The Hold

Fisherman Enslaved For 22 Years

Slave-Like Conditions On Fishing Vessels

“The logics of the slave ship and the hold instantiated Obama’s reiteration of that terrible calculus of the inability to “save every black life”: an awful arithmetic, a violence of abstraction. We positioned in the knowledge that we are living in the afterlives of slavery, sitting in the room of history, in a lived and undeclared state of emergency. The ground of compromise, the firmament, the access to freedom and democracy, littered with Black bodies. With the optic of the door of no return on our retina, we might envision, imagine, something else – something like what Joy James (2013) calls “a liberated zone” even though under siege. Across time and space the languages and apparatus of the hold and its violences multiply; so, too, the languages of beholding. In what ways might we enact a beholden-ness to each other, laterally? “Beholden: to hold by some tie of duty or obligation, to retain as a client or person in duty bound” (OED Online). This is what Spillers calls the intramural. How are we beholden to and beholders of each other in ways that change across time and place and space and yet remain? Beholden in the wake, as, at the very least, if we are lucky, an opportunity (back to the door) in our Black bodies to try to look, try to see.”

– Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being


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