Black Madness :: Mad Blackness

Book Pages: 176 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: June 2019

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Disability Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness Therí Alyce Pickens rethinks the relationship between Blackness and disability, unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive. Pickens shows how Black speculative and science fiction authors such as Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due craft new worlds that reimagine the intersection of Blackness and madness. These creative writer-theorists formulate new parameters for thinking through Blackness and madness. Pickens considers Butler's Fledgling as an archive of Black madness that demonstrates how race and ability shape subjectivity while constructing the building blocks for antiracist and anti-ableist futures. She examines how Hopkinson's Midnight Robber theorizes mad Blackness and how Due's African Immortals series contests dominant definitions of the human. The theorizations of race and disability that emerge from these works, Pickens demonstrates, challenge the paradigms of subjectivity that white supremacy and ableism enforce, thereby pointing to the potential for new forms of radical politics.


"This book presents a valuable contribution to several disciplines. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty." — T. N. Allen, Choice

"Black Madness :: Mad Blackness is what happens when you get to take the road less traveled with a professional driver or go deep into the weeds with an expert botanist. You may feel out of your depth, but you’re assured by the fact that your traveling companion is extremely knowledgeable. . . . Pickens has called us all outside to play, to think deeply and without eventuality, to consider Blackness and madness – dare I say –irreverently, and we are all the better for it." — Moya Bailey, Black Perspectives

“Pickens’s Black Madness :: Mad Blackness invites the reader to think about race and disability in Black American literature.... [It] invite[s] us to enter into what Pickens calls a ‘politics of curiosity,’ one that moves beyond dominant forms of mythmaking or the living nightmares of the carceral state, and to see the constellation of Black life, the impulse to rectify freedom and break the confines of mass incarceration.” — Edna Bonhomme, Public Books

“In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness, Therí Alyce Pickens offers a compelling provocation: we must begin to read 'more madly, more Blackly,' and we can find strategies for doing so in the work of Black speculative fiction. Pickens persuasively argues for the importance of new interpretive strategies in approaching race and disability, ones that trouble linearity, visibility, and the expectation of meaning and resistance. An important development in the folds of Black studies, disability studies, and literary criticism, Black Madness :: Mad Blackness demands reading practices that account for, are accountable to, and originate within Black madness and mad Blackness.” — Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip

“This book delivers on its promise. It opens disability studies and black studies to one another with generosity, humor, and the sharpest of wits. We have so relied upon certain quotidian paradigms that to challenge them in any way seems like an impossibility, but with rich readings of speculative fiction Therí Alyce Pickens reminds us that it is possible to find new theories for being together. Disability studies lost a fierce advocate for blackness when we lost Christopher Bell—it is clear that Pickens has continued that tradition of bold and insightful dialogue and even elevated it here.” — Sharon Patricia Holland, author of The Erotic Life of Racism


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Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Therí Alyce Pickens is the author of New Body Politics: Narrating Arab and Black Identity in the Contemporary United States, and editor of Arab American Aesthetics: Literature, Material Culture, Film, and Theatre.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface or About Face, Giving Face  ix
Introduction. What's Good?  1
Conversation 1. Making Black Madness  23
Conversation 2. A Mad Black Thang  50
Conversation 3. Abandoning the Human?  74
Conversation 4. Not Making Meaning, Not Making Since (The End of Time)  95
Notes  115
Bibliography  135
Index  149
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Honorable Mention, 2020 William Sanders Scarborough Prize, presented by the Modern Language Association

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