Professor and Chair of African American Studies
Core faculty member of the Culture & Theory Ph.D. Program at UC Irvine
American writer, dramatist, filmmaker and critic
Cinematic Slavery: the Longue Durée of Social Death
The antagonism between Blacks and Humans lurks beneath the surface of 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013). But in Manderlay (Lars von Trier, 2005) this antagonism avoids the pitfalls of disavowal that all too often characterize the signifying strategies of 12 Years a Slave and, by extension, public debates around race. At the core of this civic and cinematic disavowal, is the failure of discourse to remain in the hold of the ship; manifest in an inability or unwillingness to grapple with the difference between gratuitous violence, which elaborates and positions Black people, and contingent violence, which disciplines non-Black subalterns once those subalterns have been elaborated and positioned by discourse (the symbolic order).
Suggested background films:
12 Years a Slave is available here.
Manderlay is available here.
Frank B. Wilderson, III is professor and chair of African American Studies, and a core faculty member of the Culture & Theory Ph.D. Program at UC Irvine; and an award-winning writer whose books include Afropessimism (Liveright/W.W. Norton 2020); Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid (Duke University Press 2015); and Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (Duke University Press 2010). He spent five and a half years in South Africa, where he was one of two Americans to hold elected office in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He also was a cadre in the underground. His literary awards include The American Book Award; The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Creative Nonfiction; The Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America; and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. Wilderson was educated at Dartmouth College (A.B Government and Philosophy), Columbia University (MFA/Fiction Writing), and UC Berkeley (PhD/Rhetoric).