Teaching about Ferguson: An Introduction

Feminist Studies 41 (1):211 (2015)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:7 Forum: Teaching about Ferguson 8 Feminist Studies 41, no. 1. © 2015 by Feminist Studies, Inc. 211 Jennifer C. Nash Teaching about Ferguson: An Introduction This forum was organized around the idea of asking feminist scholars to reflect on the practice of teaching about racial violence as well as on the experiences of teaching in the midst of racial violence. What do feminist pedagogies centered on Ferguson and its aftermath look like? How do we present the various forms of violence—including state action (in the case of murder) and state inaction (in the case of nonindictments)— that produce and uphold the conditions that mark the current situation? How do we bring our feelings about this moment into our classrooms, and how do we do this feeling-teaching in ways that attend to the fact that feminist scholars are endlessly called on to perform affective labor and also that racialized and gendered bodies’ affects are policed inside and outside of the academy? What happens if we refuse the composure that faculty bodies are supposed to perform and enact grief, rage, or sadness? What happens if we refuse performing anything but exhaustion, numbness, or a protective desire to shield our bodies from our students’ scrutiny or curiosity? It quickly became apparent that a forum focused on “feminist pedagogies of Ferguson” would be far more expansive than a conversation focused on how to teach about Ferguson; put simply, to speak about Ferguson is always to speak about more than Ferguson. “Ferguson” has become shorthand for a murdered young man, Michael Brown, for a grand jury’s nonindictment of the police officer who shot him, and for 212 Jennifer C. Nash the Department of Justice’s recommendation not to bring civil rights charges against the officer, Darren Wilson. “Ferguson” has also become shorthand for a number of lives that ended violently, often at the hands of the state: Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Tanisha Anderson, Renisha McBride, and Tamir Rice, to name a few. “Ferguson,” then, has become a keyword around which scholars organize conversations about legal murders, the variety of laws that regard property more than black life (so-called stand-your-ground laws, for example), racial profiling, stop and frisk, mass imprisonment, the death penalty, and the racial logics of systems of value that ensure that racially marked bodies are, in Lisa Marie Cacho’s words, “ineligible for personhood.”1 The scholars included in this forum capture the expansive ways that we, as scholars and educators, articulate the meanings of this moment and the ways that we situate Brown’s death in the conditions of the unfolding present. The scholars included in this forum also powerfully ask about the possibilities for activism in the wake of Ferguson(s) and the powerful coalitions that have formed in the wake of Ferguson(s). If “Black Lives Matter” (and #blacklivesmatter) and “I Can’t Breathe” have become refrains that respond to the violence of the present by making visible black pain, the scholars included here voice the possibilities these movements might open up. We can consider these possibilities alongside the painful truth that it takes spectacular violence to generate a widespread articulation of black bodies as bodies that matter. 1. Lisa Marie Cacho, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 6....



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