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Becoming HumanMatter and Meaning in an Antiblack World$
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Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479890040

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479890040.001.0001

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On Becoming Human

On Becoming Human

An Introduction

(p.1) On Becoming Human
Becoming Human

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

NYU Press

In order to facilitate a fuller appreciation of the conceptions of ontology identified in Becoming Human, I pose three arguments that fundamentally reframe the animalization of blackness. First, I argue that philosophers’ and historians’ emphasis on antiblack formulations of African reason and history have overlooked the centrality of gender, sexuality, and maternity in the animalization of blackness. Namely, I argue that black female flesh persistently functions as the limit case of “the human” and is its matrix figure. This is largely explained by the fact that, historically, the delineation between species has fundamentally been determined by how the means and scene of birth are interpreted. Second, I demonstrate that Eurocentric humanism needs blackness as a prop in order to erect whiteness: to define its own limits and to designate humanity as an achievement as well as to give form to the category of “the animal.” Third, I look beyond recognition as human as the solution to the bestialization of blackness, by drawing out the dissident ontological and materialist thinking in black expressive culture, lingering on modes of being/knowing/feeling that gesture toward the overturning of Man. I also provide a reading of Ezrom Legae’s Chicken Series and provide chapter summaries.

Keywords:   gender, blackness, ontology, matrix figure, female, sexuality, Ezrom Legae, bestialization, antiblack

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