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New York University Press
HONORABLE MENTION, HARRY SHAW AND KATRINA HAZZARD-DONALD AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING WORK IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE STUDIES, GIVEN BY THE POP CULTURE ASSOCIATION
A view of transatlantic slavery's afterlife and modern Blackness through the lens of age
Although more than fifty years apart, the murders of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin share a commonality: Black children are not seen as children. Time and time again, excuses for police brutality and aggression--particularly against Black children-- concern the victim "appearing" as a threat. But why and how is the perceived "appearance" of Black persons so completely separated from common perceptions of age and time? Black Age: Oceanic Lifespans and the Time of Black Life
posits age, life stages, and lifespans as a central lens through which to view Blackness, particularly with regard to the history of transatlantic slavery. Focusing on Black literary culture of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Habiba Ibrahim examines how the history of transatlantic slavery and the constitution of modern Blackness has been reimagined through the embodiment of age. She argues that Black age--through nearly four centuries of subjugation-- has become contingent, malleable, and suited for the needs of enslavement. As a result, rather than the number of years lived or a developmental life stage, Black age came to signify exchange value, historical under-development, timelessness, and other fantasies borne out of Black exclusion from the human.
Ibrahim asks: What constitutes a normative timeline of maturation for Black girls when "all the women"--all the canonically feminized adults--"are white"? How does a "slave" become a "man" when adulthood is foreclosed to Black subjects of any gender? Black Age
tracks the struggle between the abuses of Black exclusion from Western humanism and the reclamation of non-normative Black life, arguing that, if some of us are brave, it is because we dare to live lives considered incomprehensible within a schema of "human time."
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