Becoming HumanMatter and Meaning in an Antiblack World

Becoming HumanMatter and Meaning in an Antiblack World

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781479890040

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World demonstrates that the history of racialized gender and maternity, specifically antiblackness, is indispensable to future thought on matter, materiality, animality, and posthumanism. Rather than applying a pre-given philosophical framework to literature and visual culture, Becoming Human provides a model for reading African diasporic literature and visual art for the philosophical premises, interventions, and implications of these forms and traditions. Becoming Human argues that African diasporic cultural production does not coalesce into a unified tradition that merely seeks inclusion into the dominant conception of “the human” but, rather, frequently alters the meaning and significance of being (human) and engages in imaginative practices of worlding from the perspective of a history of blackness’s bestialization and thingification: the process of imagining a black person as an empty vessel, a nonbeing, a nothing, an ontological zero, coupled with the violent imposition of colonial myths and racial hierarchy. In complementary but highly distinct ways, the literary and visual texts in Becoming Human articulate being (human) in a manner that neither relies on animal denigration nor reestablishes liberal humanism as the authority on being (human). What emerges from this questioning is a radically unruly sense of being/knowing/feeling existence, one that necessarily ruptures the foundations of the current hegemonic mode of “the human.”