2020-2021 seminar Amit S. Rai: from month to month

Seminar 5 (April) online

on Anna Tsing and Christina Sharpe


Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Duke University Press, 2016.



Seminar 4 (March) online

Audre Lorde, Sister/Outsider

We meet at a time of increasing violence against women in many societies around the world. Women and their queer, postcolonial, indigenous, neurodiverse, communist and politically radical allies are mobilising across the globe to change the material conditions of this violence. The violence against women that Lorde writes of in several of the essays in Sister/Outsider (S/O) gives today's reader, several decades after some of these essays were published, a sense of historical contexts, first in North America, and later in Berlin, mostly, of a Black lesbian socialist mother poet/theorist. And so what is the "burst of light" that seems to energise our (re)encounters with Lorde's word today, how does she understand the power of her anger, what is a Lordean practice of solidarity? Her experiments in language, in travelling, and in her practices as a poet, an essayist, a philosopher, her battle with cancer and its relation to labour processes: Where does one begin with Audre Lorde?

In Zami, Lorde talks about her learning process. It involves some difficult introspection: I could not own my own triumphs, she writes in that autobiographical book. How does one conduct collective study (in the sense of Moten and Harney) of the triumphant words of this Black woman? How does one avoid becoming all too human, in Lorde's sense, and perhaps as well in Sylvia Wynter's sense of the organisation of humanity and the human and its colonial legacies? What is the good/common sense that hides a regime of violence behind the "human"? Is this the stupidity that all decolonial practice in any field would have to quite literally define itself in untimely relationship with.

What is an ecological and assemblage-theory encounter with Audre Lorde? In what sense does Audre Lorde's descriptions of heterosexist and capitalist power resonate today, what is decisively different today? Does the increased representation of women and queer people of colour change the class relations involved in the monopolist property relations of capitalist society? In what sense, yes, and in what sense, no? What is a Lordean mode of study?


Lorde, Audre. Zami -- Sister Outsider -- Undersong. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993.



Seminar 3 (February) online

On Edouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation

In this seminar we will be developing a conversation between Glissant’s theory of relation, borderlands/decolonial theory, and our ongoing critique of Afro-pessimism. What forms of solidarity become available to praxis through a dialectical and rhizomatic conceptualisation of postcolonial ‘relation’? How does literature function in Glissant’s theory? How does Glissant’s theorisations relate to borderland theory, for instance around questions of settler colonialism, the question of gender and race, or intersectionality? 

These are some other topics for potential discussion:

The algorithm and chaos, fractal and chaos, 139.; Race, racial capital, 65.; Plantation, slavery, structure, 64.; Sacred, opacity, transparency, errantry, 56.; The force of opacity, expanse of relation, the Diverse and opacity, 62.; Against filiation, 55.; Repetition and excess, signifies, 206.; Undoing habits, 201.; Binaries in Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, 199.; TV evangelicals, 198.; Different examples of Relationship in Language, 105.; Errantry trans definition, 211.; Relation defined, 211.; Habits, 201.; Flash agents, the American conditions, 196-97.; Definition of the opaque, 191.; Relation as open totality, 192.; For Opacity, 189-90.; Flash agents of the digital ecologies of capitalist platforms, relay into flash agents, 166.; Standardised forms of sensibility. 164-166.; Relation and Being, 160-61.; Good sense, 149.; Ecology as politics, 146.


Glissant, Edouard. Poetics of relation. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Audre Lorde, Zami Sister Outsider Undersong, New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1993.


Seminar 2 (January) online

On Anzuldua’s Borderland/La Frontera

In this second seminar, we pursue our collective study of the intersectionalies and futures of solidarity. We explored an initial framing of Anzuldua, inviting initial impressions, reviewing the questions students have posted on the Riseup Pad.

Guest Interlocutor: Dr. Ali Lara

For our discussion of Gloria Anzuldua's text La Frontera, and its impact on decolonial studies, we will be joined by Dr. Ali Lara. Ali is a brilliant social psychologist, who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. Of Aztec ancestry, Dr. Lara writes on decolonisation and the body. His recently published book entitled Digesting Reality is a wide ranging study of subjectivity, affect, and food. Some of his publications can be found here: https://repository.uel.ac.uk

First Half of Seminar: ASR's Questions on Anzuldua:

1. What is Anzuldua's definition of 'borderlands' - Napantla? See first para of the Preface; p.11, ; how does it feed into her sense as a Chicana lesbian?

2. What does GA mean by 'my existence' (para 4, Preface)? What does this have to do with standpoint epistemology? What is the distinction between life and experience in Borderlands/La Frontera?

3. What does GA mean by 'switching "codes"' (last para of Preface)? How does language function in Borderlands/La Frontera? See How to Tame a Wild Tongue, ch. 5 pp. 53 -55; Chicano Spanish: 57.

