Black is Beautiful: A Philosophy of Black Aesthetics

Temitope Ajileye

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Anonymous

“I don’t know where to begin […] because nothing has been written here. Once the first book comes, then we’ll know where to begin”. Barbara Smith

There is some irony in how I came across Black is Beautiful, a masterpiece created by African American scholar Paul C. Taylor. I was looking for Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and, while waiting for the bookshop staff to locate it (their attempts would eventually prove unsuccessful despite their certainty that ‘Russell has to be in the shop’), my eyes wandered and settled on Taylor’s book. How lucky I was!

        The opening quote, taken from Barbara Smith’s Toward a Black Feminist Criticism, immediately presents us with the urgency that the book tackles and tries to solve. There is much art by, about, and with black people, but not enough thought to connect them together, help us think more productively about black expressive culture, which would allow us to contextualise and understand our reactions to black art. There is a strong feeling that much can be said about this art and an even stronger desire for these intentions to be finally clearly stated.

Continue Reading

Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston

Anonymous

Edited by Jahna Hampshire

Art by Anonymous

After close to two years of studying anthropology, Zora Neale Hurston has yet to appear on any of my reading lists. This is a great shame, not only because it exemplifies the erasure of black women in academia that is all too common in higher education, but because her work specifically has so much to offer to new anthropology students.

While reading Mules and Men, Hurston’s ethnographic text on black communities around the American South, I was first struck by her confident centring of self. In great contrast to the majority of other ethnographic texts I have read, Hurston actively recognises her own place in the context of her fieldwork, making no attempt to hide herself in her ethnography. Rather, Hurston makes personal experience an equally valid and visible dimension of her ethnographic exploration, an approach whose significance I explored in a previous Myopia article (projectmyopia.com/toyin-odutola). In Mules and Men, Hurston unapologetically presents her jovial disputes with her research participants, casual banter with old friends and new acquaintances, and even being mocked and criticised by the people whose presence she was in. These honest and colloquial dialogues are not means to the ethnographic material, but the qualitative data itself… arguably, creating a richer picture that authentically describes the extent to which the presence and identity of the anthropologist affects the relationship between ethnographer and ethnographic subject; and the knowledge that is chronicled as a result.

Continue Reading

Caucasia by Danzy Senna

Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo

Edited by Ketaki Zodgekar

Illustration by Maïa Walcott https://maiawalcott98.wixsite.com/mysite

Danzy Senna’s first novel, Caucasia (1998), is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Birdie with a black academic father and a white mother who is the estranged descendant of a prominent Bostonian family. The story follows the highly problematic construction of the young girl’s identity after being separated from her sister and black father and growing up with her white mother on the road around New England assuming different racial identities, which she is able to do due to her ambiguous ethnicity and her ability to “pass” for white.  It is a story deeply indebted to the history of the American Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, and its philosophical preoccupations, providing poignant commentary on the trope of “lighting out,” a term taken from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, meaning going west, shedding history, and switching identities. While, during my undergraduate education, I studied a number of texts that addressed these genres and themes, Caucasia highlights the racialisation of the traditional American Bildungsroman and the American identity that it constructs in a way that none of the other texts I studied did.

Continue Reading

Interview with Professor Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o

Interview by Tanuj Raut

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Maïa Walcott https://maiawalcott98.wixsite.com/mysite

I think that Greek mythology should be taught comparatively with African, Norse, Scandinavian, Icelandic and Asian mythologies. They are all very exciting and it is not necessary to put them in a hierarchical relationship to each other. Let them network.

Continue Reading

Launch Night Excerpts

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

We celebrated Project Myopia with a beautiful launch event towards the end of semester 2. It was a night of music and poetry, as well as an opportunity for some of our contributors to elaborate on their essays and ideas. Our performers touched on a wide range of serious issues: from the exclusion of racial minorities’ contribution to the canon of literature, to the oppressive nature of zero-hour contracts that prevent tutors from being able to fully engage in helping all students get ahead, let alone those from a minority background who need assistance most. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who performed and shared their experiences, and we also have to thank everyone who attended and helped us drink the wine we provided! Project Myopia aims to bring marginalized people together and amplify their voices, and our launch felt like a perfect culmination of our semester’s work: people came together and shared their experiences of an academic world we need to change.

