“After 20+ years of teaching, I’ve abandoned the obligatory final paper in favor of what I am convinced is a much more generative culminating assignment: a glossary. As a feminist theorist of black visuality, I’m deeply invested in teaching students to define their terms with rigor and precision. It is a commitment that manifests itself in the form of a pedagogical refrain I utter at least once (though often repeatedly) in each and every class. By the end of the semester, my students often zealously parrot it back to me with a welcome combination of conviction and humor: ‘define your terms!’ In keeping with this thoroughly ingrained idiom, my own writing has become characteristically peppered with definitions that epigraphically map the meandering rhythm of my thoughts.
Paying tribute to a particularly inspired group of students I had the pleasure of teaching this semester, this blog joins them in a similarly glossarial undertaking. The posts that follow over the next eight weeks seek to define a series of keywords that I find crucial to thinking with, through, and alongside contemporary articulations of black visuality. They are terms that refuse traditional distinctions among the different sensory registers often assumed to structure the modalities of expression typically assigned to sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Rather, this glossary ruminates on the frequencies of black visuality and how black visuality registers sonically, haptically, and affectively. My goal is to articulate a vocabulary that enables a more robust dialogue around black visuality – a dialogue that does not reduce this concept to a collection of objects or artists, but engages it as a complex practice of entanglement, implication and aspiration.”