Aliyyah I. Abdur-Rahman is Associate Professor of English, African and Afro-American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. A two-time winner of the Darwin T. Turner Award for Best Essay of the Year in African American Review, she has been awarded fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the American Association of University Women, the Mellon Foundation, the W.E.B Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, and the JFK Institute at the Freie Universität, Berlin.
Her first book, Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race, was published by Duke University Press in 2012. She is currently editing a volume on transatlantic African American literature and culture to be published as part of the series, African American Literature in Transition, 1750-2015, forthcoming by Cambridge University Press. She is also writing her second book, provisionally titled Millennial Style: The Politics of Experiment in Contemporary African Diasporic Culture.
The Politics of Experiment in
Contemporary African Diasporic Culture
My research investigates the relationship between social abjection and literary abstraction in contemporary African Diasporic cultural production. I proceed from the contention that abstractionist modes convey the failed discursive promise of black representation in historical, political, and institutional terms. I attend, therefore, to textual practices (narrative and graphic) of disintegration and recombinant assembly, of gathering and arranging remains by craft, to open pathways to as-yet unrealized and as-yet unimagined futures. Foregrounding textual innovation, my work demonstrates how contemporary black writers politicize literary form by refusing to stabilize it as externally referential or internally coherent.
It is within the ruptured and reformulated semantic system of experimental expressive practice, I argue, that subaltern subjectivities might be made to appear anew. Recognizing the ways in which loss gives rise to new modes of capacitation, political agency, and pleasure, this research illustrates ultimately how abstractionist aesthetic modes constitute a queer modality of expression that registers—in contemporary narratives of everyday (black) life—the ineffable, paradoxical entwinement of the catastrophic and the ecstatic.