Though sovereignty has become something of a disavowed category within Black Studies, it remains conceptually and materially pertinent for Black people across many locations (for those in the so-called “post”-colonial world, of course, and also for those in majority Black spaces). Many of us are obsessed with sovereignty and with what sovereignty feels like, but this obsession is not one that is framed by the state, or within the parameters of its institutions. For us, the point of bearing witness to state violence (and other forms of violence), of creating different archives and affective relationships to violence, is to chart new terrain upon which sovereignty can be elaborated and radiated. We are always imagining something that looks like sovereignty, and if it feels out of reach we are compelled to reach toward it anyway. Sovereignty cannot be disavowed as either false consciousness or ontological impossibility, as these frames rely too heavily upon masculinist notions of revolution and human-ness. Instead, we want to privilege the ephemeral, the performative, the affective, the non-linear and unexpected ways something that feels like sovereignty circulates and is transmitted from one to another. This sovereignty is not an event; there is not a moment when we will be able to point to something and identify its achievement. Instead, it is constantly in process; it is both internal and communal; it both frames and enacts love and response-ability.
Hosted by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities’ Black Visualities Initiative under the leadership of Tina Campt, and presented collaboratively with The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) at the University of Johannesburg and Art for Humanity at Durban University of Technology, with the support of the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM).
DEBORAH THOMAS: Can Black Lives Matter in a Black Country?
GABRIELLE GOLIATH: Rhapsodic Space: Re/sounding Black Feminine Life
KHWEZIE MKHIZE: Practices of Freedom and the Afterlives of Empire: A View from South Africa
SAVANNAH SHANGE: A Meditation for Black Life: Political Grief & Public Space in Oakland
- Ashara Ekundayo, June 2020, A community altar built on a street corner in downtown Oakland CA (Image)
- Savannah Shange, June 2020, Pedestrians partake in a walking Meditation for Black Lives, Oakland CA (Image)
- Savannah Shange, June 2020, One of 40 different mourning meditations installed on the sidewalk for Meditation for Black Lives (Image)