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Unburdening representation.


Wither the politics of representation? If the barrage of commodified images in our daily urban sensorium is any indication (and for the first time in history, the majority of humans live in cities), the question isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The proliferation of media channels, the rise of interactivity, and the ubiquity of advertising, public relations, and branding in corporate globalization have all multiplied the sites wherein gendered and racialized images are now made, circulated, and contested. At a certain point, to be sure, a quantitative increase becomes a qualitative shift. We may now need to speak of race and visuality in terms of the speeds and intensity of flows, rather than the critique of discrete images. (1) However, a review of the debates that took shape in the 1980s and 1990s over the "burden of representation" suggests that the anxieties that underpinned those exchanges--questions of ideality, mimeticism, and authenticity--have not simply disappeared within the new media of a new millennium, but recur with a transformed intensity. The increase in real and virtual venues for images to circulate may have multiplied what bell hooks called the "spaces of agency ... for black people, wherein we can both interrogate the gaze of the Other but also look back, and at one another, naming what we see," but it has also greatly extended the parade of mockery and hatred we encounter on the Internet and beyond. (2) Rather than a shift to an entirely new paradigm, then, the new cultural politics of visuality seems to challenge us to account for the mutual imbrication of images and affects, ideology and control, representation and, as I discuss in this essay, fabulation.

In my following discussion of "Afro-fabulation," I evoke the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, even as I seek to bend his analysis to the uses of black studies. In this I follow other black studies theorists, such as Kara Keeling and Edouard Glissant, who have found in Deleuze's critique of representation an enabling analytic. (3) Even as I derive the concept of fabulation from Deleuze, however, I want to highlight how Deleuze himself drew key concepts for his philosophy out of his encounter with black art, literature, and politics. (4) There is a reciprocal, if unequal, historical relation between Deleuze and black cultural theory that ought not be lost sight of whenever we look to Deleuze to go beyond older paradigms of representational critique.

For example, even as Deleuze drew the concept of fabulation from the work of Henri Bergson, he actualized it through readings of films like Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason (1967), a film given shape and character by the power of a specifically Afro-fabulation. Often described as the first American film to feature a black gay male protagonist, Portrait of Jason has remained both celebrated and controversial over the years for the manner in which Jason Holliday, its subject, is manipulated and exposed on-screen by Clarke, the white female director, and her lover, the black actor Carl Lee. And yet the enduring fascination with the film results from Holliday's ability to triumph even when cornered. Holliday is the quintessentially fabulous gossip and tale-teller; the window he provides into the queer urban demimonde ultimately turns out to be a funhouse mirror that mostly reflects back the viewer's own voyeuristic fantasies. In this way, he models the play with representation that I am calling Afro-fabulation.

Describing fabulation, via Holliday, in his book Cinema 2, Deleuze wrote:
   It is as if the three great themes were turning
   and forming their combinations; the
   character is continually passing the frontier
   between the real and the fictional (the
   power of the false, the storytelling function),
   the filmmaker has to reach what the
   character was 'before' and will be 'after';
   he has to bring together the before and the
   after in the incessant passage from one
   state to the other (the direct time-image);
   the becoming of the film-maker and of his
   character already belongs to a people, to
   a community, to a minority whose expression
   they practise and set free (free, indirect
   discourse) ... in A Portrait of Jason it
   is the passage which must be grasped in
   all its possible 'distances,' in relation to
   the character and to his roles, but always
   internal distances, as if the white camera
   had slid into the great black forger; the
   'I is another' of Shirley Clarke consists in
   this: that the film that she wanted to make
   about herself became the one she made
   about Jason. What has to be filmed is the
   frontier, on condition that this is equally
   crossed by the film-maker in one direction
   and by the real character in the opposite
   direction. (5)

In this excerpt devoted to tracking the transformations effected on the director, on the audience, and on cinema by Holliday's mercurial performance, Deleuze threads together three of his key concepts--fabulation (which he also calls the storytelling function); the time-image; and free-indirect discourse--through his philosophical encounter with Holliday's cinematic "character." "Character" here clearly means role, but it also suggests something deeper: the capacity to retain a point of view, never fully revealed, that is consistent across all the exchanges of masks and personae. (6) Holliday, whom Deleuze styles the "great black forger," remakes Clarke's film (which was her attempted character assassination of Holliday, later research has revealed) in his own subversive image. (7) A fabulist is a teller of tales, but he or she also discloses the powers of the false to create new possibilities. In evoking Holliday as an exemplary Afro-fabulist--one who disrupted the hostile and constraining conditions of his emergence into representation--I thus point toward the potential of Afro-fabulation as a critical practice.


