Out of Breath: The Communicative Politics of Racialized Breathing

Sponsor: Critical and Cultural Studies Division
Fri, 11/18: 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM CST
Room: Grand Ballroom C - 5th Floor 
This session will be live streamed and recorded for viewing after the convention until December 31, 2022.

Amidst the COVID-19 virus' ongoing threat to literal breathing, BLM protestors' prolonged chanting of "I can't breathe" against systemic anti-Blackness, and everyday racialized violence, this session asks: how does a focus on breath/asphyxia reveal communicative dynamics of contemporary political, legal, and popular discourse? The session builds on communication scholarship exploring racialized breathing, asphyxia, and stoppage (Houdek and Ore 2021; Houdek 2022; Ore 2019; Flores 2020) to consider frameworks for apprehending and thinking outside such violence.


E. Chebrolu, University of Pittsburgh  - Contact Me


E. Chebrolu, University of Pittsburgh  - Contact Me


Critical and Cultural Studies Division
NCA First Vice President


'All house is road': Watch We Moving Breathless with Pandemic Soca

To "move breathless" in Trini lingo might communicate action without regard for construct, convention, decorum, or safety. Typically, such movement provokes surprise, fear, or shock through its contextual non-normativity. This paper mobilizes that rhetorical frame in reading soca music released during the COVID-19 pandemic as expressive of what Édouard Glissant describes of Caribbean languaging as creolization. For the Martiniquais philosopher, Caribbean creole offers "a new and original dimension allowing each person to be there and elsewhere, rooted and open, lost in the mountains and free beneath the sea, in harmony and in errantry" (Glissant 2010, 34). Para- lockdown, constraint, and the challenge of breathing as human via Euro-Western genres/logics, I offer some t(h)inking alongside soca artist Bunji Garlin's 2021 track "All House Is Road" to conjure Black "object-being performance," gesturing with "de tings about Blackness," moving otherwise (Maraj 2020). 


Louis Maraj, University of British Columbia  - Contact Me

Black Speech, Black Breath, and the End of the World: Times of Suffocation and the Fugitive Temporal Horizon

Following Black activists and scholars in Black Studies, Black feminist thought, and Afropessimism, this essay responds to the call to approach "antiblackness without compromise" (Vargas) through examining the suffocating atmospheres of antiblackness across three separate contexts that choke Black speech/breath/being/futurity: the state's use of teargas as "atmosterror" (Niewenhuis; Sloterdijk); environmental racism which manifests a respiratory violence in the Black body; and structural gaslighting (Davis & Ernst) that suffocates Black ways of knowing/speaking. If, as Fanon attests, antiblackness runs so deep that the only recourse is to bring about the "end of the world" (as we know it), then it is imperative to challenge universal assumptions that everyone has equal access to the air and a breathable life and re/consider the radical possibilities of Black breath and Black speech and how they might rupture the ontic-epistemic order on some fugitive temporal horizon. 


Matthew Houdek, Rochester Institute of Technology  - Contact Me

Suffocating Solidarity: On Carceral Violence and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

Public outcry amidst the 2021 Atlanta-area shooting targeting Asian American women prompted the passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Though celebrated as racially progressive, the bill expanded a carceral regime that criminalizes both Black and Southeast Asian populations. Many of the same Asian American organizations that expressed solidarity and chanted "I can't breathe" with Black Lives Matter protesters now celebrated a bill that increased police resources. This paper examines these dynamics by considering the legislation and Asian American organizations that supported it. Engaging with scholarship on liberal racism (Ahmed, 2012; Rodríguez, 2020), Asian American racialization (Cheng, 2018; Pham, 2015) and anti-Blackness (Sharpe 2016; Jackson, 2020), I argue that the bill and its proponents reveal a suffocating racial discourse that constrains anti-Asian racism to individualized "hate" rather than a larger, interconnected system of violence. I also contend these tensions highlight how supposedly anti-racist, "pro-Asian" discourses can cloak and perpetuate anti-Blackness. 


Corinne Mitsuye Sugino, Gonzaga University  - Contact Me

The First Black Presidency Did Not Take Place

Riffing on Jean Baudrillard's "The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991)," this paper argues that the Obama administration was not a presidency but rather a Trojan horse disguised as a presidency. Rather than representing a post racial America, the Obama administration was a simulacrum meant to co-opt and suffocate Black radical discourse. This reading explores the inter(con)texts (Maraj 2020) between Baudrillard's discussion of simulacra and simulation (1981) and Frantz Fanon's ({1952} 2008) notion of sociogeny to consider how public symbols of racial progress are meant to stifle emerging unrest by concealing on-going anti-Black violence under the guise of racial liberation. Negotiating the inter(con)texts of Baudrillardian and Fanonian thought, the essay examines how these Trojan horses of racial progress result in (and conceal) literal breathtaking anti-Black violence and threaten to suffocate Black radical imagination. 


Charles Athanasopoulos, Gonzaga University  - Contact Me