“It cannot be assumed that the conditions of domination alone were sufficient to create a sense of common values, trust, or collective identification. The commonality constituted in practice depends less on presence or sameness than upon desired change—the abolition of bondage. Thus, contrary to identity providing the ground of community, identity is figured as the desired negation of the very set of constraints that create commonality—that is the yearning to be liberated from the condition of enslavement facilitates the networks of affiliation and identification.”
Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection, 59 (via negrosunshine)
unobject: Whats that quote about the inability for radicals to separate out ‘identity politics’ from a tendency to reify identity, and its connection with a racist carelessness towards womanist theorizing? Think this article “Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation” is probably one of the only non-half assed attempts to bring the theories forward.
negrosunshine to unobject: im going to have to say no. while i do think the Hartman quotation can be used in “radical” organizing, and I have seen her insights used in much better ways than what you are attempting to link it with now, I think you may be missing some crucial points, as is the article you put forth.
Perhaps this is the issue of taking a snippet of analysis from a book that effectively shifts paradigms. My problem to be worked out.
When I posted this quotation from Saidiya Hartman’s book, I meant it to be specifically and unapologetically linked to Black bodies. Which is not to “privilege,” or “essentialize,” culture, but to highlight a structural position, that of Blackness, which is non-communicable to the liberal and radically trendy theorizing and organizing around the terms, people-of-color, queers, women, and qpoc. And I’m not saying those positions do not deserve legitimate and non-half assed work around them (a valid shift from discussing “terms” to discussing “positions”), but it is to keep in plain sight relations of power, or hold tight to a paradigmatic analysis that not only accounts but makes central the problem of anti-blackness structuring civil society; which would be to implicate all other positions in that essential antagonism.
I do not think Hartman, in this particular stroke, is questioning the way we use identity, but rather, I think she is reevaluating the way we understand identity, or what identity actually means in the shadow of slavery. How do we talk about culture, or community, in the face of a structural positioning? Or as she writes earlier on page 59:
The sense of black community expressed by “having a good time among our own color” depends upon acts of identification, restitution, and remembrance. Yet the networks of affiliation enacted in performance, sometimes referred to as the “community among ourselves,” are defined not by the centrality of racial identity or the self-sameness or the transparency of blackness nor merely by the condition of enslavement but by the connections forged in the context of disrupted affiliations, sociality amid the constant threat of separation, and shifting sets of identification particular to site, location, and action. In other words, the “community” or the networks of affiliation constructed in practice are not reducible to race—as if race a priori gave meaning to community of as if community was the expression of race—but are to understood in terms of the possibilities of resistance conditioned by relations of power and the very purposeful and self-conscious effort to build community. (emphasis mine. probably should have just bolded it all though.)
just a thought…