The black homunculus: toward a grammar of black experience




McDonald, Domonic Brian

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Hortense Spillers is renowned for her contributions to the canon of black thought which prefigure contemporary trends in Afro-pessimism. Specifically, her concern with developing a new grammar through which to articulate the experiences of black folks is considered here as imperative to the study of black ontology because of the vexed relationship between black folks and the liberal, humanist grammars endemic to the social sciences and humanities. With particular reference to the work of Giorgio Agamben, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Henry Louis Gates, I develop a linguistic account that justifies Spillers concern for an improvised grammar. I then make my own contributions to this intellectual project by offering the alchemical homunculus, or “little person”, as an allegory for the black body that apprehends the concerns of Spillers, Alexander Weheliye and Zakkiyah Jackson with the process by which black flesh is physically molded into black bodies through the exercise of violence onto black folks with impunity. This account offers an aesthetic principle in which perceptions about black folks result in an exaggerated perception of black physiology that parallels social anxieties around black folks’ behaviour and underly the violent policing of black flesh in a process that culminates in the composition of black bodies, contorted into a form that resembles human bodies but with few of the attendant entitlements that this form has come to be associated with within the modern psyche.



afro-pessimism, blackness, african diaspora, black diaspora, posthumanism, flesh, black linguistics, grotesque, afrofuturism, afro-futurism, black experience