Stammering tongue

Keywords: the wake, debility, Christina Sharpe, Jasbir Puar, tongue, accent, middle passage


‘Stammering tongue’ is the governing metaphor we offer in our reading of the border. The border, we read as a central technique of both the modern state and the violence that produces it. Our project is a diffractive encounter with the modality of implicating and complicating reading and writing. The paper offers a reading of two recent texts, Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being that draws from the metaphor/practice of the Middle Passage to offer “The Wake,” “The Ship,” “The Hold,” and “The Weather,” to theorize black violability, black death and black living. We read Sharpe beside Jasbir K. Puar’s The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability where she uses the notion of debility to stress the relations between harm, gender, race, war and labour. We offer the ‘stammering tongue,’ in pursuit of a conversation between ourselves, Sharpe and Puar. The stammering tongue is a racialized, sexualized border that produces im/possible readings and utterances. We frame the stammering tongue as one that turns to negativity and reclaims lack to generate potentiality from that lack.

Author Biographies

Danai S Mupotsa, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Danai S Mupotsa is Senior Lecturer in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. She specializes in gender and sexualities, black intellectual traditions and histories, intimacy and affect, and feminist pedagogies.

Xin Liu, University of Helsinki, Helsinki

Xin Liu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki and a Guest Researcher at the University of Gothenburg. Her current research project is entitled, “People of Smog: How Climate Change Comes to Matter.”


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How to Cite
Mupotsa, D. S., & Liu, X. (2019). Stammering tongue. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 56(1), 127-142.
Research articles