Affect, Anti-Blackness, BlackCrit, Fungibility, Neoliberalism


While scenes of incredible and troubling violence, such as that of Black children handcuffed or brutalized by school security officers, have sometimes been leveraged to highlight the anti-Blackness endemic in schools, Saidiya Hartman’s (1997) book Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America suggests that we must also attend to scenes in which terror can hardly be discerned to identify and unravel the subtle threads of anti-Blackness that pervade contemporary schooling. That is this paper’s aim: to look beyond the scenes of spectacular suffering and to locate the pervasiveness of anti-Blackness in the mundane routines of teaching and learning in schools.

To do so, we bring Hartman's work to bear on recent theories of racism as an affective phenomenon, that is, as a relational and emotional phenomenon, as felt encounters with material consequences (Ahmed, 2004; Tolia and Crang, 2010; Zembylas, 2015), to consider the relationships between teachers and students in schools and how these relationships produce and are produced through anti-Blackness, relationships that, while not explicitly violent, nevertheless reinforce Black subjugation. Hartman’s work locates three particular forms of technologies of affect that produce and are produced through anti-Blackness: empathic identification; paternal benevolence; and the shame-mongering of burdened individuality. We argue that these affective technologies also circulate in contemporary schools, albeit in forms that are uniquely modulated to both education and to the particularities of our officially antiracist, multicultural moment. We conclude by exploring the implications of these findings for teacher education.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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