Is it possible to be human – socially and politically – in the wake of the plantation?
Part travelogue and part anthropological analysis, Tell My Horse chronicles Zora’s experiences in Jamaica and Haiti on two Guggenheim fellowships awarded in 1936 and 1937. I will discuss the two analytic trajectories that I feel are key to a contemporary reading of Tell My Horse. The first has to do with where Zora fits in relation to a broader emergent interest among Americans, and especially African-Americans, in the Caribbean region. Here, my concern is in where Zora’s TMH sits in relation to work by other Americans publishing travelogues outlining their assessments of the new empire growing up quickly around them. The second analytic trajectory has to do with the vitality she brings to folk practices, and her insistence on a view of black sociality as produced through the maintenance of life. My argument throughout is that Zora can offer us something about black life today, something about how death might be an ontological – and even hauntological – touchstone without being the definition of non-existence or absence.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Africana Studies and Research Center, the Department of Anthropology, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
Deborah A. Thomas is R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor of Anthropology and Graduate Chair at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, Interim Graduate Chair at the University of Pennsylvania.
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