Monthly Archives: April 2013

CFP: Blackness Without Race: Essays on the Subversion of Race by Way of Blackness in Literature, Media, and Culture

Posting for a friend:
Submissions and inquiries to Jennifer E. Henton. Jennifer.Henton@hofstra.edu

Blackness Without Race:
Essays on the Subversion of Race by Way of Blackness in Literature, Media, and Culture

 Recent trends in national politics and popular culture suggest that race is now an antiquated or problematic category of human differentiation. Race is currently considered nebulous and ubiquitous, if not a flawed code that hearkens back to an archaic past. Supposedly, phenotypes or genetic material cannot sustain the biological connectivity between humans. Students suggest as much when they don tee shirts that state: “We Are All Africans” (thereby emphasizing that all humans originate from Africa despite their visual classification). Meanwhile, contemporary academic studies reflect the same stance: the category is useless in the face of transgressing experiences of oppression or cultural amalgamation (e.g. Against Race, The Melancholia of Race, and Desiring Whiteness). Yet many discourses emerging from black studies and critical race studies expose such ideals of non-race as a proponent and signal of dominant white culture rather than as an actual liberation from race, and many groups assert and “stand by” their racial category, remaining resiliently vocal about the pleasures of their demarcated belonging. Further, many racial minorities recognize and resist the nuances of aversive racism lurking behind decisive leanings towards racelessness and contemporary versions of colorblind ideals.

Recognizing that the struggle towards freedom from race has merits, this anthology, then, seeks essays that approach racelessness from the vantage point of blackness rather than the standard normative proffered by neutral models that may mask whiteness. Tangled as the topic may seem, transcending race by way of the racialized rather than the race-free or race-neutral—which dangerously places the parameters of discourse within the scope of whiteness—sets this collection apart from other attempts to devolve race. Other approaches may serve to reduce the experiences and pleasures of specific target identity group belonging. Transcending efforts—attacks on affirmative action, attacks on black studies, claims of racial equality met via the Obama-era pact—deny that the characteristics/distinctions/powers of specific group membership carry their own positive insignia. Within the varied contributions of black expression and the distinct responses to historical moments wherein Western European groups relied on and targeted African descendants for expansion/economics/psychical anxiety, black expression continues to firmly refute the race-transgression trend; blackness moves the discourse away from race but maintains the more evasive and elastic term blackness. Many assert that while race is a problematic restriction, blackness remains useful as a means of self-expression, self-recognizing epistemology, and cultural aesthetics.

Papers that pursue how blackness (U.S. and global) can and does exist without responding to or depending on “race” are also welcome. Few studies have explored how race might be quashed while blackness is both culled and intact. Ideas for papers on art, literature, film, philosophy, religion, food, dance, music, and media are invited to exchange ideas about how blackness works in this way.

Deadline for full essays of 7500 words is January 15, 2014.

Please submit word document essays using MLA citation system. Additionally, please submit a 300-word abstract preceding the full essay submission and a brief academic bio of all contributors.

Submissions and inquiries to Jennifer E. Henton. Jennifer.Henton@hofstra.edu

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1 job search, 1 tenure-track offer…10 years later

I was recently chatting with a favorite former student about graduate school job searches and sent her an essay I wrote for the ADE Bulletin in 2007 about my approach to my 2003 job search. It’s funny to read about the process this many years out, as I start thinking about an essay I’ve been invited to write for PMLA.

It has me thinking of how lucky I was.

I decided on the career I wanted, and then I went out and got it. Just like that. Easy Peasy. Seriously. One job search, one tenure-track job. And I’m still incredibly happy to be just where I am. Now one could argue that the job I wanted was a fairly easy one to want. In other words, I wasn’t interested in a job at a selective liberal arts college (SLAC) or at a Research I institution.

BUT, what I did want was a job that would allow me to think, write and teach about canonical literature at the same time that I could think, write, and teach about marginalized texts no one had heard of.

AND, I wanted to live somewhere interesting–probably in New York.

PLUS, as I wrote in the essay, at some point during my graduate career my vision for my professional future changed.

Make of that what you will.

One thing I’m struck by is how willing I was to walk away from this position if it meant I had to be a traditional Romanticist (someone who specializes in one of the six major poets of the period). I think one thing I’ve always held close is that while I very much wanted to be an English professor I was also genuinely curious about what else I could do. I figured that having a PhD would give me a lot of different options and that I would figure something out. I really believed that. In fact, I remember leaving one MLA interview and walking around Manhattan daydreaming about what I else I could do with my shiny, new PhD.

I received word on Valentine’s Day that an offer was forthcoming. Seriously. Valentine’s Day, 2003.

The thing that seems crazy now is that I wrote this essay as I was coming up for tenure, with no idea about whether or not I would get it. It started out as a talk I gave at MLA, and the ADE editor asked me to revise it for the Bulletin. I’m also amused by how flat my writing is–not exactly tentative but definitely the writing of a kid trying to figure out what the hell she was doing.

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