(Un)Scrambled Thoughts

Haven’t done this in awhile…posting some drafty thoughts as I work through a few things I’ve read of late. For notes and more, see the @jmjafrx Tumblr…

On the one hand we have Ginzberg asking us: “What are the limits of our radical historical imagination?” 

On the other hand we have Fuentes saying:

“This is a project concerned with an ethics of history and the consequences of reproducing indifference to violence against and the silences of black lives. Our responsibility to these vulnerable historical subjects is to acknowledge and actively resist the perpetuation of their subjugation and commodification in our own discourse and historical practices. It is a gesture toward redress.” 

We have Morgan saying: “There is something about the institution of slavery that demands a framework in critical tension with the nation.” — which I can see as a method of redress and as pushing us into a radical historical imagination.

And then there is Woods, who is suggesting that black folk have long been invested in a liberatory ethic of remembering the past and have been creating space for that work using what he calls a “blues epistemology” to organize, create, and do this critical intellectual work. [Alondra Nelson’s new book, Social Life of DNA, IMHO, charts this same ethic and practice of remembering among African Americans from the 1970s through now, using reparations, DNA tests, and genealogy as her map]


“The blues became the channel through which the Reconstruction generation grasped reality in the midst of disbelief, critiqued the plantation regime, and organized against it.” It also came in the form of “little-documented, long-forgotten, and seemingly ephemeral organizations and agendas.”

It certainly means historians and interdisciplinary historically minded scholars are struggling with how to write for and in service of creating a non-oppressive society. Ginzberg suggests we are not trained to do so. Can historians break past the boundaries they’ve placed around their own historical imagination and what would that mean–methodologically, in our prose? Woods suggests black folk [working class African Americans of the Gulf South in particular] already do this. Maybe they have something to teach us?


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