Abstract

abstract:

This article examines Erna Brodber’s 1994 novel, Louisiana, as a methodological invitation to the field of Black Studies to query how we do the work of black study. A Jamaican social scientist turned novelist, Brodber finds the tools of social science and notions of Western rationality and reason that undergird it insufficient for the unique challenges of recovering a past characterized by violent rupture and irreparable loss. In turn, she takes up fiction to imagine a new method and field of study to fill in the gaps of black diasporic history. Merging anthropology and sociology with literature, she produces a fictionalized ethnography—the novel Louisiana—that undermines the tenets of Western Enlightenment thought, its various offspring (social scientific method, History, Christianity, and technology), and their attendant claims to truth, facticity, and progress. Mobilizing the epistemes embedded within black diasporic cultural and political practices such as spirit possession, music, storytelling, and grassroots labor organizing, Louisiana constructs a counter-archive of diaspora that is at once sacred, feminist, and communal. Ultimately, the novel sketches the contours of a new interdisciplinary method and field of study—perhaps Brodber’s own version of Black Studies—that foregrounds 1) “sacred praxis” vis-à-vis spirit possession as a legitimate mode of knowledge acquisition, 2) the “global black south” as a nodal point of diasporic relationality, and 3) a dispossessive logic and an ethic of humility and surrender in the research process that serves as an affront to notions of liberal individual personhood and the hierarchization of peoples and knowledges that produced and sustain the Western “order of things.”

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