performance and post-identity politics

I have been asking myself the same question for two years now: “How is identity performed?” I guess the word perform here makes identity seem like a sort of role, or mask, insofar that is not necessarily lived, which can be seen as the operative opposite of performance. Nonetheless, I think the word perform has specific uses, primarily when we are dealing with often homogenous understandings of our identities, commonly produced and propagated through consumable and shareable media. It is the desire to perform identity, as oppose to living it, which makes cultural politics and coalition-building so difficult, for the means by which identity is interpreted and realized is often determined at the axes of political cultures. I will attempt in this post (my first post in a while about race!) to explain what I mean.

Swarthmore’s Black community is relatively small, comprised really of concentric and/or adjacent rings of friend groups. I suppose the entire community itself is one cluster, with a few outliers who have decided, for some reason or another, to completely disassociate or limit their contact with other Black students. This, however, does not delegitimize their experiences as Black people at Swarthmore, or as Black people in general. These students, who have their own lives, have their own perspectives wrought by their own experiences, have their own crucibles of existence in which their identities were forged, tried and tested, are free to come and go from the community, or to completely disengage from it, and this do not mean they are any less Black, that they bear a self-hatred towards their Black skin or their Black forbearers, that they do not hate micro-  or macroaggressive racism any less than the community insiders do. Those who belong to SASS, Swarthmore’s BSU, are not legitimized in their blackness, neither are individuals in SASA, the African student group, or SOCA, the Caribbean student group, or anyone who frequents the Black Cultural Center, or students majoring in Black studies, or students who attend summer research programs at the Schomburg Center, etc. Nonetheless, we were always trying to answer the question of “why do they isolate themselves?” wondering what it was about our community which makes it unwelcoming to these students. I will not try to list our conjectures, but it is a question I ask myself often as I attempt to conceptualize my own blackness.

But what is blackness? Is it cultural (eg: Africana culture; what does Africana even mean outside of a purely sociohistorical context in or relating to American (continental) slavery)? Is it biological (eg: pigmentation, hair texture, etc.)? Is it sociological (eg: race as social construct)? Or an uneven mix of all three? Even if we were to define blackness as a sort of lived experience, there are always exceptions, always outliers, which statistically we are prone to eschew as “those who do not belong,” but who nonetheless should always serve as the new margins from which we conceptualize a global, as opposed to exclusive, experience. It is also totalizing for me to give an inevitably faulty working definition for what blackness means, for my experience is not the universal experience, nor is/are the experience(s) of the person or cluster of people at the “center” of Swarthmore’s black student “solar system,” or those of any Black person. The way we experience, understand, internalize and engage with our blackness is different, for the paths of our lives as Black people take meandering paths and it is not the destination which makes us who we are, but the people we become along the way.

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an excerpt from my manuscript

I finished editing my manuscript this summer! I also finally switched over to my name-based domain name! Hooray for being productive!!

narcissure.com will be around for a while, and it will soon redirect you to this website, which will now be my blog & my personal site. Not sure what else will be on here, but stay posted! I haven’t given up on this little vlogging idea, although it’ll likely be small little interviews and not real vlogs.

In honor of finishing the first successful edit of my manuscript project,  Asunder, I’d like to share a section of it for you guys. Not that I haven’t gone through it with a fine-tooth comb yet, so there’ll likely be some little omissions or mistakes here and there. I will make sure to clear those out soon.

I would love to get some feedback on this project. This is far, far into the text, and I won’t give you any more information other than what’s available. If your interest is peaked and you’d like to be a test reader, feel free to drop a comment or hit me up on social media!

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ruminations

I began writing this post a week ago, and it was essentially done when I wrote it on Thursday. A week has gone by, and now I have more to think about and reflect upon. Unfortunately, this week has not been as blithe as last week was. Updates written today (July 6) are in red. 7/9: This must have been really confusing the first two days this was up, because I actually didn’t remember to highlight these sections in red in WordPress, although they’re in red in Word. Lol, my mistake. 

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Every night before I go to bed, a compulsion to check the door comes over me, typically before I brush my teeth. I go to my front door and check the locks, make sure it’s closed, and then go to the back door and do the same. I must do this, although I automatically lock the door behind me when I come inside or leave. Sometimes I do it twice, or three times.

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