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Death beyond Disavowal

Death beyond Disavowal: The Impossible Politics of Difference

Grace Kyungwon Hong
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Death beyond Disavowal
    Book Description:

    Death beyond Disavowalutilizes "difference" as theorized by women of color feminists to analyze works of cultural production by people of color as expressing a powerful antidote to the erasures of contemporary neoliberalism.

    According to Grace Kyungwon Hong, neoliberalism is first and foremost a structure of disavowal enacted as a reaction to the successes of the movements for decolonization, desegregation, and liberation of the post-World War II era. It emphasizes the selective and uneven affirmation and incorporation of subjects and ideas that were formerly categorically marginalized, particularly through invitation into reproductive respectability. It does so in order to suggest that racial, gendered, and sexualized violence and inequity are conditions of the past, rather than the foundations of contemporary neoliberalism's exacerbation of premature death. Neoliberal ideologies hold out the promise of protection from premature death in exchange for complicity with this pretense.

    In Audre Lorde'sSister Outsider, Cherríe Moraga'sThe Last GenerationandWaiting in the Wings, Oscar Zeta Acosta'sThe Revolt of the Cockroach People, Ana Castillo'sSo Far from God, Gayl Jones'sCorregidora, Isaac Julien'sLooking for Langston, Inge Blackman'sB. D. Women, Rodney Evans'sBrother to Brother, and the work of the late Barbara Christian,Death beyond Disavowalfinds the memories of death and precarity that neoliberal ideologies attempt to erase.

    Hong posits cultural production as a compelling rejoinder to neoliberalism's violences. She situates women of color feminism, often dismissed as narrow or limited in its effect, as a potent diagnosis of and alternative to such violences. And she argues for the importance of women of color feminism toanycritical engagement with contemporary neoliberalism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4549-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION Neoliberal Disavowal and the Politics of the Impossible (pp. 1-34)

    In a relatively unheralded essay fromSister Outsidercalled “Learning from the 60s,” Audre Lorde presents her relationship to the dead in which seemingly mutually exclusive orientations to life and death converge.¹ Lorde begins this essay, a transcript of a speech at the “Malcolm X Weekend” organized by the Harvard-Radcliffe Black Students Association in 1982, in this manner: “Malcolm X is a distinct shape in a very pivotal period of my life. I stand here now—Black, Lesbian, Feminist—an inheritor of Malcolm and in his tradition, doing my work, and the ghost of his voice through my mouth asks...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Fun with Death and Dismemberment: Irony, Farce, and Nationalist Memorialization (pp. 35-62)

    Ana Castillo’s novelSo Far from Godbegins: “La Loca was only three years old when she died.”¹ While the death of a child is not usually the stuff of comedy, the first chapter recounts, with the novel’s characteristic dry wit, the miraculous resurrection of La Loca at her own funeral and the ensuing panicked argument among the parishioners about whether the event is an act of God or the devil. This, we find out, is but the first of many deaths that occur throughout Castillo’s book, along with assorted dismemberments, diseases, ritual self-mutilations, and other embodied distresses. Oscar Zeta...

  5. CHAPTER TWO On Being Wrong and Feeling Right: Cherríe Moraga and Audre Lorde (pp. 63-94)

    I began this book with Audre Lorde, in particular her memory and memorialization of the social movements era through the re-narration of Malcolm X’s legacy. In the previous chapter, I continued this line of thought, exploring the contradictions of official nationalist memorialization, especially the ways in which nationalism’s insistence that mourning is the only proper response to death produces yet disavows a variety of responses, from farce to irony to black humor. I argued that in Oscar Zeta Acosta’sRevolt of the Cockroach Peopleand Ana Castillo’sSo Far from Godan engagement with death becomes the modality through which...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Blues Futurity and Queer Improvisation (pp. 95-124)

    In the above passage from an essay that uses the trope of the blues to challenge white liberalism’s “bubble bath of self-congratulation,” James Baldwin reminds us that death and life are always mutually dependent.¹ This seeming digression about life and death is anything but, and this chapter finds inspiration in Baldwin to engage with the structure of disavowal underlying white liberalism, the particular disavowal of Black death upon which white liberalism is predicated, and the insistent refusal to separate life and death found in Black cultural production.² Further, in invoking the blues, I follow Baldwin in another way. He began...

  7. CHHAPTER FOUR Bringing Out the Dead: Black Feminism’s Prophetic Vision (pp. 125-146)

    Barbara Christian’s 1994 essay, entitled “Diminishing Returns: Can Black Feminism(s) Survive the Academy?,” haunts me, almost twenty years after its publication. In this essay, Christian addresses the question of the future of Black feminism by examining the many barriers—material, institutional, intellectual—that deny new generations of African Americans, and African American women in particular, access to college educations, much less graduate degrees that would lead to academic positions. Christian carefully notes that it is not necessarily only African American women who have something to contribute to Black feminism, and situates this condition in light of the seemingly contradictory surge...

  8. Epilogue Life, Death, and Everything in Between (pp. 147-150)

    I was 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 offcer 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...

  9. Acknowledgments (pp. 151-154)
  10. Notes (pp. 155-190)
  11. Index (pp. 191-199)
  12. Back Matter (pp. 200-200)