A classic point of departure for discussions of the politics of representation is Gayatri Spivak's parsing of the two separate meanings of the term "representation" (two meanings that Spivak, incidentally, accuses Deleuze of running together in his critique). "To represent" can mean "to depict" or portray in artistic terms; it can also mean "to speak or decide for" in political terms. Even though these two different meanings are linked, their regular conflation was cause for Spivak's concern:
   The complicity of vertreten [to speak for]
   and darstellen [to depict], their identity-in-difference
   as the place of practice--since
   this complicity is precisely what
   Marxists must expose, as Marx does in The
   Eighteenth Brumaire--can only be appreciated
   if they are not conflated by a sleight
   of word. (8)

From Spivak's postcolonial feminist Marxist perspective, it was the unthinking equation of speaking for (vertreten) with depicting (darstellen) that allowed ideology to operate unchallenged, for it is through this conflation that control over the means of portraying something becomes naturalized as a mode of political authority--a fact underscored to me as a child when coup leaders in my home country made it a priority to take over the national radio station in order to announce themselves the new rulers. Political authority, we all immediately understood, flowed from command over the means to communicate and represent such power.

Spivak is sometimes understood as taking the position that any act of minoritarian or subaltern speech, when within a hegemonic discourse, can only reproduce the terms of subordination guaranteed by that discourse. But I read her as instead suggesting that there is always a space of intervention, if only sometimes a hairline fracture, between the two senses of representation: vertreten and darstellen. However much they can and do align, it is their tendency to pull out of sync with each other, for their alignment to be less than seamless, that enables possibilities. This misalignment of political and artistic representation is exploited by Afrofabulation, which is thus not properly speaking solely an aesthetic strategy, or a political one, but a tactic for taking up the time and space between them. This space, however, will be foreclosed if we understand political representation exclusively in bourgeois democratic terms. It is not only the terms of artistic or cultural representation in other words, but equally political representation that must be interrogated.

And to speak of the political representation within the terms set by neoliberal democracy is necessarily to evoke the political economy of image-making that idealist political theories of democracy tend to occlude. In a well-known essay outlining what he termed the "burden of representation," Kobena Mercer detailed the untoward consequences for black artists of the conflation Spivak set forth:
   Whereas politicians and other public figures
   are elected into positions from which
   they speak as "representatives," this role
   has fallen on the shoulders of black artists
   not so much out of individual choice but as
   a consequence of structures of racism that
   have historically marginalized their access
   to the means of cultural production. When
   black artists become publicly visible only
   one at a time, their work is burdened with a
   whole range of extra-artistic concerns precisely
   because, in their relatively isolated
   position as one of the few black practitioners
   in any given field--film, photography,
   fine art--they are seen as "representatives"
   who speak on behalf of, and are thus accountable
   to, their communities. In such a
   political economy of racial representation
   where the part stands in for the whole, the
   visibility of a few token black public figures
   serves to legitimate, and reproduce,
   the invisibility, and lack of access to public
   discourse, of the community as a whole. (9)

Mercer's analysis of the "political economy of racial representation" is often evoked as establishing the right of individual artists, qua artists, to express themselves without fear of being taken as a representative of a community. And indeed, his critique clearly aimed at unburdening black representation, a process that for him involved resituating the artist from community delegate in the bourgeois public sphere to activist intervening in a contested and agonistic social topography.

