My Project: A New Language of Abstraction

My project takes a magnifying glass to Part II: Homo Scientificus of Denise Ferriera Da Silva’s ‘Towards a Global Idea of Race’ by looking at how the figure of homo scientificus in Psychiatry exist antagonistically towards the Black and suicidal. In this sense, it is a work at the intersections of Madness studies, Science studies, and Black studies. It is Comparative Literature insofar as the literature basis which constitutes its expertise works to produce a Comparativist approach to the fields of critical psychiatry, critical neuroscience, continental and feminist philosophy of science, anthropology and Black studies. I use Fanonian psychoanalysis as a method of reading existential, literary, musical, and digital cases of Black and suicidal body-beings in order to illustrate how Black suicide constitutes an indecipherable grammar of suffering precisely because the Black remains the Anti-Human/Slave to this scientific humanism. Seminal text and chapters for my reading and understanding of Fanon will belong to Sylvia Wynter’s ‘Towards A Sociogenic Principle,’ and ‘Sambos and Minstrels,’ Frank Wilderson’s ‘The Narcissistic Slave’ chapter in Red, White and Black: Cinema and The Structure of US Antagonism, and David Marriott’s Whither Fanon.

For this reason, for example, ‘the science of the mind’ as a reflection on consciousness – either as political consciousness and/or biocentric consciousness – presents itself in my research as both a philosophical concern of mine as an entryway to thinking the limitations of (Black) political consciousness (as in Huey Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide) as well as Western biocentric models of consciousness in being able to think what Fanon’s sociogeny requires. With sociogeny, Fanon offers a psychoanalysis which sits these issues together such that any disciplinary apparatus which wishes to cohere itself upon naturalized divisions of naturalized disciplines in accordance to a demarcated logic of Bios/Nature on one side and Logos/Word on the other are themselves incoherent. Fanon’s understanding requires one to look beyond the egoic individual, beyond the biocentric/medicalized visions of dealing with the problem and problems of (Black) consciousness and towards the sociogenic principles of the society writ-large. Put differently, whereas the contemporary medical model of psychiatry tends to deal with consciousness off the basis of a purely phylogenetic theory (typically through providing medications), and the psychoanalytic model seeks to locate the issue somewhere within the individual’s embodiment of a transcendental internalization of unconscious drives, Fanon proposes a theory of the mind that necessitates a materialist psychiatry and an Afropessimist psychoanalysis. This materialist psychiatry is foundationally informed by a psychoanalytic intervention that looks towards the genome of society, or better yet, the sociogenic principles of our society in a way that forces one to confront a psyche that is cortico-visceral – both body and mind. This deconstruction of the gaps between psychic investment, somatic epidermalization and social orientation makes Fanon’s reading of the unconscious mind a reading which disavows any priority given to a priori unconscious (or conscious) drives or a priori biological determinations. Sylvia Wynter puts it best when she states, “they don’t want to go to the fundamental issue. Once he has said ontogeny-and-sociogeny, every discipline you’re practicing ceases to exist.”[i]

At the start of his Black Skin, White Masks Fanon states, “It is considered appropriate to preface a work on psychology with a methodology. We shall break with tradition. We leave methods to the botanist and mathematicians.”[i] I follow in the footsteps of Fanon in leaving methods to the botanist and mathematicians, and offer this as a work of Afropessimist psychology where Afropessimism threatens the ‘psyche’ (soul/spirit/mind) of psychology and the regime-of-truth of its order of knowledge by virtue of the anxiety of antagonism presented by the generally dishonored suicidal Slave. The category of ‘general dishonor’ as one of the three constituent elements of slavery will play a major role in this investigation. Orlando Patterson states that general dishonor articulates the way that the enslaved “were always persons who had been dishonored in a generalized way,” (Patterson, 10). He considers this to be the uniquely sociopsychological aspect of the Master-Slave dynamic. My interrogation of aesthetics in Kendrick Lamar and my reading of the case of Naika Venant are both colored by what ‘general dishonor’ as an ‘ocean of violence’ means for the analysis of Black suicide. This work serves to produce a reading of what operates as the ‘scientific unconscious’ (Warren, Ontological Terror, 115) of homo scientificus in the psychiatric study of Black suicide. Anti-Blackness as ‘an unconscious cultural structure, a grammar, a weltanschauung, a metaphysics that lives on well after, and despite, the destruction of metaphysics,” (Sexton, Affirmation in the Dark, 102) makes Black suicide unthinkable precisely in and through the unthinkability of Black humanity/ontology. Blackness as an ‘ontological terror’ to the category of the Human is a problem for Thought, and thus, there is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is Black suicide. Deciding whether or not ontological resistance is possible or impossible from within a structural position of “trial by death,”  becomes the question of Black suicide as a steal away to nothing, a loophole to no retreat, and a non-event of fugitivity. This project builds on Frank Wilderson’s Red, White and Black in ascertaining the failures of the explanatory power of Humanist discourse while urging and participating in the creation of ‘a new language of abstraction to explain this horror.’

[i] Greg Thomas and Sylvia Wynter, “PROUD FLESH Inter/Views: Sylvia Wynter,” ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness, no. 4 (2006): 3.

[i] Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, XVI.

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