Continue Reading

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

Ronan Karas

Edited by Karli Wessale

Art by Priyanka Meenakshi https://www.priyankameenakshi.com/

“Strange to be exiled from your own sex to borders that will never be home” (Feinberg, 19XX, pg. 11).

Leslie Feinberg’s words echo in my head. I think about how strange yet familiar the feeling is of finding a work of fiction that you relate to on such a deep and personal level. I’m a trans man and I first started transitioning two years ago, in which time I’ve searched libraries, websites, lists upon lists of queer authors and gender theorists, all in the search for an answer to a question I can’t quite put into words. I wanted to find an account of someone who felt like I did. When you’re straight and cisgender, your sexuality and gender are never called into question by the literature surrounding you, but when you’re trans or queer, your identity becomes academic. Something to be debated around a table of people who don’t identify as you do. As a friend put it: “Cis people have gender, trans people have gender identities.”

Continue Reading

‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ by Mary Wollstonecraft, and ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ by Sojourner Truth

Mattia Ventre

Edited by Toby Sharpe

Art by Alice Markey

Two figures spring to mind as the key voices of feminism and women’s rights in modern history that every student should discover: Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sojourner Truth. In my experience, however, a undergraduate student would struggle to hear about these women fully in class, let alone appreciate the impact of their ideas on our society. Women’s experiences have been erased from our curricula, and great thought from women is denigrated even today.

Continue Reading

Quicksand by Nella Larsen

Sarah Thomson

Edited by Rianna Walcott

Art by Jazmine Sheckleford www.facebook.com/jasmineillustrations13

Despite taking courses titled ‘International Modernism’, ‘World Gothic’ and ‘Comparative Feminist Drama’, it wasn’t until enrolling in a ‘Black American Fiction’ seminar in the final semester of my degree that I was first assigned a text written by a woman of colour, Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929). Although I initially I felt guilt that I’d apparently chosen classes with so little diversity, I soon realised that Passing would have made a fitting addition to a range of courses I’d studied previously. A concise but complex novel, Passing packs articulate discussions of class, gender, sexuality and race into just over 100 pages. It’s an injustice to the quality of Larsen’s prose to see it pigeonholed into the category of ‘black’ fiction, rather than used to enhance a course on something else entirely. The fact that it took enrolling in a seminar built around race before it was addressed in one of my classrooms speaks to the prevailing issue of the erasure of minority voices in academe.

Continue Reading

The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman

Corné Rijneveld

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Holly Summerson http://hollysummerson.wixsite.com/arts

I was gifted Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination (2012) for my 24th birthday. Schulman was 24 when her friends started dying. The year was 1981, and an unknown disease – ‘something to do with white blood cells’ (Schulman 59) – had begun ravaging communities of sexual outcasts in New York and San Francisco. Although we meet some of the virus’s victims, Gentrification is not a cataloguing of the dead, nor a mere homage to their wasted creative potential. Instead, the memoirs read as a lyrical, historical, and sociological thesis, albeit inspired by grief for the un-mourned, and a profound sense of injustice. Schulman argues that when tens of thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual New Yorkers died of Aids as a result of governmental and societal neglect, diverse neighbourhoods, and a genuinely counter-cultural art movement died with them.

Continue Reading

Selena

Izzy Bravo

Edited by Carolina Palacios

Art by Laila Borrie https://www.facebook.com/underthepeacocktree/

Each year in March I see a wave of young Latinas on social media expressing their love for Selena, as they share images of their Selena-inspired make-up, Selena outfits for the Selena club parties, and plans to watch Selena, the 1997 film that chronicles the short life of Selena Quintanilla. Why March? March 31 is the anniversary of Selena’s death, which occurred in 1995. And for any young Latina who grew up dancing to Selena’s “Como la Flor” in their living room, March is an important month to remember those days and the unhinged hope for a music idol. I grew up listening to Selena and have memories of my sister singing along to “Como la Flor” when it played in the radio. I can also recall trying to hide this fandom in a poor attempt to assimilate to the American culture I was learning in grade school. It was not until my first year of undergrad that I noticed it was suddenly okay to be Latino.

Continue Reading

No more posts.