Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being

To close out Black History Month, this week's review unpacks Black feminist philosophy to conceptualize Black aliveness, which opposes the emphasis of "social death" often found in current Black studies

Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being

Quashie, Kevin Everod. Duke, 2021
248p bibl index, 9781478011873 $99.95, 9781478014010 $25.95, 9781478021322

Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being book cover

Quashie (English, Brown Univ.) decenters the focus on “social death” in current Black studies by a new emphasis on Black aliveness. Through a close reading of writings of Black women—Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Toni Morrison, and Evie Shockley, among others—Quashie shows how their philosophical and creative thinking constitutes “worldmaking,” a generative source through which one can affirm a Black aliveness. In this worldmaking, blackness is capacious and relational. Black aliveness is asserted in the face of the persistence of death and violence in Black life—“antiblackness is part of blackness but not all of how or what blackness is” (p. 5). Being, for Quashie, is always a verb and always relational. It is about becoming; it is not founded in the concepts of possession or dominance; selfhood is not produced through a binary and antagonistic dialectic. Further, one does not subsume one’s own first personness. Quashie stresses “oneness,” which he insists is “not akin to individualism” (p. 53). He refuses to consider self, interiority, and volition in terms of the liberal humanist tenets of possessive individualism. This deeply poetic, rich book may be paradigm shifting.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
J. A. Kegley, California State University, Bakersfield
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies
Subject: Humanities – Philosophy
Choice Issue: Feb 2022

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: