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Black Woman at the Podium: The Ecstasy and Noise of Kathleen Collins’ “Losing Ground”

March 7, 2024 at 4:00pm6:00pm EST

Hall of Languages

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Zakiyyah Jackson (University of Southern California)

This talk thinks with Kathleen Collins’ groundbreaking 1982 film, Losing Ground, and theses on aesthetics by Sylvia Wynter, Audre Lorde, Aime Césaire and Jacques Derrida. Rather than cast the problem of representation in the familiar terms of “invisibility” or “misrepresentation,” the problem is that of function. “Black womanhood,” as selfcancellation, grounds representation: a necessary administrative and distributive function for the vertical arrangement of sexual differences in both the history of Western philosophy and cinema. This problem-space is burdened with organizing the modern terms of the conceptualization and the representational legibility of sex/gender and sexuality. Philosophy and cinema are both pedagogical in that they dictate inscription, inform, and delimit future signifying possibilities and challenges to the knowledges they project. This talk examines how Collins’ film, its mise-en-scène and the apparatus’s grid of intelligibility, registers the paradoxical force of ‘black womanhood’ en abyme as both the condition of possibility for the reigning order and the “silenced ground” of said order: one that produces foreclosed claims as out of order and their irruptive potential a noisy excess.

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World.

Sponsors: Departments of Religion, African American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Biology, Sociology, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition, Arts and Music History, Philosophy, Languages, Literatures, and linguistics, Anthropology, Communication and Rhetorical Studies, School of Education; Syracuse Humanities Center; ASPI; Office of the Associate Provost of Strategic Affairs; Office of Diversity and Inclusion

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This event was first published on July 11, 2023 and last updated on March 5, 2024.

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