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Posthuman theories encourage movement away from stuck categories that define bodies, knowledge, pasts, presents, and possible futures as static and bounded, toward a relationality that emphasizes how bodies, matter, time, and space overlap and diverge in compositions. In this poster, we invite viewers to participate in our experimental use of collage to teach racial literacy in relation to existing literacies and literacies which do not yet have a name.
While writers and artists may not call what they do posthuman or more than human, many of them have always used art to disrupt stable notions of race, memory, time, and space. We are influenced by the many engagements with the posthuman, even when not explicitly named. This project began in teacher education classrooms, in our efforts to move beyond neoliberal conceptions of multiculturalism that serve to reinforce whiteness, and as a result of our different embodied experiences of teaching post-Ferguson. We wonder, how can we cultivate in teachers-to-be a racial literacy that is more than condescending tolerance, assimilationist inclusion, and obstructionist multiculturalism?
In an attempt to answer this question, we take up interdisciplinary pedagogical moves that we call collage pedagogy, juxtapositions of text, image, film, and music that invite students to iteratively reconsider race and all that is in relation to race. We use texts such as Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Butler’s Lilith’s Brood alongside Kara Walker’s Silhouettes, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” and memes, poems, images, and sounds as provocations to begin conversations about Blackness, racism, and teaching. This kind of collaging puts texts and bodies in conversation to become unstuck from the dualisms that striate and confine our thinking (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), and it helps us theorize absences, potentials, and futures. We are compelled by a posthuman racial literacy that requires a forgetting of what we have learned all too well, freeing ourselves from the particular habits of mind and body that guide and stick our readings of the world and our place in it.
Here we focus specifically on how such a posthuman racial literacy allows us to read absence as a nonhuman actant (Bennett, 2010). Using collage to think and learn, we draw attention to that which is not present but communicates meaning as absence, like blank spaces in works of art or the deep, vibrating blue-black voids of Rothko’s Chapel paintings with absence and emptiness in relation to our reading of the world makes possible literacies not yet thought, which, we hope, better enable us to read the complexity of the world.
Tolerance and inclusion models of diversity have been exposed as mechanisms for enforced assimilation, and have been largely replaced by a state-mandated multiculturalism in which it is possible to pass as a social justice teacher-activist by abstaining from certain language and trafficking in certain cultural references. We argue that collage pedagogy moves teachers-to-be toward a posthuman racial literacy of interrupting habits, undermining commonsensical constructions, and resisting taken-for-granted binaries that ignore, dismiss, or deny the disciplined and schooled body.