Category Archives: Theory Reading Group

Theory Group: In the Wake

Our first Theory Group meeting of the semester is rescheduled for 1pm Friday, February 14th in the English Library. Our focus for this meeting will be on Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being.

Here’s what the publisher has to say about Sharpe’s work:

In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the “orthography of the wake.” Activating multiple registers of “wake”—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of “the wake,” “the ship,” “the hold,” and “the weather,” Sharpe shows how the sign of the slave ship marks and haunts contemporary Black life in the diaspora and how the specter of the hold produces conditions of containment, regulation, and punishment, but also something in excess of them. In the weather, Sharpe situates anti-Blackness and white supremacy as the total climate that produces premature Black death as normative. Formulating the wake and “wake work” as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.

When I pitched reading this to the group, it was because the concept of the wake was coming up in different places. Not only in academic setting like one of the colloquia last semester, but also in a podcast discussing generational trauma in the new Watchmen tv series. So, whether you’re interesting in this for your scholarship or just your everyday media and life consumption, it should be a rewarding read.

Since this is a fairly short text, our original idea what to try and read all of it. But, if you can’t read the whole work, Chris F. has posted chapters 1 and 4 to the group’s Google site page (

Theory Group Meeting

Wow, two wonderful meetings in one afternoon? What luck!

Our first meeting of the Theory Group for the 2019-2020 academic year is this Friday, October 25, at 3pm, in the English Library (401A HL). We’ll be tackling the introduction and third chapter of Alexis Shotwell’s Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times. Not having read any of this book, might it be relevant to last season’s discoveries about the point system on The Good Place? Hmmm, something to think about.

Here is a brief blurb on the book from the publisher’s website:

In Against Purity, Alexis Shotwell proposes a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures. Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems. 

If that sounds interesting to you, why not join us to discuss this book on Friday? You can find the relevant excepts on the group’s Google site here. (If you’re already logged into Google, you might get an error when trying to access this site, you need to log in with your email address.)

If you’ve never been to the Theory Group, it is open to graduate students and faculty, though you shouldn’t be put off by the idea of faculty presence. It is fairly low stakes and a place to come, ask questions, and enjoy as much discussion as you want to. Even if you can only read a bit of the text, it is still interesting to sit in on the discussion (and even contribute!). It was originally conceptualized by Chrises Forster and Eng along with Wil and yours truly as a group where we could come together and discuss interesting recently published theoretical texts, both related and unrelated to our own academic interests. We run off of suggestions, so if Shotwell’s work doesn’t interest you but there is a text you’ve been wanting to tackle, you can always submit it as a suggestion and we’ll likely read it during a future meeting.