The Social Life of Social Death On Afro Pessimism and

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Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 2, In what is his finest role but also his most distressing the legendary. Sidney Poitier plays one Virgil Tibbs a Philadelphia police detective in transit. from an out of state visit to his mother s residence in Norman Jewison s. Academy Award winning 1967 film In the Heat of the Night The. indomitable Mr Tibbs has been commandeered by the police chief of Sparta. Mississippi to solve the murder of Philip Colbert a Chicago industrialist. whose business plan for the development of the local economy has now. been jeopardized by his untimely death Chief Gillespie has justice on his. mind to be sure but also the rate of unemployment of his rural working. class white constituency Closing the case to the satisfaction of the. industrialist s widow ensures the job creation essential to the maintenance of. law and order on this side of the tracks Identifying a black perpetrator I. was about to write suspect but use of that term would require a. presumption of innocence not afforded here ensures that individualized. disorder stays on that side of the tracks It s a two for one deal that keeps. everything on track and more importantly keeps in place the tracks. themselves the built environment of segregation and the mythos of Jim. 2 The distribution of goods in this universe dovetails with the distribution. of guilt and both proceed along a gradient called race A rich white man. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 3. whose Yankee enterprise was meant to mitigate the frustration and dishonor. of free white Southern labor on the centenary of Radical Reconstruction is. killed his wallet lifted Penny wise and pound foolish whoever made off with. the petty cash is chasing away the capital of foreign direct investment. Exploitation is better than obsolescence here at the beginning of the end of. the short American Century The culprit it seems knows nothing of delayed. gratification or collective benefit and so it stands to reason it must be a. Negro that done it And since ours are more or less accounted for as it. were the stranger passing through in the heat of the night must be our. man The logic being airtight lands our protagonist behind bars. 3 Tibbs is released from the jail cell he finds himself in again only when. his white male employer up North tells his white male captor down South. that he is in fact working for Mr Charlie The transfer of custody is. complete only when Leslie Colbert insists in the name of the real white. patriarch recently departed that the Negro officer be assigned to the. investigation As it turns out the captain of industry was knocked upside his. head by a counter clerk from a nearby diner in need of fee money for his. girlfriend s backroom abortion So if white criminality first appears in. blackface suit and tie advanced training gun and badge all be damned to. hell that white crime stretching desperately across the great class divide. tells yet another aspect of the cover story for entirely related affairs the. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 4.
privatization of medicine the regulation of female sexuality the punishment. of non marital reproduction the whole setup of a pay as you go society. beset by a narrowly moralistic reading of the Christian legacy Taken. together this chain of events in which shit falls down with the force of. gravity might otherwise be known as a favorable business climate meaning. that maybe our assailant hit the right target after all What is most relevant. to our present engagement however is the pivotal scene in which Tibbs. uncovers the final clue A man s name Tibbs is interrogating Mama Caleba. played by the great Beah Richards the black woman whose informal and. affective labor stands in place of a public health care system as LBJ s fated. War on Poverty false starts a full generation after FDR s New Deal Snubbed. at every turn harassed threatened demeaned and assaulted by every. single white person considered to be a lead in the case Tibbs now leans in. close and says to his elder female counterpart, Tibbs Now listen Hear me good Mama please Don t make me. have to send you to jail,Mama Caleba A lot you care. Tibbs There s white time in jail and colored time The worst. kind you can do is colored time, And so colored time enters this drama this maniacal tale emerging at the. century s apex of black radicalism Sexton 2009 44 with the force of. dread interminable perhaps even incalculable stalled time And it enters. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 5.
the drama as a seemingly intramural affair across the conflicted relational. aspirations of male and female gender as a form of strife and striving at. cross purposes internal to the black radical tradition i This projected image. of black masculinity inscribed impossibly in the function of the police power. is maneuvering within the claustrophobic space between the law and its. extra legal supplement and leveraging against a black female and feminist. sexual politics a threat of incarceration which it is neither authorized to enlist. nor armed to enforce Nonetheless in desperation this captive of an. everyday social incarceration reaches for a pivot point the prison within the. prison a solitary confinement This is the slow time of captivity the dilated. time of the event horizon the eternal time of the unconscious the. temporality of atomization, 4 If there is a leitmotif to George C Wolfe s 1985 masterpiece The. Colored Museum then this just might be it Normal Jean tells us for. instance in a late scene entitled Permutations that nuthin really ever. ends and certainly not the past not this past Indeed we learn in advance. of the script proper right there in the stage direction that this education in. black life that everyone must learn is an experience for which there is no. intermission Benjamin s famous time of the now signifies peculiarly in. this memorial venue In place of the interval or the break or the mark of. punctuation there is a tenacious continuity a historical continuum across. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 6. eleven moving exhibits a dirty dozen not cessation or interruption of. historical flow but persistence of historical force persistence in and as. permutation But how then does one mark time and think historicity how. does one engage the iterability of the performative if nothing ends How to. orient or make sense of lived experience the lived experience of the black. no less without break or interval or punctuation in the fact of. anti blackness Dance to the music of the madness declares Topsy in the. final number for there is freedom and freedom is there a mad freedom. there where there is none in our unending uninterrupted captivity in the. colored museum in the baggage we do claim in the pain we can t live inside. of and can t live without The ultimate refrain then THERE S MADNESS IN. ME AND THAT MADNESS SETS ME FREE Altogether the ensemble repeats. and recites and recounts But what is this madness within and from whence. and what is the me it sets free It is undoubtedly true that the worst kind. of time in jail you can do is colored time But perhaps as Topsy et al testify. freedom is in unfreedom as the trace of the resistance that constitutes. constraint Moten 2007 318 Perhaps Mr Tibbs is only half right. 5 To that end a few opening questions What is the nature of a form of. being that presents a problem for the thought of being itself More precisely. what is the nature of a human being whose human being is put into question. radically and by definition a human being whose being human raises the. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 7.
