By Dora Silva Santana and Russell M. Dembin
Video featuring M. Jacqui Alexander on the topic of crossing, among others:
Biography (adapted from thisissignified.com): M. Jacqui Alexander, former professor in the University of Toronto’s Women & Gender Studies Institute is a writer, teacher, creator, and founding director of the Tobago Center for the Study and Practice of Indigenous Spirituality. She is a devotee of the ancient African (diasporic) spiritual systems of Orisa, and a student of yoga and Vipassana meditation, having received sacred teachings in Nigeria, the Kongo, India, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and New York. Her work has centered on an expansive vision of social justice that is based in a commitment to freedom for all and to healing from the vestiges of imperialism, colonialism, and enslavement, particularly among populations dispossessed by the logics of capital and the pathologizing narratives of heterosexuality, gender, and nationalism. More recently she has focused on the sacred dimensions of experience, the significance of sacred subjectivity and the shape and meaning of Kongo cosmology in the Caribbean. Her publications include Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures (co-edited with Chandra Talpade Mohanty); Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray! Feminist Visions for a Just World (co-edited with Lisa Albrecht, Sharon Day and Mab Segrest); and Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory and the Sacred.
Alexander starts Pedagogies of Crossing by pointing out what she calls her “privilege to choose to live” within the Empire in war, the privilege of believing in the official story of security and the complicity of the academy in the “normativization of state terror.” The opposition to it, that is, the set of ways of knowing and being in counterpart to the empire is one of the meanings she gives to “Pedagogies.” Pedagogies would also constitute an archive, encompass transformative teaching relations, an “epistemic framework” to address the “itinerary of violence” in which militarization and heterosexualization play a major role. She focuses on pedagogies that stem from the Crossing, a metaphor that rests in the Middle Passage but is not “chattel or moveable property to be selectively owned by African’s descendants alone” (p.18). She states the Crossing is derived from her multifaceted engagement “with(in)” different genealogies of women of color feminisms and her relation with the sacred, which gives to the Crossing the meaning of “breaking through” “inherited divides” that permeates the “multiple operations of power, gendered and sexualized power that is simultaneously race and classed” (p.4) but not limited to the “borders of the nation-state.” She ends the introduction by calling to a work engaged with the dismantling of segregation, through an intersubjective solidarity, collective self-determination and accountability.
“Is Homosexulaity Un-African?”:
We were taken with Alexander’s discussion of the heterosexualization of nationalist movements. This video ties into that conversation of criminalization of queer bodies as part of the reenactment of the colonial discourse of the “native that cannot govern themselves,” thus needing law enforcement. It also relates to the hierarchical discourse of imperialism in which white gay movements from the West would need to “rescue” the “queer natives.” Since Alexander also says she poses one foot in the African Continent, we found this example relevant to her theorizing.
We were also struck by Alexander’s use of the term palimpsest (emphasis added, p. 90): “[Within the context of this book], time is neither vertically accumulated nor horizontally teleological. Nor is it simply a thing ordered by the mechanics of another, outside, thing—the clock.” She adds, later on that page, “The central idea is that of the palimpsest—a parchment that has been inscribed two or three times, the previous text having been imperfectly erased and remaining therefore still partly visible. This understanding of the imperfect erasure, hence visibility, of a ‘‘past’’ bears close analytic resemblance to Stuart Hall’s formulation that I used to signal the ways in which the new world order, inaugurated through the political economies of the 1991 Gulf War, ‘‘had already been inscribed in an earlier positioning.’”