MacArthur Fellow Saidiya Hartman
September 25, 2019 12:38 PM   Subscribe

“The afterlife of slavery is not only a political and social problem but an aesthetic one as well.” The writings of MacArthur Fellow Saidiya Hartman "bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured." An excerpt of Professor Hartman's most recent monograph, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments was published on the New Yorker website earlier this year, and Professor Hartman spoke about her work and her working process on the Critical Inquiry podcast in 2018.
posted by mustard seeds (3 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
thank you for this post. Saidiya Hartman is absolutely brilliant and I look very forward to digging into these links.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 12:53 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, she is simply incredible. Lose Your Mother is a really profound book in ways that I can't even begin to describe or do justice. It has so much to say about slavery, history, horror, abjection, searching, contradictions in how human relationships and communities are formed, is both philosophy and history, and it is also extremely accessible. There aren't a lot of books that work this way. It is an extremely powerful book and I don't mean that in some kind of puff-piece way.

Scenes of Subjection is an extremely influential, extremely sophisticated, extremely sad book that is readable by a general audience if they're motivated to read an academic book.

I was an undergrad when Scenes of Subjection came out, did not read it or know about it then, but realized a couple of years ago that a particularly puzzling and knotty class discussion led by David Roediger must have been prompted by his reading of her book. (My assumption is that he mentioned this, since he was pretty good about stuff like that, but that I was so confused/engaged by the class discussion that I just spaced it - it was a grad seminar that I'd been allowed to sit in on and was well ahead of my understanding although I've always remembered it.) The discussion was about how elements of the "personal" and "individual" were used to malevolently "humanize" enslaved people in order to exploit them, " the forms of domination that usually go undetected; in particular, the encroachments of power that take place through notions of humanity, enjoyment, protection, rights, and consent" as Goodreads had it. This so blew my brain that I have remembered it in some detail and thought about it at intervals for years.
posted by Frowner at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

There are so many awesome folks in this class of the MacArthurs, I'm not even sure she is the most awesome. But she is super duper awesome, and should be required reading.
posted by allthinky at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2019

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