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Animacy Matters: Animating Black and Brown Liberation in Artistic Counterpublics


Following Jane Bennett and Mel Y. Chen’s theoretical interventions regarding “levels of aliveness,” cultural production, animacy hierarchies and racial mattering, this study explores how twentieth and twenty-first century American literature can function as an emancipatory repository for African American and Latina/o embodied racialized subjects. The methodology involves close readings and theoretical interventions informed by Bennett, Chen, Gloria Anzaldúa, Bruno Latours, Michel Foucault, Paulo Freire and Erica R. Edwards, while investigating how art-tethered counterpublics can help resist the hegemonic forces of neoliberalism on the African American and Latina/o communities. Through the aforementioned methodology, Animacy Matters interrogates the following questions: Can twentieth and twenty-first century American literature, specifically, function as a source of effective liberatory strategies for Black and Brown folk operated on in the sovereign sphere? What theoretical interventions, and practical applications, need to be animated in order that strategies found in literary-based cultural production can positively influence Black and Brown material conditions and mobilize their liberatory action “off the page”? How can art-based counterpublics, and the people who inhabit them, animate Black and Brown liberatory thought and action? Ultimately, in this present historical moment when racialized bodies are increasingly under violent attack by the State and the need is ardent for alternative solutions, this study affirms and seeks to build on Erica R. Edwards contention that “Literature is a repository for counter stories and alternative visions… narrative is a dialogic site for reimagining possibilities.”

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