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"Bad Mathematics: Black Experimental Poetry and Performance in 21st Century Diaspora"
  • Monday, April 3, 2023 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm

FBH Faculty Lounge & Zoom:

This dissertation argues that Black cultural producers wield analogies culled from math, physics, and material sciences in their creative work in an effort to radically deconstruct the formalizations – represented as laws, measures, and calculations – that define Blackness, humanness, and categories of difference. I engage Black feminist theorists who expose the ways that dominant approaches to matter and form, as determined by classic studies of philosophy, physics, and their underlying reliance on mathematics, are co-constitutive of the racial thinking that justifies total violence against Black peoples, and with it, total violence against all life forms rendered non-human. Building on these theorists, I examine how experimental poetry and performance manipulate theories, procedures, and phenomena from math, quantum physics and material science to reveal parameters of indeterminacy, cyclicality, and multiplicity. By violating the principle of exactitude that often defines these disciplines, I argue that these contemporary artists and writers bend calcified logics of modern thinking toward new perceptions of who we are and who we can be, in relation to our environments and each other. By attending to artists, poets, and theorists who reframe the lexicon of scientific reason, I explore contemporary, experimental Black cultural production as a rich site from which new configurations of thinking, knowing, and being emerge.

The defense will begin with a public presentation and Q&A at 2 pm. We will reconvene at 4 pm, after the committee portion of the defense, for a reception, where we'll toast the newly minted Dr. Amber Rose Johnson. Attendees are welcome to remain in the Faculty Lounge from 3 to 4 pm.

Supported by the Departments of English and Africana Studies.