Abstract

Abstract:

Frank Wilderson: I introduce a semiotic configuration. The point is, at important levels of abstraction, people who are positioned as Black—which is very different from saying people who think of themselves as Black. One of the basic premises of Afropessimism, which makes it resonate with psychoanalysis or Marxism, is that where one is positioned in a paradigm might not be where one thinks one is or where one desires to be. When I teach undergraduates, I say: “Look, I used to study neorealism. In these neorealist films, we have these people who are bona fide fascists, and then you have those people in the Communist Party, so they could not agree on much. They don’t see themselves as having much of a connection. But in a Gramscian sense, they are both positioned as the host of capitalist parasites. Both groups rely on the wage. So, they are both workers.” One of the big points with respect to the narratological question is that I, as a Black person, trained at Columbia University in creative writing, trained at UC Berkeley in critical theory, love narrative, but narrative does not love me. In other words, it is impossible for me to be “emplotted” as a speaking subject. I can only be “emplotted” as an object of narrative. But I am always struggling to attain that love of humanity; and if I were to attain it, the Human would not have a foil against which to know itself. So, what I am saying is that in a book like Red, White & Black, I am just being very categorically clear about the divisions. In Afropessimism, I am actually talking about the desire of a sentient being who cannot be allowed into an arena where people are recognized and incorporated, in Lacanian terms, as “contemporaries” of human beings. So, there is all this back and forth. I don’t think this speaking subject in Afropessimism ever achieves anything in particular. It is always struggling toward being a subject that can actually travel on a narrative arc and yet ultimately is an object that can never travel from dispossession to redemptive recovery.

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