The Black Shoals

Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 16 illustrations Published: August 2019

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Critical Ethnic Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies

In The Black Shoals Tiffany Lethabo King uses the shoal—an offshore geologic formation that is neither land nor sea—as metaphor, mode of critique, and methodology to theorize the encounter between Black studies and Native studies. King conceptualizes the shoal as a space where Black and Native literary traditions, politics, theory, critique, and art meet in productive, shifting, and contentious ways. These interactions, which often foreground Black and Native discourses of conquest and critiques of humanism, offer alternative insights into understanding how slavery, anti-Blackness, and Indigenous genocide structure white supremacy. Among texts and topics, King examines eighteenth-century British mappings of humanness, Nativeness, and Blackness; Black feminist depictions of Black and Native erotics; Black fungibility as a critique of discourses of labor exploitation; and Black art that rewrites conceptions of the human. In outlining the convergences and disjunctions between Black and Native thought and aesthetics, King identifies the potential to create new epistemologies, lines of critical inquiry, and creative practices.


"Tiffany Lethabo King's concept of the shoal breaks new ground for thinking through the relationships between Indigenous peoples and African Americans and genocide and slavery as well as how they have formed our contemporary politics. Her rigorous engagement with Black and Indigenous studies will create a better dialogue between the two fields." — Mishauna Goeman, author of Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations

“In this innovative contribution to both Black and Native studies, Tiffany Lethabo King dares to think the simultaneously distinct yet edgeless relationship between Blackness and Indigeneity. It's the geological formation of the shoal—that zone just offshore, neither land (often reductively linked to the Native) nor sea (often reductively linked to the Black)—that allows King to pull off this ethical project. Indeed, The Black Shoals is Black ethics, where the ethical emerges as that distinct, ever-developing gathering of Black and Native life under shared conditions of settler terror.” — J. Kameron Carter, Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University

"If I were teaching a grad seminar in the fall I would include both The Black Shoals by Tiffany Lethabo King and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman. I hope you will too." — Christina Sharpe, via Twitter

“King’s scholarship represents a masterful mix of precision and sensitivity in describing the historical Native anti-blackness, as well as the historical cooperation between Africans and the European settlers King identifies as ‘conquistador humans,’ in dispossessing Natives of their land.”

— Darryl Barthé, Ethnic and Racial Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tiffany Lethabo King is Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Georgia State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix
Acknowledgments  xvii
Introduction: The Black Shoals  1
1. Errant Grammars: Defacing the Ceremony  36
2. The Map (Settlement) and the Territory (The Incompleteness of Conquest)  74
3. At the Pores of the Plantation  111
4. Our Cherokee Uncles: Black and Native Erotics  141
5. A Ceremony for Sycorax  175
Epilogue: Of Water and Land  207
Notes  211
Bibliography  263
Index 277
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, Museum of African American History (MAAH) Stone Book Award

Winner, 2020 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize, presented by the American Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0636-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0505-6