What should not be missed, however, is Mercer's careful insistence that it is the structural racism of bourgeois publicity--and not the policing of black artistic expression by black communities (or non-black for that matter)--that produces the burden of representation. Unburdening representation, in this sense, cannot be mistaken for the "post-racial" discourse we encounter today. Post-racialism seeks to deny, on idealist and individualist grounds, any link between "speaking for" and "speaking as." Opposed to such a naive conception, unburdening representation would rather be a strategy of subverting the tokenizing mechanisms through which publicity, under conditions of what Jodi Dean terms "communicative capitalism," reproduces invisibility through the guise of empowerment. (10)

Darby English's recent recasting of Mercer's analytic, in terms of what he has influentially called "black representational space," zeroes in on these problems within the specific context of the fine art world. (11) While many choose to dismiss this world as irrelevant to "real world" concerns, I would counter that art is fully immanent to the social relations of contemporary capitalism and, as such, a valid point of intervention. Certainly, for those who operate within the art world--whether as artists, museum-goers, curators, security guards, collectors, critics, or others--its opportunities and constraints are quite real. What is intriguing about English's critique of black representational space, indeed, is the combination of his accommodation to the pragmatics of negotiating art spaces in "real" terms--as institutions operating within a political economy that determines who gets access to which scarce resources--and his insistence that this practical struggle ought not over-determine the aesthetic forms that flow from it:
   I should clarify the two functions I assign to
   black representational space in this discussion.

In one, it designates a cultural territory whose combing about is the reward of success in what [Stuart] Hall identifies as the "struggles over relations of representation/' which is to say the means of production of "black images." Relevant examples include the kinds of real, material advances in the lived conditions of black intellectuals that are essential to our political survival: professional positions; opportunities to publish, exhibit, debate publicly, etc. But there is a second function seemingly required to maintain, enrich, and extend these essentials. This is what I wish to question on the basis that these territories are often burdened by obligation to old discursive practices and symbolic structures that need updating from time to time. The second function designates a conceptual terrain, outlined by philosophical norms, wherein the politics of representation is itself as if by nature an intracultural matter. The limits of this terrain are at once marked and determined by such things as compendia of black artists' work, or accounts of watersheds and breakdowns in debates about the exemplariness of "positivity" of certain representations, the aberrance of others, and the much-discussed "transcendence" of race by some. Such constant policing of black representational space not only preserves it but re-naturalizes it. (12)

English here reproduces the vertreten/ darstellen distinction with a key difference: vertreten is now aligned with the preconditions to speech (such as having a livelihood and obtaining support and venues for one's expressive capacities), whereas darstellen is, at least ideally, unmoored from any necessary connection to any "philosophical norms" that follow from a currently existing mode of production. While a clean separation between the mode of artistic production and the relations of artistic production might justifiably appear untenable, a more interesting suggestion is contained within English's particular parsing out of the two "functions" of representation. If the first struggle is one waged within and against a society structured in racial dominance--and thus as he goes on to assert, implicitly "integrationist" in its effect if not intent--the second struggle has become hampered by discursive conventions that assume it is intracultural: that is, that it is a matter that can somehow be resolved solely with reference to black community values, norms, debates, and so on. In reality, English goes on to argue and illustrate, both the struggle over the means of artistic production and the struggle within artistic production to establish new aesthetic forms and relations are immanent to a political economy of imagery that is organized around the policing and suppression of signs of black insurgency.

I concur with English when he observes that "old discursive practices and symbolic structures ... need updating from time to time." This updating, I would note, has less to do with accommodating anything like progress than it has to do with reframing oppositional strategies in the face of ever-evolving modes of intransigence. The inauthenticity of the fabulist is of particular value on this score, insofar as his or her speech is not contained by a correspondence to its particular context, but carries over concepts, percepts, and affects from one regime of representation into another in a manner that is neither up-to-date nor out-of-date but truly untimely. One could give here as an example Jason Holliday's superannuated camp antics--already dated in 1967 and hardly a "positive image" for black gay men in our post-Stonewall era--acts and gestures that nevertheless contain within themselves an internal differentiation from their own times that never ceases to fascinate and, in so fascinating, to inspire other acts of imagining life otherwise. If the powers of the false supply one reliable ingredient to the transformation of character--to the making over of black bodies into "canvases of representation," as Stuart Hall puts it--it is in the relief it provides from the anxiety produced by the quixotic search for an authentic relation to an inauthentic and oppressive world. (13)


