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Sandy Alexandre. The Black Cultural Front. Brian Dolinar. ISBN In the Wake operates using a central theoretical metaphor that is diffuse in its application and meaning: one of ships, of boughs, of cresting waves, and of the ocean. She begins writing from a place of deeply personal grief: the deaths of her mother, an older sister, an older brother, and a nephew all in the span of a few years. What does it mean to write from a place of loss, of premature, untimely, and violent Black death so normalized that it comes to be expected?
In the Wake is concerned with aftermaths, with leftovers, with effects and damages—Sharpe is more interested in the indentation than the actor that made the blow. James, Sharpe weaves together instance after instance of Black life in the wake. In being marked for the ship, the Haitian girl loses some sense of individuation as do the children that Sharpe positions at the centre of the chapter entitled The Hold. Here, Sharpe narrates instances where Black children in the U. So-called at-risk youths who are mostly of colour and mostly Black are shown the dead bodies of young victims of gun violence.
The after-school programme is intended as a deterrent but simultaneously relies on those same logics that produce premature death, namely the belief that Black life is expendable and replaceable. Institutions that are designed to nurture and sustain life perform the role of bringing Black children in closer contact with death. Schools too, are once again exposed as sites of containment, their carceral character exhibited in the criminalization of Black children who are more likely to be expelled and disciplined than their white peers.
That this is also the chapter in which Sharpe engages in the now familiar act of listing the names of Black people that have been victims of police violence 97 emphasises how many of these deaths took place whilst persons were under institutional care. There, Sharpe lists the family members that were lost during the intellectual process which ultimately became In the Wake. Like Simone Browne — whose work on surveillance and race traces how lighting holds the potential for both disciplinary and emancipatory gestures — Sharpe understands scholarly work that is attentive to the condition of Black life as a matter of shifting our points of view.
How and from what standpoint we look onto the subjects of analysis shapes the outcome of academic study. This project should be considered as a contribution to activist movements that have become increasingly visible against the backdrop of continued racial and imperial violence. In the Wake is therefore best understood as an example of collective thinking, where the institutional practices that obstruct the possibility of collaboration are rejected in favour of solidarity and mutual support. One would hope that readers are able to interact with this text in a setting conducive to these principles of organization; within, outside, or against the university.