whiteness

Ben Spatz, University of Huddersfield
with
Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, Louisiana State University
Ilona Krawczyk, University of Huddersfield
Agnieszka Mendel, Independent artist

 

Transcript

Whiteness (Ahmed ; Alcoff; Saldanha; Wekker; Yancy
is a tyranny of writing. (Derrida; Brander Rasmussen)

Dividing human from animal, (Agamben 12; Jackson)
whiteness equates knowing with writing. (Agamben 16; Sánchez)

Only writing allows the philosopher (Heidegger in Agamben)
to call a tree or a bird “poor in world.” (Agamben 51)

Only whiteness allows the philosopher (Agamben 57)
to conceive of the human as “open” (62)
and the animal as closed. (59)

-

Heidegger describes the experience of disembodiment,
which he calls “boredom.” In this state, (Agamben 63)
the world is present but has “nothing to offer.” (64)

Affect is zero, affordances are null. (66-68)
A body can do nothing.(70)
This is the beginning of whiteness, (Baucom; Hage; Weheliye)
the “anthropological machine of humanism,” (Agamben 29)
or anthropogenesis: a structure, not an event (79; Wolfe)

From here, it becomes possible to destroy the world. (Liboiron)

-

Words are not things that can be written down. (Simpson)
Freedom is not a kind of speech. (Kelley; McKittrick)

How do we call in philosophy? (la paperson; Manning)
How do we call in the act of writing? (Robinson 77–105)

Only by abandoning the logos, (Agamben 90)
the illusion of transparency: (Silva)
not writing, but the tyranny of writing. (King)

Can the white body be decolonized (Agamben 10, 91–92)
without killing it? (Bey 69–70; Rigby Jr. and Ziyad; Spatz 18)

-

“The Bible, the Greeks: What is the nature of these texts’ openness to the whole world? One the one hand, for Levinas, they are available to the whole world; on the other hand, they are the whole world. The whole world is in these texts and the refusal of these texts, the failure to enter into them is also a failure to enter into the world…

“At issue is the possibility and desirability of avoiding song which is associated with intoxication, sleep, lack of seriousness, the technoprimitivity that attends modern audiovisual distraction…”

—Moten (2018, 11, 25)

Credits

“whiteness” (2022).

Video essay by Ben Spatz with Nazlıhan Eda Erçin, Ilona Krawczyk, and Agnieszka Mendel. Performance Philosophy 7 (2): Margins.

Practitioners: Ilona Krawczyk and Ben Spatz
Director / Witness: Nazlıhan Eda Erçin
Videographer: Agnieszka Mendel
Editor / Annotator: Ben Spatz

This session took place on 31 July 2017, during the project “Judaica: An Embodied Laboratory for Songwork” at the University of Huddersfield, UK (AHRC 2016-2018).

During the session, Ilona Krawczyk shared work from her PhD research on embodied voice (University of Huddersfield).

The book is The Open: Man and Animal by Giorgio Agamben (2004).

Special thanks to Caroline Gatt for introducing books into the lab.

On the research method, see:
Spatz, Ben. 2020. Making a Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video. New York: Punctum Books.

Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio. 2004. The Open: Man and Animal. Translated by Kevin Attell. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Ahmed, Sara. 2007. “A Phenomenology of Whiteness.” Feminist Theory 8 (2): 149–68. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464700107078139

Alcoff, Linda. 2015. The Future of Whiteness. Cambridge: Polity.

Baucom, Ian. 2020. History 4° Celsius: Search for a Method in the Age of the Anthropocene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478012030

Bey, Marquis. 2020. The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Gender. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctv1bd4n2b

Brander Rasmussen, Birgit. 2012. Queequeg’s Coffin: Indigenous Literacies & Early American Literature. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822393832

Derrida, Jacques. (1967) 2016. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hage, Ghassan. 2017. Is Racism an Environmental Threat? Cambridge: Polity.

Jackson, Zakiyyah Iman. 2020. Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. New York: NYU Press.

Kelley, Robin D. G. 2002. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press.

King, Tiffany Lethabo. 2019. The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478005681

la paperson. 2017. A Third University Is Possible. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/9781452958460

Liboiron, Max. 2021. Pollution Is Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781478021445

Manning, Erin. 2020. For a Pragmatics of the Useless. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781478012597

McKittrick, Katherine. 2021. Dear Science and Other Stories. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478012573

Moten, Fred. 2018. The Universal Machine. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822371977

Rigby Jr., Kevin, and Hari Ziyad. 2016. “White People Have No Place In Black Liberation.” Racebaitr, March 31. https://racebaitr.com/2016/03/31/white-people-no-place-black-liberation/

Robinson, Dylan. 2020. Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctvzpv6bb

Saldanha, Arun. 2007. Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sánchez, Raúl. 2016. “Writing.” In Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies: New Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy, edited by Iris D. Ruiz and Raúl Sánchez, 77-89. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-52724-0_6

Silva, Denise Ferreira da. 2007. Toward a Global Idea of Race. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctt1pwt77c

Spatz, Ben. 2019. “Notes for Decolonizing Embodiment.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 33 (2): 9-22. https://doi.org/10.1353/dtc.2019.0001

———. 2020. Making a Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video. New York: Punctum Books.

Weheliye, Alexander G. 2014. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822376491

Wekker, Gloria. 2016. White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Durham, NC : Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822374565

Wolfe, Patrick. 2016. Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race. New York: Verso.

Yancy, George. 2012. Look, a White! Philosophical Essays on Whiteness. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

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