question of being human at all Or rather whose being is the generative. force historic occasion and essential byproduct of the question of human. being in general How might it be thought that there exists a being about. which the question of its particular being is the condition of possibility and. the condition of impossibility for any thought about being whatsoever What. can be said about such a being and how if at stake in the question is the. very possibility of human being and perhaps even possibility as such What. is the being of a problem, 6 The formulation of a sustained response to such an inquiry is the. province of the field of investigation called black studies or African American. studies or more recently African diaspora studies And this is the case. whether practitioners are working in or across disciplinary formations called. literature history sociology or politics One of the towering figures of that. field W E B Du Bois moved among those genres of writing across several. eras without failing to remark and revise the path he traversed in each case. His legacy widely cited and yet still dimly understood includes too many. achievements to summarize but offers at least this crucial insight that one. is not only able to learn about the world while learning intensively about. one s local and immediate conditions but that one cannot learn about the. world otherwise It is in other words the exploration of ground and the. discovery of an originary displacement that enables the chance for a. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 8. genuine encounter with the world in its difference and in its differing. Chandler 2000, 7 There is among friends and foes alike what seems to be a global. imperative to relate to the African American and to African American Studies. as well with a permanently didactic tone The African American here in the. United States is encouraged to achieve self transcendence a graduation. from the sense of self that being African American engenders I say. encouraged but we cannot help but hear the euphemism The assumption at. work is that there is nothing to learn here with the Negro in the colored. museum except that which must be engineered to become truly worldly and. cosmopolitan To read Du Bois especially after the ongoing theoretical. annotations of Nahum Chandler 1996 2000 2008 is to understand why. there s no place like home, 8 We might call this outlook or approach in distinction from and relation.
to both black studies and African diaspora studies global African American. studies This is an endeavor or projection that teaches us all how we might. better inhabit multiplicity under general conditions at the global scale for. which such inhabitation has become and perhaps always has been or must. be a necessary virtue And it does so less through pedagogical instruction. than through an exemplary transmission emulation of a process of learning. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 9. through the posing of a question rather than imitation of a form of being. which is also to say a procedure for reading for study for black study or in. the spirit of the multiple for black studies wherever they may lead And. contrary to the popular misconception they do lead everywhere And they. do lead everywhere even and especially in their dehiscence. To speak as Moten does of simple interdiction and bare. transgression is interesting phrasing implying what today must be. considered a na ve understanding of law that requires an untenably strict. delimitation of inside and out Yet the idea in the preceding sentence of the. second epigraph of law as frame bar or whatever externally imposed. social logic or as even enclosure can be read as an involvement with just. such an understanding In a way it cannot be otherwise since the language. of this difference between inside and out and what will turn out to be a. series of differences including life and death pessimism and optimism. subject and object object and thing thing and case blacks and blackness. beings and being and so on must be used to demonstrate why this. language of difference is not what it seems or claims to be If we could sum. it up in advance which of course we cannot really do we might say that. captivity is always an unsettled condition open to an outside about which it. will not know anything and about which it cannot stop thinking a nervous. InTensions Journal,Copyright 2011 by York University Toronto Canada. Issue 5 Fall Winter 2011 ISSN 1913 5874,Sexton The Social Life of Social Death 10. system always in pursuit of the fugitive movement it cannot afford to lose. and cannot live without if it is to go on existing in and as a mode of. 10 In The Case of Blackness Moten is concerned with a strife internal to. the field formation of black studies internal moreover to the black radical. tradition that black studies is or seeks out as institutional inscription a. everyday social incarceration reaches for a pivot point the prison within the prison a solitary confinement This is the slow time of captivity the dilated

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