Photo: From Saidiya Hartman's archive

Saidiya Hartman


A socio-poetic reading on wayward communities - The wayward create upheavals, incite tumult. They come and go as they please; they are fugitive; they are in open rebellion against society.

What we wrote about it at the time: Saidiya’s keenly affecting and poetic writing is some of the most influential cultural criticism in America today, deeply concerned with the mental and physical traces bodies accumulate as they manoeuvre between terror and pleasure, power and flight. She lays bare how the positive ideal of the individual in the West (white, male, straight, free, legal, sane, able, human...) is fundamentally premised on the enslavement and abjection of particular groups of people. ‘Granting’ black people the ‘right’ to consider themselves as individuals only allowed for them to be further subjected – their waywardness to be punishable, irrational, criminal.  Yet, if to be wayward - difficult to control or predict; prone to seemingly perverse behaviour - is so troubling to power, then surely it is to be encouraged; maybe it is this very waywardness that allows other forms of existence to be developed. 


"The wayward create upheavals and incite tumult. They come and go as they please; they are riotous; they are itinerant and never settle; they are fugitive; they are excessive rather than efficient, they are in open rebellion against society…"


A slightly edited version of the text Saidiya read can be found here.

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