978-0-8223-6270-8_601.pdf

How do we contend with images intended not to figure

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register forms of institutional accounting or state management? How do we contend with images intended not to figure black subjects, but to de- lineate instead differential or degraded forms of personhood or subjec- tion—images produced with the purpose of tracking, cataloging, and con- straining the movement of blacks in and out of diaspora? What are their technologies of capture and what are the stakes of the forms of accounting that engendered these archives? These questions of archival practice have fueled my thinking for a number of years. In the pages that follow, they captivate my imagination in ways that return me to the same intellectual juncture at which I left off in the writings that directly precede it. I ended my last book, Images Matters , with a childhood memory of my father’s quiet hum—the hum of a man mourning the loss of his wife. On the night of my mother’s funeral, surrounded by his entire family and all of
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4 IntroductIon his friends in our home, my father hummed my mother’s favorite Roberta Flack song. Swaying back and forth while his eleven- and thirteen-year- old daughters sang over the record, he hummed instead of crying. A hum can signify a multitude of things. A hum can be mournful; it can be pres- ence in absence or can take the form of a gritty moan in the foreground or a soothing massage in the background. It can celebrate, animate, or ac- company. It can also irritate, haunt, grate, or distract. On that indelible night in the basement of our home, my father hum- med in the face of the unsayability of words. Even now, the memory of my father’s quiet hum connects me to feelings of loss I cannot articulate in words, and it provokes in me a simultaneously overwhelming and un- speakable response. It is this exquisitely articulate modality of quiet— a sublimely expressive unsayability that exceeds both words, as well as what we associate with sound and utterance—that moves me toward a deeper understanding of the sonic frequencies of the quotidian practices of black communities. My aim in the chapters that follow is to animate the recalcitrant affects of quiet as an undervalued lower range of quo- tidian audibility. What is the relationship between quiet and the quotidian? Each term references something assumed to go unspoken or unsaid, unremarked, unrecognized, or overlooked. They name practices that are pervasive and ever-present yet occluded by their seeming absence or erasure in repe- tition, routine, or internalization. Yet the quotidian is not equivalent to passive everyday acts, and quiet is not an absence of articulation or utter- ance. Quiet is a modality that surrounds and infuses sound with impact and affect, which creates the possibility for it to register as meaningful. At the same time, the quotidian must be understood as a practice rather than an act/ion. It is a practice honed by the dispossessed in the struggle to create possibility within the constraints of everyday life. For blacks in diaspora, both quiet and the quotidian are mobilized as everyday prac- tices of refusal.
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