One way of articulating the way Afrofabulation can respond to English's call to update our philosophical norms is in relation to what Rey Chow has termed "coercive mimeticism." Discussing how the politics of representation have evolved in the era of conservative multiculturalism, Chow has noted:
   Such politics may, as I have been arguing,
   be designated by the phrase "coercive
   mimeticism," a general cross-ethnic
   mechanism that provides the connection
   among otherwise disjointed events such
   as the pedagogical cultivation and circulation
   of arcane cultural knowledge; the
   activist clamor for institutional space for
   underrepresented disciplines (demonstrated,
   for instance, by students going
   on hunger strikes on campuses); and the
   ever-renewable government efforts to fabricate
   and stabilize the kind of genealogy
   mentioned by [Etienne] Balibar, in which
   ethnics can be securely contained (through
   surveys, statistics, scientific studies, intelligence
   networks, and police and immigration
   records). While they demand and
   reward the reiterations of self-mimicry in
   Western societies by Asian, Asian American,
   African American, Latino, and other
   such demographic groups, the forces of
   coercive mimeticism are ultimately what
   engender the profound sense of self-hatred
   and impotence among ethnics, because,
   however conscientiously they attempt to
   authenticate themselves--and especially
   when they attempt conscientiously--they
   will continue to come across as inferior
   imitations, copies that are permanently out
   of focus. (14)

In Chow's analytic, mimesis becomes the underlying process that sutures darstellen to vertreten, with the added psychoanalytic insight (one seen also in Jose Munoz's work on disidentification) that the contradictions I have been pointing out at the level of political representation also surface, at a psychic level, for the black or minoritarian subject. (15) In broadening her institutional analysis beyond artistic spaces to include other sites of cultural production and reproduction such as university departments, Chow also reminds us how we are all engaged in the everyday arts of mimesis. Chow places the contemporary multicultural subject in the position of the hysteric, who demands of the other: Why am I who you say I am? The only alternative to the attendant doubt Chow identifies--anxiety leading to "self-hatred and impotence"--is to somehow refuse this identification, to assert and enact that "I is another," and to fabulate a different version of the story that coercive mimeticism would have us tell.

To appeal to fabulation, or the storytelling function, as I have been throughout this essay, may appear to grant too much agency or significance to discourse and narrative. Such a claim might also be poorly timed, given the emergence of a range of posthumanisms and new materialisms that seek, in at least some of their versions, to displace the human from its central position in theoretical debates. From the vantage point of black studies, however, I would tend to follow those who suggest that we are not yet human, that the human is a regulatory ideal on a horizon we have not yet arrived at, and that to complete the impossible task of finding a narrative form adequate to addressing that audience would be to fabulate, in Deleuze's terms, a "people who are missing." (16)

The risk in such a fabulation of a collectivity to come, of course, is that it may be mistaken as entailing a disconnection from history. This is why I find Saidiya Hartman's formulation of a "critical fabulation" to be so necessary. That her account of such a project is given within the context of her refusal to "recover" or speak for the obliterated black female lives she encounters in the archive of the Atlantic slave trade returns us again to the central tension in Spivak's formulations regarding subaltern speech in the colonial-modern. Hartman describes her project in the following terms:
   Is it possible to exceed or negotiate the
   constitutive limits of the archive? By advancing
   a series of speculative arguments
   and exploiting the capacities of the subjunctive
   (a grammatical mood that expresses
   doubts, wishes, and possibilities),
   in fashioning a narrative, which is based
   upon archival research, and by that I mean
   a critical reading of the archive that mimes
   the figurative dimensions of history, I intended
   both to tell an impossible story and
   to amplify the impossibility of its telling.
   ... The method guiding this writing practice
   is best described as critical fabulation.
   ... By playing with and rearranging the basic
   elements of the story, by re-presenting
   the sequence of events in divergent stories
   and from contested points of view, I have
   attempted to jeopardize the status of the
   event, to displace the received or authorized
   account, and to imagine what might
   have happened or might have been said or
   might have been done. (17)

