This essay concerns black feminist theory’s experimentation with the disciplinary discourses of chaos theory and physics to investigate the trace effects of blackness and explore the limits of conceptualization and representation in light of the particular problem that blackness’s diffuse and immeasurable conditioning power poses to thought and representation. I argue that when considering the genealogy of black feminism, it is possible to discern a black feminist poetics that anticipates recent feminist materialism’s attentiveness to the mutually constitutive effects of discursivity and materiality. Said poetics approaches a shared worry over the problem of referentiality, not in representationalist terms, as recent materialists would suggest, but rather through a poetics attentive to the racializing and sexuating dimensions of an (anti) black sublime that conditions, exceeds, and potentially ruptures the scales of the empirical. Privileging performativity, gesture, resonance, and metaphor over the authority and purported veridicality of Western empirical science, the poetics of black feminism investigated here is instructive for a general theory of representation.
Research Article|July 01 2018
Zakiyyah Iman Jackson; “Theorizing in a Void”: Sublimity, Matter, and Physics in Black Feminist Poetics. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2018; 117 (3): 617–648. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-6942195
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