Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake ushers in a break between the conflicting (but not diametrically opposed) schools of Afropessimism and Black optimism. While the Afropessimist camp, led by theorists like Frank B. Wilderson III, argues for an ontological dehumanization of the Black person after slavery, Fred Moten’s Black optimist camp espouses a resilient belief in collective progress and empowerment within the Black community. Sharpe’s emphasis on the aftermath of slavery and the notion of “the wake” intertwines grief, memory, and the ongoing impact of historical trauma on contemporary Black experience while nevertheless illuminating the preciousness of Black collectivity and existence. Sharpe’s dear friend and interlocutor Saidiya Hartman speaks to this theoretical rupture in the Black studies dichotomy: “Christina’s work totally unsettles that binary [between Afropessimism and Black optimism]. She addresses the structural conditions of anti-Blackness that condemn Black people on a variety of levels and still attends to the richness...

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