New Book Talk: Kevin E. Quashie, "Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being"




CSREA’s New Book series highlights new and notable work in the study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity from scholars both internal and external to Brown. The aim is to facilitate thought-provoking and critical engagement with emerging scholarship that better helps us to understand how we study, research, and engage with studies of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity.



In Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being, Kevin Quashie imagines a Black world in which one encounters Black being as it is rather than only as it exists in the shadow of anti-Black violence. As such, he makes a case for Black aliveness even in the face of the persistence of death in Black life and study. Centrally, Quashie theorizes aliveness through the aesthetics of poetry, reading poetic inhabitance in work by Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Toni Morrison, and Evie Shockley, among others, showing how their philosophical and creative thinking constitutes worldmaking. This worldmaking conceptualizes Blackness as capacious, relational beyond the normative terms of recognition—Blackness as a condition of oneness. Reading for poetic aliveness, then, becomes a means of exploring being rather than nonbeing and animates the ethical question “how to be.” In this way, Quashie offers a Black feminist philosophy of being, which is nothing less than a philosophy of the becoming of the Black world.



Kevin Quashie is a Professor in the Department of English at Brown University who teaches Black cultural and literary studies. He is the author or editor of four books, most recently The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being (Duke University Press, 2021). Black feminist/women's studies has long been central to Quashie's thinking about Blackness. He also writes and teaches on Black queer studies and on aesthetics.