Dr. Zakiyyah Jackson
Organs of War: Measurement and Ecologies of Dematerialization in the Art of Wangechi Mutu
This talk concerns Wangechi Mutu’s critical artistic engagement with the racialization of biological reproductive systems and its somatic effects. Departing from an exclusive focus on structure, whether it be that of the double-helix or scaled up to the symbolic order, I argue that black female sex(uality) and reproduction are better understood via a framework of emergence and within the context of iterative, intra-active multiscalar systems—biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural. Mutu’s Histology of the Different Classes of Uterine Tumors reveals the stakes of this intra-activity as it pertains to the semio-material history of “the black female body,” reproductive function, and sex(uality) as linchpin and opposable limit of “the human” in scientific taxonomies and medical science -- particularly that of Carl Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae and Ernst Haeckel’s highly aesthetic approach to evolutionary theory. Mutu’s art provides a constructive reorientation of the theorization of race that reframes a Kantian linear teleological drama of subjects and objects into an intra-active process with indeterminate feedback loops.
Dr. Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. Her research explores the literary and figurative aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature, film, and visual art with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Professor Jackson is at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex-Gender.” Jackson’s work has appeared in Feminist Studies, e-flux, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience.
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