Animating Black and Brown Liberation

A Theory of American Literatures

By Michael Datcher

Subjects: American Literature, African American Studies, Latin American Studies, Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism
Hardcover : 9781438473390, 180 pages, April 2019
Paperback : 9781438473406, 180 pages, April 2019

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Table of contents


Introduction: Animacy Matters

1. A Matter of Body and Soul in The People of Paper and Mumbo Jumbo

2. Heroes and Hieroglyphics of the Flesh in The Salt Eaters and Heroes and Saints

3. Animating Anthologies and Firing the Canon in This Bridge Called My Back and June Jordan's Poetry for the People

4. Wanda Coleman and Kamau Daáood Sing the Blues for the Black Body

Coda: The World Stage Performance Gallery Moves


Offers a new framework for reading American literatures that critically links African American and Latinx traditions and struggles for liberation.


Animating Black and Brown Liberation introduces a vital new tool for reading American literatures. Rooted in both ancient Egyptian ideas about life and cutting-edge theories of animacy, or levels of aliveness, this tool—ankhing—enables Michael Datcher to examine the ways African American and Latinx literatures respond to and ultimately work to resist hegemonic forces of neoliberalism and state-sponsored oppression. Weaving together close readings and politically informed philosophical reflection, Datcher considers the work of writer-activists Toni Cade Bambara, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, June Jordan, Salvador Plascencia, and Ishmael Reed, in light of theoretical interventions by Jane Bennett, Mel Y. Chen, Bruno Latour, Michel Foucault, Paulo Freire, and Erica R. Edwards. How, he asks, can cultural production positively influence Black and Brown material conditions and mobilize collective action "off the page"? How can art-based counterpublics provide a foundation for Black and Brown community organizing? What emerges from Datcher's innovative analysis is a frank assessment of the links between embodied experiences of racialization, as well as a distinctive vision of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature as a repository of emancipatory strategies with real-world applications.

Michael Datcher is Assistant Professor of English at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of several books, including Raising Fences.


"Datcher's study is a valuable contribution to those interested in African American and Latinx American literature and how these relate to issues of social justice." — College Literature

"In Animating Black and Brown Liberation, Michael Datcher posits a bold new way of approaching a variety of important texts, including those authored by Toni Cade Bambara, Ishmael Reed, Salvador Plascencia, Gloria Anzaldúa, and June Jordan, among others. Drawing on ideas by theorists such as Foucault, Arendt, Giorgio Agamben, and Alexander Weheliye, Datcher offers a fresh and original way of valuing these works. This volume is a thought-provoking addition to the world of literary criticism." — Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

"This book offers a much-needed perspective on what is generally regarded in the field of American literary studies as 'Black and Brown' comparative ethnic literature. Few projects have endeavored to bridge African American and Latinx literatures, and Animating Black and Brown Liberation does so with a clarity and brilliance not seen in a long time." — Ellie D. Hernández, author of Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture