This engagement is inspired by Christina Sharpe’s call for black scholars to “become undisciplined”, given that academic legibility often requires being “disciplined into thinking through and along lines that reinscribe our own annihilation” (In the Wake, 13). For graduate students who are black, queer, trans, and/or women, it is important to find ways to resist being disciplined by and oriented toward forms of knowledge production that reproduce epistemic violence. Instead we are interested in how to read, write, and teach in ways that are in excess of the disciplinary tools that the university insists upon. As such, our hope is that engagement with scholarship and others in the collective will help us develop strategies to refuse legibility, pursue decolonial and liberatory theories/praxes, and affirm black life and pleasure — within and without the university.
We want to give ourselves space to really think through what undiscipline might mean to us, might offer us. How undiscipline is located not just in our intellectual and emotional practices but in our bodies: in the way they can be unruly, in excess, in the ways that we refuse them to be used. Undiscipline is not always loud, expressive; as Kevin Quashie reminds us, it can be quiet, interior. It can simply be. Undiscipline is informed by a politics of care, in which we attempt to nourish and be nourished by each other (emotionally, intellectually). We want to refuse a mission of individual academic achievement for one of collective care and freedom.
A few of the concerns that guide our exploration include:
- Working within and without the academy.
What are the embodied experiences of knowledge production in and outside of the university? How do Black people survive within or choose to leave the university? What are the emotional dimensions of survival, flight, and becoming (un)trained? How are various activists, artists, cultural workers, and independent scholars contributing to black thought at large and reshaping “academic” conversations?
- Scholarship and refusal.
How might we resist the ways we are disciplined and oriented by the university and its disciplinary formations? What alternatives do Black feminist, queer, and trans epistemologies and methodologies make possible? How do we avoid the “sunken place” in academia?
- Affirming black life.
What is the relationship between our intellectual, political, and spiritual work? What forms of care can we practice for ourselves and each other? How do we imagine and create liberatory futures where Black life and pleasure are affirmed—within and without the university?
Becoming — that constant movement, flux, fugitivity. Becoming is approaching, maybe even arriving at, forms of undiscipline that still evolve beyond what we know or can express. Becoming is not “being” with finality, but is being with activity, change, dis/continuity. Becoming is being trained in the ways of the academy while attempting to challenge, navigate, and survive its violent past, present, and future. Becoming is learning and implementing strategies for resistance, whether they be refusal, critical disinterest, care and intimacy. Becoming refers to our aim to not necessarily find hard answers to our questions but rather to sit with the ideas they generate.
Becoming undisciplined is—here at least—an attempt. And a call for companionship.