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Lit & Lang Divisional Speaker

In her book Becoming Human, Jackson examines how the fraudulent representationalist claim that race is a material and visualizable fact of the body fueled empirical science and medicine writ large. She claims that representationalism is an imperialist racist rationale that drove a demand for a material basis of scientific evidence in general and was the engine of species designations in both humans and nonhumans. In this presentation, Jackson will centralize the determinant materializing role not only of "representation" but also of referentiality itself. In other words, rather than assess the empirical truth claims of this or that representation of black(ened) people or calculate the distance between a sign and putative referent, she is more concerned with an epistemologically prior question: under representationalism, what operations produce the assumption of reference and what role does presupposition play in the materialization of flesh?  Jackson will offer an analytic for interrogating what representationalism claims to do and will highlight the terror of representationalism and its politics, not of representation, but of materialization and dematerialization of the flesh. 

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (NYU Press, 2020). Her research explores the literary and figurative aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature and visual culture with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Jackson has published in Feminist Studies; Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Science; Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience; South Atlantic Quarterly (SAQ); e-flux; and twice in Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ). 

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