13 September 2021

Dear Everyone:

It was great to be with so many of you on Friday — during the various meetings held earlier in the day, and through the Friday Forum. Thank you to everyone showing up to do the work in all the different forms! Especial thanks to Joan Richardson, Mario DiGangi, Siraj Ahmed, Kelly Baker Josephs, Ashley Dawson, and Todd Craig for offering their recommendations and reminiscences at the FF, and to Wayne Koestenbaum, for his on-the-spot contribution! We were encouraged to read across a wide range of work, from those thematizing environmentalism to the power of intersectionality and the problems of whiteness in the academy, and treated to the words of such world-opening thinkers as Hortense Spillers, Alfred Whitehead, Stuart Hall, and Michel Foucault. We wished we could have read better as graduate students; we wished we had known more earlier; we wished we had been introduced to work differently; and throughout all, that we keep trying individually and collectively to get better at engaging ideas and the world percolated so vibrantly; thank you to all for participating and attending!  The list of recommendations is here, in a deliberately editable document so as to invite you to add your own — please join the chorus (all are welcome, faculty or not)!

Our next several Fridays are dedicated to conducting program business related to the US Latinx search as well as to hosting our program Open House for those interested in doctoral studies – more on that to follow!

In the meantime, I invite you very warmly to an online event on Wednesday, 22 September, 5p, which we’re cosponsoring and which I have the great pleasure to host, namely, the launch of The Other Side of Terror: Black Women and the Culture of US Empire, by Erica R. Edwards, just out from NYU Press. Moderated by Evie Shockley, and with remarks by Roderick Ferguson, Avery Gordon, Fred Moten, Nadine Naber, Mary Helen Washington, and Erica R. Edwards, this is sure to be an event full of luminous insight, as is the book itself. For more information, please see here and register here for this event.

Finally, for now, a huge wish to everyone who sent a kid off to school today or recently, who, like me, is holding your breath in hope and nervousness and excitement and relief and more hope and nervousness, for all the joy and health and interesting stuff possible! I know I have been waiting for this day, seemingly for ages…

Whether parents or not, I know most if not all of us are waiting in some fashion – waiting for an end to pandemic (what will mark that, I wonder? How will we know?) and the emergence of not so much the norm, but something way, way better. This kind of waiting is of course the stuff of minoritarian theorizing – from Dipesh Chakrabarty’s identification of the emplotment of the colonized in “the waiting room of history” and Tavia Nyong’o’s elaboration of the deferrals of justice accompanying anti-Blackness, to Langston Hughes’ poetic enunciation of the vitality suppressed in the dream deferred among many others. What is the nature and texture of, and the desires infusing our waiting now? How does it bring forward and perhaps also obscure the historical underpinnings of these theorizations? How and for what are we waiting?

Yesterday, this interview with the performance studies scholar Shane Vogel on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was published in The Atlantic. Vogel asks, “is our desire for the end of the pandemic a desire to reestablish not just our day-to-day routines but also to return to all the distraction and noise that allow us not to think about the meaning of life? This is not to say that the pandemic is a good thing, but it’s an opportunity to ask, what if the thing you’re waiting for never arrives? What if instead of waiting, you act or think differently instead of trying to go back to the way things were?” I know we’re in fact all busy in our waiting: we’re doing the things both big and small to move through the days; waiting isn’t or doesn’t have to be empty, of course. I think, too, there’s so much noise these days about vaccinations and boosters and returns to school and masks and variants, in addition to the near sublime/awe-some/awful scale and feel and experience of climate catastrophe and permanent war and other forms of gun violence; we are hardly characters in as actively silent a world as Beckett conjures. Maybe it’s because of all this noise, this history we are living, that Vogel’s suggestion to practice waiting by acting and thinking differently has such traction for me. What are you waiting for? What shapes does waiting take for you?

Hoping the week if full of interesting ideas (rather than noise!) for you all –

With abundant well wishes, as ever,


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