Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is an associate professor of English at the University of Southern California. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. 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.
Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World was recently published by New York University Press in May 2020 as part of the Sexual Cultures series. Becoming Human argues that key African American, African, and Caribbean literary and visual texts generate conceptions of being and materiality that creatively disrupt a human-animal distinction that persistently reproduces the racial logics and orders of Western thought. These texts move beyond a critique of bestialization to generate new possibilities for rethinking ontology: our being, fleshly materiality, and the nature of what exists and what we can claim to know about existence. Jackson argues that the texts and artistic practices featured in Becoming Human generate alternative possibilities for reimaging (human) being because they neither rely on animal abjection to define the human, nor reestablish “human recognition” within liberal humanism as an antidote to racialization. Ultimately, Becoming Human reveals the pernicious peculiarity of reigning foundational conceptions of “the human” rooted in Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism and expressed in current multiculturalist alternatives. What emerges from this questioning is a generative, unruly sense of being/knowing/feeling existence.
Professor Jackson is at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex-Gender.” It argues that antiBlackness constitutes the bedrock of modern Western logics of sex-gender and meditates on how its terrorizing vertical orders might be toppled by the transfiguring potentialities of Blackness. Ultimately, the project provides a critique of biocentrism (or biological reductionism and determinism) and elucidates the indistinction of sex-gender and race.
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).
Title: “On the Materiality of Blackness.”
Abstract: This paper will offer a short meditation on black feminist approaches to the origin and materiality of blackness as well as introduce my own thinking on the topic.