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Extravagant Abjection

Extravagant Abjection: Blackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination

Darieck Scott
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 327
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  • Book Info
    Extravagant Abjection
    Book Description:

    Challenging the conception of empowerment associated with the Black Power Movement and its political and intellectual legacies in the present, Darieck Scott contends that power can be found not only in martial resistance, but, surprisingly, where the black body has been inflicted with harm or humiliation. Theorizing the relation between blackness and abjection by foregrounding often neglected depictions of the sexual exploitation and humiliation of men in works by James Weldon Johnson, Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, and Samuel R. Delany, Extravagant Abjection asks: If we're racialized through domination and abjection, what is the political, personal, and psychological potential in racialization-through-abjection? Using the figure of male rape as a lens through which to examine this question, Scott argues that blackness in relation to abjection endows its inheritors with a form of counter-intuitive power - indeed, what can be thought of as a revised notion of black power. This power is found at the point at which ego, identity, body, race, and nation seem to reveal themselves as utterly penetrated and compromised, without defensible boundary. Yet in Extravagant Abjection, power assumes an unexpected and paradoxical form. In arguing that blackness endows its inheritors with a surprising form of counter-intuitive power - as a resource for the political present - found at the very point of violation, Extravagant Abjection enriches our understanding of the construction of black male identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8654-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Blackness, Abjection, and Sexuality
    (pp. 1-31)

    LET US TAKE this dialogue, from a novel which is in many ways the ur-text and bible of my project, as an instructive fable, a fragment to expound upon for a sermon. Sethe’s decision to murder her toddler daughter—a decision we should be careful not to name as achoice, at least not without troubling assumptions about individual agency that are commonplace in a liberal democratic society—is of such a final and extreme nature that it begs readers to differ as Paul D does. But the logic by which she reaches the decision, and the declared limits of...

  5. 1 Fanon’s Muscles: (Black) Power Revisited
    (pp. 32-94)

    I WANT TO begin my exploration of blackness in its relation to abjection and sexuality where this relation is at once seen to be foundational, and strenuously denied, by following the flow of two currents I identified earlier, Fanon and Black Power/Black Arts. In doing so I want to explore as thoroughly as I can the key theoretical questions and terms of this project that I flagged in the introduction—mainly, abjection and power. This exploration will merge into a close consideration of one of the figures for black abjection that the book examines, the recurring metaphor in Fanon of...

  6. 2 “A Race That Could Be So Dealt With”: Terror, Time, and (Black) Power
    (pp. 95-125)

    The figure of the Negro, Fanon says, is “woven . . . out of a thousand details, anecdotes, stories.”¹ Blackness islived, but it is a representation. Even if, as we believe, all identities and subjectivities are falsities of this sort,imagosas hollow as old bones that language or father or the forces of economic production generate, blackness is a representation of rather recent historical vintage, unlike far older and presumably transcultural representations such as “woman.” The historical proximity of its provenance makes tangible to us, visible, the operation of sociogenesis by which all of our human world comes...

  7. 3 Slavery, Rape, and the Black Male Abject
    (pp. 126-152)

    How does the recognition—or the embrace—of blackness in its abjection play out? In the terms of the texts I have examined so far, in what further way can we adduce the abilities of the black/native in his state of productive muscle tension, and what shape might the Ex-Coloured Man’s life take if he did not refuse traumatic (and traumatized) blackness but assimilated it, if he lived consciously in a black(ened) body that physicalized a self almost without ego? How might we imagine the unlived possibilities the Ex-Coloured Man eschews, especially as those possibilities seem insistently to be accompanied...

  8. Notes on Black (Power) Bottoms
    (pp. 153-171)

    HOMOPHOBIA, MORE THAN heterosexism, on the part of readers (anticipated and actual) and perhaps even to some degree the author herself, cordons off Paul D’s sexual humiliation by white men inBeloved. Paul D and Setheknowand yet choose not to take up fully the implications of Paul D’s experience, and this choice is both a reflection and an emblem of what is effectively (though I expect not intentionally) a homophobic collusion between Morrison and her readers. This compromise acknowledgment of the painful, partially self-constituting past—the compromise being the decision, psychically agreed to as a foundation for Sethe...

  9. 4 The Occupied Territory: Homosexuality and History in Amiri Baraka’s Black Arts
    (pp. 172-203)

    THE CARTOGRAPHIC METAPHORS of zones, territories, and borders seem apt for examining representations of sexuality in the writing of Black Power and Black Arts Movement intellectuals during the Sixties. In the works of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Eldridge Cleaver, and others—as for Frantz Fanon, at least in the early workBlack Skin, White Masks—black sexuality is a terrain dominated by the history of enemy maneuvers, its capacities and limits delineated by the uses to which it has been put to serve white supremacy. The writers of the Black Power/Black Arts Movements identified sexuality as one of the primary means...

  10. 5 Porn and the N-Word: Lust, Samuel Delany’s The Mad Man, and a Derangement of Body and Sense(s)
    (pp. 204-256)

    I have been attempting to develop an understanding of the qualities and abilities that become available through (or which themselves partially constitute) blackness-in/as-abjection. Yet the relation between blackness and abjection, while effected historically and in the present primarily by economic, military, and political means, is experientiallylived, as a psychic reality and as a material reality, especially for the inheritors of the events that bring blackness into being, at that site and product of culture which is the nexus between psyche and body. We have been able to see this nexus and access to both it and its powers, represented...

  11. Conclusion: Extravagant Abjection
    (pp. 257-270)

    ALL OF WHICH is to say: power works abusively, but not only in the ways that we might expect. That the abusiveness of power should be generative, just as the constraints and repressions of power are, is no surprise; butwhatexactly is generatedinabuseforthe abused is harder to limn. To perform that illumination we struggle to bring within the ambit of language an experience, a state of human being, that—at least for the moment—is so unable to hold the defenses which constitute the subject who speaks that language in its essence seems an expression...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 271-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-317)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 318-318)