Epilogue. Life, Death, and Everything in Between
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147 Epilogue Life, Death, and Everything in Between Iwas trying to make sense of what seemed to me the ubiquity of death, from the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the passing of my then-­ colleague Nellie McKay from cancer, among too many others, and somehow that led to the beginnings of this book. As I finish this book, in August 2014, Israel launches an air and ground attack on Gaza that kills more than two thousand Palestinians, and a police oªcer shoots and kills eighteen-­ year-­ old Mike Brown, whose hands are in the air, in Ferguson, Missouri. So at the end of this book, I’m left where I began, with an array of questions and no satisfying answers. I have argued that the hallmark of our current moment, which I have been calling “neoliberal,” is a structure of disavowal of the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality, operating together, determine the uneven exposure to precarity and violence across people and populations. I have traced the ways, at once immensely systemic and immediately interpersonal , in which these demands for disavowal saturate and infiltrate the very conditions of our living, whether it be the mobilization of mourning as a disciplining apparatus of nationalism, the wielding of a¤ects of fear and terror to legitimate abandonment, the bad faith o¤er of reproductive respectability in exchange for forgetting the connections between the modes of enslavement of the past and of the present, or the siren song of “excellence” that masks the university’s violences. I have done so, however, not to posit this demand for disavowal as inevitable, but so as 148 Epilogue to better contextualize and highlight the moments when it is exposed, refused, and challenged, and how di¤erent ways of attending to the relationship between our lives and others’ deaths are invented. It is to recognize the days and weeks and months of protest in Ferguson as the longest working-­ class rebellion in history, while at the same time remembering that these protests are nonetheless still by and for the living, and that Mike Brown—­ and many others—­ are no longer a part of the living. In the previous pages, I have considered the alternative imaginaries that are able to simultaneously suspend and sustain, rather than disavow, contradictory forces and truths—­ those that require us to build our alternatives by acknowledging that the conditions of our living are based on death. I have called the structure of these alternative imaginaries “di¤erence,” using the term in a way that I believe the women of color feminists who mobilized it meant. Di¤erence as a method and a practice can be seen when Audre Lorde claims Malcolm X’s legacy as one that defines Blackness as multiple, open to queer, feminist, and transnational politics. It emerges when Chicana feminists identify with all that is rejected and scorned about the figure of La Malinche, when Oscar Zeta Acosta’s and Ana Castillo’s novels both mourn Chicana/o death and declare that irony and humor are also important responses to death, and when Lorde and Cherríe Moraga embrace the erotic, shame, and inadequacy so as to face, rather than turn away from, the a¤ective forces that relegate whole populations to the neoliberal predations of precarity. Di¤erence appears when Black feminist and queer cultural production improvises ways of forging links across time when traditional, generational modes of transmitting history are made impossible by the legacies of both forced and foreclosed reproduction under enslavement. It also appears when Black feminists in the academy invent similar modes of improvisatory connection because the university as an institution violently interrupts academic generationality both through the dismantling of redistributive mechanisms such as aªrmative action that might admit future generations and through the distribution of premature death to earlier generations of Black feminists. I have traced these deployments of di¤erence in order to give context to what is for me an ethical question, a question of reckoning. This reckoning Epilogue 149 is one that is necessarily never complete; to address the question of life and death requires that we defer resolution, in keeping with the political, epistemological, and ontological practice of di¤erence, and exist in the temporality of suspension. The temporality of social justice is necessarily progressive—­ a future-­ directed faith that circumstances can and will change and that the brutalities of the present will not forever constitute our horizon of possibility. In conjunction with this...


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