4. What is the role of the 'homeland' (Aztlan) in Borderlands/La Frontera? How does the 'land' and the 'nation' function in Anzuldua's text (see page 7-9)? The problem of natality. pp. 1-3, 29.

5. What is GA's critique of 'whiteness'? How does it function, what roles does it play in her text/theory/aesthetics/poetry? pp. 4, 6, Wharton's racist poem on pg. 7; We Call Them Greasers, p. 134.

6. What is GA's definition of mestizaje ? pp. 5 What role does this concept play in Anzuldua's thought? Transforming binary thinking: Cf p. 80.

7. How does blackness and black people appear in GA's text? What is the relation of blackness to mestizaje ? p. 6.

8. What is Anzuldua's critique of American settler colonialism? p. 10.

9. In what way is La mojada, la mujer indocumentada 'doubly threatened' pp. 12, 22.

10. What is the relation of culture to power for GA? p. 16.

11. How did GA become 'class mobile'? p. 17.

12. What is the myth of La Chingada and how does it function in GA's Borderlands? p. 34.

13. How does GA define queerness? pp. 19, 27, 84.

14. What does GA mean by 'intimate terrorism'? p. 20.

15. What is the role of symbolism (the Serpent, Coatlicue, the toad eg) and metaphor in GA's Borderlands? pp. 26, 34, 47, 66, 69, 72.

16. What is the importance of the Spirit's presence in GA's Borderlands? pp. 36, 42, 73.

17. What does Anzuldua mean by this statement: La facultad is the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to see the deep structure below the surface. Decolonising Attention

18. What does GA mean by oposicion e insurreccion? p. 51.

Second Half of Seminar:

1. What does GA mean by 'copping out'? pp. 62-63.

2. In what way is 'writing a sensuous act'? pp. 71, 75.

3. What does GA mean by a 'New Consciousness'? p. 77.

4. Why is a tolerance for ambiguity important for GA? p. 79.

We will then launch into a Discussion of Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference by Olúfémi O. Táíwò. This second set of two texts (podcast and essay) is aimed to get us thinking about solidarity as it plays itself out, or doesn’t in the DAI seminars


Anzuldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999.

Táíwò, Olúfémi O. "Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference." The Philosopher 108, no. 4 (2020) https://www.thephilosopher1923.org/essay-taiwo.


Seminar 1 (November) in Oldebroek

A note on the Vibe of this Seminar, which is on the intersections between postcolonial theory, decolonising, and Afropessimism.

Please keep the following foremost in mind: All these issues, dynamics, and power relations are lived by people in different ways: As a queer male South Asian, born in India, raised as a “model minority” immigrant in the USA and as a postcolonial hangover in the UK, I am not positioned nor have the same psychological biography than you do. This does not mean I am more or less oppressed than you (who are also heterogeneous), but that I speak from the shifting contexts of these intersecting histories. When I speak I do not “represent” all South Asians, nor all queer folk nor all immigrants.

It is from this place of embodied knowledge, acknowledging our common and singular struggles as well as our various and contextual privileges, that I send this call to you: The aims of this seminar is to understand the future of solidarity, as we live, survive and care for each other in the unfolding presents of this seminar, let us ground our study in this potentiality and possibility of solidarity between us. The politics of authenticity (“Am I an authentic Indian?”), what I will refer to as a narrow identity politics, can produce very painful encounters, mired in the sad passions. Please, if you do believe that you are authentically this or that, be mindful that others sitting next to you perhaps may have in fact been excluded from belonging to that authentic identity by dynamics such as sexual, gender, cultural, class, racial, neuro-normal violence.

So please: Welcome! Let us move forward together in an unpredictable but care-ful experimentation in solidarity and liberatory pedagogy.


Wilderson, Frank B.. Afro-Pessimism. New York: W. W. Norton, 2020. Chapters 1, 5, 7, and Epilogue.

Hartman, S. V. Scenes of subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth-century America. London: Oxford University Press, 1997. Introduction.

McCarthy, J. Review of ‘Afropessimism’.” Los Angeles Review of Books. July 20, 2020. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/on-afropessimism/

Olaloku-Teriba, A. Afro-Pessimism and the (Un)logic of Anti-blackness. Historical Materialism 26, nr. 2 (2018): 96-122.

additional reading:

Marriott, David. “Corpsing; or, The Matter of Black Life.” Cultural Critique 94 (2016): 32–64.

Robinson, Cedric J. . Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: Univ of North Carolina Press: 2000.

Sexton, Jared. “People-of-Color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery.” Social Text 28 no. 2 (2010): 31–56.

Sexton, Jared. “Ante-Anti-Blackness: Afterthoughts.” Lateral 1, no. 1 (2012).

Warren, Calvin L.. Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism and Emancipation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.