Many thanks to Carolyn Dever and the team at Public Books, and special thanks to Debarati Biswas for writing this thoughtful interpretation of The Blackademic Life alongside The Undercommons by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney. In “How to Subvert the Capitalist White-Supremacist University,” Debarati Biswas writes:
Should we then give up on the possibility of remaking the university into a truly diverse space, one that values diversity as a keyword, not just as a buzzword? What does it mean to do the radical work of anticapitalist antiracism, while at the same time remaining associated with the very institution that continues to reproduce white supremacy through its regulation of minority voices and demands?
Here, Biswas identifies one of the key concepts that I tried to address in The Blackademic Life. Obviously, there’s no easy answer. (And while I love my HBCUs, the book does some critical analysis on their histories as well.) I hope one of the takeaways from the book is that the university is imperfect, even inherently conservative, but it is too important an institution for black scholars to abandon entirely. Doing so would allow racist knowledge about us to be reproduced as fact. I trace a literary history of how black scholars have navigated the terrain of American higher education, and how some of them have represented those experiences artistically through fictional narratives.