporate and make precarious other populations who do not pass those “visible markers of African descent?” To engage with these questions fulsomely, one will need to go beyond apparent racially legible socioeconomic markers of disparities to ask deeper questions about the ordering of race, the reading of blackness and their apparent correlation with the material processes of capitalist market formation globally. When Africa itself is brought into the picture to throw light on blackness, one would not only have to contend with the effects of colonialism and the current forces of coloniality that continue to shape the project of existence of the globe; but also, one must reckon with the post-racial calculus of a deleted blackness, as  Dylan Rodriguez, (2014)  argues, and how racisms are refashioned, or even hidden in those places where life continues to be haunted by earlier scripts of naturalized or ethnicized constructions of race.

Such may be the task of (un)thinking global blackness that encounters and affirms ‘black lives’ bathed by violence, and that could be used to facilitate a wider optic for questioning modalities of power –as Patricia Northover and myself posited, in an earlier essay on this topic. There we ask, how an expanded analytics of ‘Global Blackness’ could or may be used to address the complex forces shaping the idea of ‘becoming global’ and in so doing critically deepen the diaspora studies perspective? Such a track would critically build on the insights of leading theorists of race and the coloniality of power, such as Sylvia Winter and Denise Ferreira da Silva, and enter into deeper conversation with the critical phenomenological, aesthetic and existential black radical and decolonial traditions. This would at the very least require engaging in a closer examination of the political technologies of sovereignty and governmentality,  globalization and developmental strategies used for reproducing  ‘universal space’ and ‘black time’ in the dynamic impulse and changing contexts of ‘becoming global.’  To think structural inequalities, we would have to purposely think beyond the geographies of the Atlantic and beyond American-centric notions of lived ‘blackness’ by which too many scholars measure the sensorial texture of black worlds. This differentiation process, combined with a relational method that works to grasp racial modes of entanglement across places, is needed in order to better track how ‘black time’ is conjoined with enlightened rationalities of ‘universal reason’ to create hierarchies of difference, racialized ethnicities, social spaces and places, in the politics of ‘going global.’ Thus, attention to the notion of global-Blackness would promote a deeper comparative study of how others are incorporated into the relational hi/stories of freedom and the racial politics of ‘global-Blackness,’ anti-blackness, or deleted blackness. How are these relational hi/stories and racial politics mobilized and how do they counter-act with the twinned forces, of ‘going global’ and ‘disavowing place’? Can ‘black lives’ and the relational processes of ‘global blackness’ desist such forces by invoking other kinds of politics, and perhaps a Post-Creole Imaginary of place, unsettling and transfiguring nationalist or religious identities, to establish and secure their place and freedom in this world and its afterlife or the world to come. (Crichlow & Northover 2009, 2016).

 

References

  • Michaeline Crichlow and P. Northover, “Whatever happened to Diaspora and Why (not) Global Blackness” (forthcoming)
  • Michaeline Crichlow with Patricia Northover, Globalization and the Post-Creole Imagination: Notes on Fleeing the Plantation. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009.
  • William A. Darity Jr., “Economic Inequality and the African Diaspora” in The Black Condition ed. Howard Dodson and Colin Palmer. Michigan: MSU, 2009: 1-43.
  • Stuart Hall, “ Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance” in Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader ed. Houston Baker Jr., Manthia Diawara, and Ruth H. Linderborg. Chicago: UC press, 1996: 17-60.
  • Dylan Rodriguez, (2014) Goldwater’s left hand: Post-Raciality and the Roots of the
  • Post-Racial Racist State, Cultural Dynamics: , 26, 1: 29-51.
  • Sylvia Wynter, “1492- A New World View” in Race, Discourse, and the Origins of the Americas: A New World View  ed. Vera Lawrence Hyatt and Rex Nettleford. Smithsonian, 1995: 1-57.