“What if school, as we used it on a daily basis, signaled not the name of a process or institution through which we could be indoctrinated, not a structure through which social capital was grasped and policed, but something more organic, like a scale of care. What if school was the scale at which we could care for each other and move together. In my view, at this moment in history, that is really what we need to learn most urgently.”
–Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals
“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.”
In summary, rather than learning by replicating the performance of others or by acquiring knowledge transmitted in instruction, we suggest that learning occurs through centripetal participation in the learning curriculum of the ambient community. Because the place of knowledge is within a community of practice, questions of learning must be addressed within the developmental cycles of that community, a recommendation which creates a diagnostic tool for distinguishing among communities of practice.