November 2011 Archives

Professor Onishi's talk

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In today's talk "Abbey Lincoln's Japan: Slave Art in the Creation of 1973 Albums," Professor Yuichiro Onishi talks about how the enslaved experiences engender values to speak and to resist. He quotes Marx "To be sensuous is to suffer. ... Passion is the essential force of man energetically bent on its objects" to argue that Lincoln uses the realm of sensuality to recreate values therefore reestablishing the erased histories and searching for non-normative "africanity." Like Marx, Lincoln transforms passivity into activity, suffering into striving or willing. While I agree that it is of great importance to rewrite history this way, I want to further concern the efficiency of it.

Professor Onishi also talks about Lincoln's attempt to search for non-heteronormative racial formations through polygamy and to present black masculinity/femininity in ways that are not scribed to white heteronormativity. For Lincoln, polygamy is about inclusion other than exclusion. It also links to her idea of alliance, which she thinks "to be human" should be the fundamental concern. During the Q&A section, Professor Amy Kaminsky brings up an interesting question. Amy points out the difference between "heterosexuality as normative" and "the normative ways of doing heterosexuality." Amy suggests that there is space to read Lincoln's art and interview as queer and this queerness needs to be further explored and articulated. I think it is very important, as Amy suggests, to consider the usage of heteronormativity carefully. I also think the idea of what is considered as "queerness" is to disturb the normative "whiteness" very intriguing, especially the idea of sensual art as a non-heteronormative way of knowing besides speaking.

I wish Professor Onishi could make more connection between Lincoln's art and Japan to concern the different processes of racialization therefore resisting strategies. It seems to me that he paints the picture of a utopian Japan during the post-war economic booming and views Japan as this background for Lincoln's art production without further interrogating the African-Japan solidarity.

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