Cover Art: Rayelle Gardner
Black Privacy collects reflections on, provocations around, demands for, acute analyses of, and uncertain futures for Black privacy in the face of anti-Black violence, surveillance, and hypervisibility. This special issue interrogates the history of Black privacy in its impossible antebellum and Jim Crow forms, its present urgency in the face of spectacular visibility, and the possibilities for futures of Black privacy that still allow for political expression.
From the stunning cover of the issue by Rayelle Gardner, Black Privacy announces its subject as the rearrangement of methods and representations of Black life. This disordering insists on revealing the mechanisms of white supremacist capture but not limiting Black study to those technologies of violence. In the powerhouse opening roundtable, four scholars of Black feminist study engage Angela Davis’s 1971 TBS essay, “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves,” articulating new “fictititous cliches” that append to the study of Black women under enslavement, particularly around their sexuality. Sarah Haley, Shoniqua Roach, Emily Owens, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor write from the current explosion of work around Black women’s history even as they push the field on its continued reliance on masculinized resistance. Instead, the forum is a forceful articulation of Black femme, feminine, and feminist study of the history of Black privacy.
The questions of the issue continue on the (im)possibility of Black privacy, historically, politically, aesthetically. Christen Smith’s timely reflection on anthropological practices and global state violence against Black women focuses particularly in and near the domestic space/home (linking back to Roach’s piece in the forum). After that, Petal Samuel’s article takes us to an analysis of privacy as a (white) commodity and as a material experience in the contemporary world that relies on Black labor and the denial of Black life for its possibility.
The next two pieces are in deep conversation with each other– Roger Reeves’s provocative call against Black Twitter talk as politics, and Kevin Quashie’s unplanned for “response,” an in-depth detailing of how Black poetry can aesthetically reveal experiences of anti-Blackness while maintaining a critical privacy for emotional survival at the same time. Deirdre Cooper Owens then returns to the genealogical questions of the opening forum with a reflective essay on the enduring uncertainties of Black history and Black privacy, arcing toward the possibilities of claiming elemental, cellular life for blackness and its future articulations.
Finally, we end on an urgent, post-Covid conversation between aliyyah abdur-rahman and Simone Browne, each contemporary luminaries in the fields of Black privacy. Speaking across the humanities and social sciences, abdur-rahman and Browne question the material global reach of technology studies, of the justice brought and undone by the technological capture of Black death, and of the means of refusal– through art, faith, and sartorial practices– offered by Black women against the spectacular era of 2020. Altogether, this spread of work mines history, anthropology, Black feminist studies, sonic studies, diaspora studies, social media studies, and literary theory to ground us in crucial questions about the past and futures of Black privacy.
– Shoniqua Roach and Samantha Pinto
For a limited time, access the intro and “Confinement, Interiority, Black Feminist Study: A Forum on Davis’s “Reflections” at 50,” by Sarah Haley, Shoniqua Roach, Emily Owens, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor for free.
Subscribe to our 51st volume here. Personal subscriptions are $44 USD. Volume 51 includes the above issue, plus Caribbean Global Movements, and more.
In our 2022 volume, keep an eye out for Post-Soul Afro-Latinidades, Black Archival Practice, Black Religions in the Digital Age, and more. CFPs for the first three 2022 issues listed here while open.