Association of Black Anthropologists
Oral Presentation Session
This paper highlights the radical (im)possibilities of imagining and enacting new democratic forms borne out of Black cultural lifeworlds and everyday Black socialities using the works of Hortense Spillers as guide and inspiration. Based on my ethnographic encounters with formerly incarcerated and convicted organizers and their families in New Orleans, Louisiana, I argue that my interlocutors have developed styles of political storytelling steeped in the oral traditions of the Africana diaspora in their successful bids to create a new constituency of formerly incarcerated and convicted voters in their home state through the re-enfranchisement of people convicted of felonies. I contend that these styles of storytelling tether speakable—and unspeakable—connections between public discourse and public life in the shared pursuit of new, relational civic selfhoods. Finally, I juxtapose ethnographic writing alongside these styles of storytelling and through the modes of theorization and discursive creativity enacted by Hortense Spillers and her works to push us to imagine the radical democratic potentials embedded in the ethnographic endeavor.