Hartman's critical fabulation refuses the coercive mimeticism that would demand that she produce, in her terms, a "romance" to fill in the missing voices of the archive. Instead, her tactic is to mime "the figurative dimensions of history" itself--to zero in on those points where archival reconstruction and narrative invention come into maximum tension--and to (re)produce the sense of instability and potentiality immanent to the event. In radically different circumstances from Portrait of Jason, Hartman nonetheless also encounters a series of characters in the archive, singularities her work can do nothing to restore life to, nor manufacture a post humous voice, but whose haunting trace interrupts attempt at a consistent or complete historical account of their destruction and erasure. It is the spectrality of Hartman's discourse that forestalls its decay into romance (or, for that matter, another genre such as the gothic). Critical fabulation is not a genre or a discourse but a mode by which both genre and discourse can be set into oscillating tension, through the upsetting of a key demand of representational mimesis: the demand that a representation be either true or false, either history or fiction.

Commenting on how Deleuze upsets this classic schema of representation, which Deleuze traces to Platonic conceptions of ideal forms (and Plato's corresponding distrust of mimesis), Gregory Flaxman notes:
   Deleuze insists that the task of reversing
   Platonism must be sought in Plato himself
   insofar as he alights on the concept of the
   simulacrum--a copy without a model--with
   which both transcendent Ideas and
   subsequent idealisms are dispatched. In
   the dialectical pursuit of the sophist, we
   are finally compelled to encounter the appearance
   qua appearance (apparaitre) of
   something that cannot be distinguished
   "from originals or from models." ... If we
   insist on the difference that distinguishes
   the powers of the false from mere deceit,
   it is because these powers create an excess
   of truths, a plurality of possible worlds, that
   bear the world beyond the precincts of
   truth and lying. (18)

Rather than representations, on this reading, what fabulation produces is simulacra, copies without a model. Embracing inauthenticity becomes our means of unburdening representation. It is telling, on this score, that at the end of her essay on the archive, Hartman turns to the science fictions of Octavia Butler for an example of the kind of ethical relation to the past that critical fabulation seeks. Butler's imaginative narrative, in Kindred, of a contemporary person time traveling back to the era of chattel slavery, only to discover that her role must be, in part, to reproduce the violent and racist conditions of exploitation that begat her own ancestors, provide for Hartman a very different shock to thought than the compensatory move of traditional recovery narratives. Kindred amplifies the impossibility of telling the impossible story, as Hartman describes the work of critical fabulation, modeling the loss of the self and the discovery of "another me."


And yet, even the impulse to recover or repair is not, I think, to be entirely divorced from Afro-fabulation. In its very spur toward the inauthentic, the not yet, the people who are missing, fabulation is always seeking to cobble something together, to produce connections and relations however much the resultant seams show. (19) Such a connection between Afro-fabulation and "recovery" by another name is suggested in the oft-cited opening sentences of Chapter 5 of Frantz Fanon's Black Skins, White Masks:
   I came into this world anxious to uncover
   the meaning of things, my soul desirous to
   be at the origin of the world, and here I am
   an object among other objects.

   Locked in this suffocating reification, I
   appealed to the Other so that his liberating
   gaze, gliding over my body suddenly
   smoothed of rough edges, would give me
   back the lightness of being I thought I had
   lost, and taking me out of the world put me
   back in the world. But just as I get to the
   other slope I stumble, and the Other fixes
   me with his gaze, his gestures and attitude,
   the same way you fix a preparation with a
   dye. I lose my temper, demand an explanation.
   ... Nothing doing. I explode. Here
   are the fragments put together by another
   me. (20)

An evocation of Fanon is by now almost obligatory for discussions of race and representation. Certainly many of the authors I have mentioned already, including Mercer, English, and Keeling, have found Fanon indispensable for mapping out their theoretical trajectory. In particular, Keeling has put Fanon in conversation with Deleuze, and vice versa (as will forthcoming work from Amber Musser). This may seem a kind of distortion of Fanon, for whom Marxist, psychoanalytic, phenomenological, and anticolonial methodologies would appear to loom much larger than Deleuzeanism. It nonetheless seems to me that there are moments of Afro-fabulation in the Fanon who pleads: "O my body, make of me always a man who questions!" (21) Such a plea is important to recall whenever Fanon is evoked as an authority for an overly totalized conception of the racial epidermal schema. The enduring power of Black Skins, White Masks is indubitably connected to its polysemy; it is not a self-consistent text. How could it be when it foregrounds, as in the above extract, the explosion and reconstitution of the subject on new terrain? The reparative gesture here--the perpetual search for "another me" in the aftermath of explosion--is inextricable from the speculative work of self-fashioning. It is this capacity to be destroyed and remade that Afro-fabulation exercises, in the ongoing effort locate, even or especially as "an object among other objects," sources of re-enchantment.

