The rapid passage from the pandemic to the BLM protests, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, staged a confrontation between the racialized politics of public health and police death in the US and across the world. The disproportionate deaths of Black and ethnic peoples in the grip of the virus, and at the hands of the police, have been largely attributed to the long history of systemic racism prevalent, without adequate reform or repair, across state institutions. The BLM protests introduce a new understanding of racial injustice and the temporality violence -and resistance- that is as traumatic as it is systemic – and although the two are related, they have different modalities of affect, agency, and antagonism. Systemic racism is often given a numerical or statistical reality -the danger to life- whereas traumatic racism is an ongoing, iterative, contingent danger to living itself. The temporality of ‘traumatic’ racism is more sudden than systemic, more precarious than predictable, more individuated than institutionalized, more street-side than court-side. “Look a Negro….!” Fanon’s foundational narrative of the psycho-affective drama of racial assault is, in Homi K. Bhabha’s view, an instance of traumatic racism which, the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, say is a form of racism that happens not everywhere but anywhere, today in Boston but not tomorrow in Chicago…… This lecture will explore the dynamic relations between systemic and traumatic racism by drawing on politics, poetics, and psychoanalysis.
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