Blog Post

Herman S. Gray's Presentation (Day 4)

Herman S. Gray is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Watching Race: Television and the Struggle for Blackness (1995) and Producing Jazz: Theresa Records, Case Study of Jazz Independent (1988).

Abby Smith

HG is concerned with logic of the digital age and the way it maps onto logic of differentiations.

What are the ways that African American cultural workers have engaged with physicality and digitality.

?Cultural memory is productive. It is not simply a matter of historical recovery. All processes of cultural memory are processes of making. They embed politics and cultural constructions of identity and social relations.?

Subject-making and cultural memory are interlinked with forms of belong and forms of cultural identity. We are constantly yoking together ways we belong, ways we locate ourselves.

Technologies are culturally and historically reproduced.

Afro-Futurists: Part of the narrative representation of this group is ?Last Angel of History,? a profile of range of artists and writers and cultural critics who think of the future through the past. Greg Tate, Alondra Nelson and others
?Afrofuturism, or afro-futurism, is an African diaspora subculture whose thinkers and artists see science, technology and science-fiction as means of exploring the black experience and finding new strategies to overcome oppression.??Wikipedia

Diasporic sense of longing that transcends nation and limited forms of identity. Hedge against idea of technology as simply means of accessing past. They are constructing new possibilities for diasporic new sense of identity and longing.

Use racial logic to unloose racial assumptions in the technology itself.
How to use Afro-logic to unlock racial assumptions. Same with George Perkins, Steve Coleman, and Pamela Z.

Works at level of recoding of practices.

Cautionary Tales: Dominant narratives about technology and memory pervade culture.
Tale #1: Consumer sovereignty.
Will convenience and access be the answer to our problems. Idea of consumer sovereignty constructs a kind of subject that already inscribes certain ideals of certain forms of capitalism. African American and Latino communities are sold this ideal as way to become ?successful? by plugging in. Narrative of consumer sovereignty is deeply inscribed in production of markets.
Long, long history of African American culture that begins in a notion of literacy. Think about Lee Scratch Perry, George Clinton: particular way of engaging with sound. Sun Ra too in 1950s with electric pianos and cosmologies.

Tale #2: Marriage of genetics and genealogies.
As if access to biogenetic material can recuperate a lost past, as if that ruptured past can somehow be ?repaired.? Skip Gates?s most recent PBS special . . . Can you jettison socially constructed and specific ways of talking about culture, race, belongings, and recuperation of lost past through genetics stripped of that social constructedness. There are forms of violation embedded in the cultural memory that can not be erased by DNA.
Troy Duster?s caution that same DNA offered to tie African Americans to sub-Saharan Africa is being offered to police as phenotypes for racial profiling. This is not starting with DNA but with adoption of ?folk categories of race and ethnicity.?

Tale #3: Production of the neoliberal subject.
Cultural politics also traffics in logic of difference and differentiation, and cultural politics that set out difference as the site for advocating different forms of belonging. Aggrieved groups fight for recognition of acknowledgment of differences that, in aggregate, then become the stereotypes of differentiation.


1 comment

This was a fascinating talk. Herman always seems to weave his way into the topic in a timely manner.