March 31: Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

March 31: Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

Against Criticism: Notes on Decipherment and the Force of Art

March 31, 2022 12-1pm ET via Zoom

Portrait of Sylvia Wynter
Portrait of Sylvia Wynter

This presentation investigates the relationship between science and aesthetics. The focal points are two articles by the highly-influential Jamaican-Cuban literary critic and philosopher of the Americas, Sylvia Wynter: “Rethinking ‘Aesthetics’: Notes Toward a Deciphering Practice” and “Towards the Sociogenic Principle: Fanon, Identity, the Puzzle of Conscious Experience, and What It Is Like to be ‘Black.'” I will introduce Wynter’s decipherment as an anti-formalism and consider to what extent it offers a critical challenge to what this presentation argues are underexamined and troubling continuities between the culture of literary, film, and art criticism and the cult(ure) of the gene in the biological sciences and biocentrism.

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World: winner of the Harry Levin First Book Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Award from the National Women’s Studies Association, the Lamda Literary Book Award for LGBTQ Studies and is featured in Art Forum magazine’s “Best of 2021” issue. Her research explores the literary and figurative aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature, film, and visual art with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Professor Jackson is at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex/Gender.” The project provides a critique of biocentrism (or biological reductionism and determinism) and elucidates the indistinction of sex/gender and race. It argues that antiblackness constitutes the bedrock of modern Western logics of sex/gender, in science and philosophy, and meditates on the transfiguring potentialities of blackness. Jackson’s work has appeared in scholarly journals such as Feminist Studies, e-flux, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience in addition to art exhibition catalogues for the Whitney Museum, Hammer Museum, and The Studio of Harlem. She has work forthcoming in Diacritics. Her articles can be found on her website: zakiyyahimanjackson.com.