Captivating Genres

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In his now classic essay published in NLH in 1976, “The Origin of Genres,” Tzvetan Todorov famously articulated the following: “It is because genres exist as an institution that they function as ‘horizons of expectation’ for readers, and as ‘models of writing’ for authors.” He goes on to argue that “Genres communicate with the society in which they flourish by means of institutionalization,” and Continue reading →

Thinking with Runaway Genres about Runaway Movements and Falling Monuments

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Which forms are most amenable for narrating the afterlives of slavery and why? Which configurations of race and power come to the fore and which recede when contemporary Afro-diasporic writers take up the slave narrative to address contemporary human-rights violations in Africa? What happens to the mutually constitutive relationship between race and form across different spaces and times? These are the questions that animate Continue reading →

“It’s All Happening at Once”: Jesmyn Ward’s Post-National Black Fiction

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. And how could I conceive that Parchman was past, present, and future all at once? That the history and sentiment that carved the place out of the wilderness would show me that time is a vast ocean, and that everything is happening at once? Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing[2]   “It’s all happening at once. All of it. We all here at once. Jesmyn Continue reading →

The Most Magnificent Drama in the Last Thousand Years of Human History: Notes on Cinematic Slavery

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery, Yogita Goyal traces the translation of sentimental narrative structures and tropes from nineteenth-century slave narratives to contemporary narrative accounts of human rights abuses and the global (re)production of race. “In exploring the contradictory uses of historical violence for contemporary politics,” she argues, “we need to not only return to the question of what slavery itself means Continue reading →

Unsentimental Globalism

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Every great book has its shadow books. Sometimes we sense them as the submerged iceberg of all the research that stands behind but does not get integrated into the text at hand; sometimes they linger like a specter of paths-not-taken in the book’s long gestation; and sometimes they are the imaginary book that we begin to conceptualize under the tutelage of the book we Continue reading →

Response to Runaway Genres

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. In its dynamic charting of the American slave narrative’s multi-pronged evolution, Runaway Genres could easily expand in any number of further directions. Most would pursue American and markedly “global” modes of expression; writing, that is, that bears a clear transatlantic imprint, even where it is best described as sidestepping or rejecting transatlanticism’s primacy in thinking through Black self-formations. As Goyal’s book shows, the sheer Continue reading →

Runaway Genres: On Slavery, Captivity, and Blackness Now

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres: The Global Afterlives of Slavery examines the emergence of “slavery as the defining template through which current forms of human rights abuses are understood in order to rethink race in a global frame” (2). The book thus concerns itself with the implications of new definitions of slavery and Blackness for American publics. Specifically, Yogita Goyal rethinks current literary frameworks for Continue reading →

Remembering Slavery, Remaking Race

This essay is part of a symposium on Yogita Goyal’s Runaway Genres. All contributions to the symposium can be found here. The core question animating my explorations in Runaway Genres was the relation between slavery and freedom across past and present landscapes. The project started with noting the resurgence and proliferation of neo-slave narratives by African American writers in the last four decades; it moved on to track how the slave narrative’s peculiar features repeat today in narratives of capture and violence from the Global Continue reading →

The Doctors of Hubei and the Grace of the Caregiver in Crisis

Li Wenliang, Liu Zhiming, Xu Depu, Peng Yinhua, Xia Sisi: these are the names of some of the doctors that have died while treating COVID-19 patients in Hubei Province in China, according to media reports. As of late February, 3,387 health workers in China have reportedly been infected; at least 18 of these have died. Some of the earliest cases of community transmission of the disease in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have likewise afflicted frontline health workers. Images circulating in the Continue reading →

The Political Imaginary of the World Tribunal on Iraq

The following speech was delivered at the plenary—“Political and Revolutionary Imaginaries from Past to Present”—of the 16th Annual Historical Materialism conference held in London on November 9, 2019. When the conference organizers invited me to participate in this plenary some moons ago, I agreed rather hesitantly. What revolutionary imaginaries had the World Tribunal on Iraq developed at the turn of the twenty-first century? Which of the tribunal’s many aspirations, inspirations, and implications could I convey? Did the World Tribunal on Iraq deserve to be called Continue reading →