Works Cited

Butt, Gavin. "Stop That Acting! Performance and Authenticity in Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason." In Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures, edited by Kobena Mercer. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 2007, pp. 36-55.

Chow, Rey. The Protestant Ethnic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Dean, Jodi. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. Original publication in French in 1985.

--. Essays Critical and Clinical. Translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Originally published as Critique et Clinique in French in 1993.

English, Darby. How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press, 2008. Original French edition 1952.

Flaxman, Gregory. Gilles Deleuze and the Tabulation of Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Fleetwood, Nicole R. Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Glissant, Edouard. Poetics of Relation. Translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Gustafson, Irene. "Putting Things to the Test: Reconsidering Portrait of Jason." Camera Obscura 26:2, no. 77 (January 1, 2011): 1-31.

Hartman, Saidiya. "Venus in Two Acts." Small Axe 12, no. 2 (2008): 1-14.

hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992.

Keeling, Kara. The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

Koerner, Michelle. "Line of Escape: Gilles Deleuze's Encounter with George Jackson." Genre 44, no. 2 (June 1, 2011): 157-1 80.

Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Munoz, Jose Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

--. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Nero, Charles C. "Why Are Gay Ghettoes White?" In Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology. Edited by E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005, pp. 228-246.

Rai, Amit S. "Race Racing: Four Theses on Race and Intensity." W5Q: Women's Studies Quarterly 40, no. 1 (2012): 64-75.

Ruti, Mari. The Singularity of Being: Lacan and the Immortal Within. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012.

Snediker, Michael. "Queer Optimism." Postmodern Culture 16, no. 3 (2006).

Solomon, Deborah. "Student of History is Making Some: Darby English Joins MoMA as Consulting Curator." New York Times, April 2, 2014.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.


(1.) "What I think is clear," writes Amit S. Rai, "is that the politics of antiracism must move beyond reactive dialectics and representational strategies that have by and large determined the forms of antiracist interventions. Antiracism must become something else, experimenting with duration, sensation, resonance, and affect." Rai 2012: 64-65.

(2.) hooks 1992: 116

(3.) Keeling 2007.

(4.) See Koerner 2011.

(5.) Deleuze [1985] 1989: 153-154.

(6.) Here I draw on Mari Ruti's (2012) concept of character as the trace of a singularity of being.

(7.) On Portrait of Jason, see Nero (2005); Butt (2007); and Gustafson (2011). I discuss the film in much greater detail in my forthcoming monograph.

(8.) Spivak 1999: 260

(9.) Mercer 1994: 240.

(10.) Dean 2009.

(11.) As this essay went to press, Professor English was appointed to a curatorial role at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, consulting on the museum's collecting practices around black art, and thus empowered to literally intervene in the spatial and aesthetic representation of blackness. I cannot reflect fully upon the politics of this recent intervention within the field of artistic production, beyond acknowledging that any future critical assessment of English's scholarly work will need to take it into account, and noting that any such account would do well not to reduce the ideas to the manner in which they are put into practice by their creator. See Solomon 2014.

(12.) English 2007: 29-30.

(13.) Morley and Chen 1996: 470.

(14.) Chow 2002: 126-127.

(15.) Munoz 1999.

(16.) Deleuze [1993] 1997: 4. See also Snediker (2006) for a queer reading of "the people who are missing."

(17.) Hartman 2008: 11.

(18.) Flaxman 2012: 117.

(19.) Here I note the work of Nicole Fleetwood (2011) on the "visible seams" of black feminist aesthetic representation.

(20.) Fanon [1952] 2008: 89.

(21.) Fanon [1952] 2008: 206.

Tavia Nyong'o is associate professor of Performance Studies at New York University. He is the author of The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance and the Ruses of Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 2009) and is completing a manuscript on race and temporality.
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Date:Jun 22, 2014
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