Is it possible to be human – socially and politically – in the wake of the plantation?
Professor Deborah A. Thomas argues that Zora Neale Hurston 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.
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. Thomas will discuss the two analytic trajectories that 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. Where does Zora’s Tell My Horse sit 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.
Deborah A. Thomas is the author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica, and is co-editor of the volume Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Thomas is the Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association
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