Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World, NYU Press, 2020
Zakiyah Iman Jackson’s Becoming Human incisively brings black studies in conversation with posthuman scholarship to reimagine the interrelations of blackness and animality. Illuminating the troubling inattention to race in work that seeks to challenge the category of the human, Jackson theorizes the “ontological plasticity” of blackness, that is, the transgressive capacity of black life to upend the human/animal dyad that often guides structural racism and antiracist discourse and practice. Groundbreaking in its scope, Becoming Human explores works by a range of seminal black artists and scholars including Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, and Wangechi Mutu, among others, to offer new insights into the various human/nonhuman divides that have historically constituted both blackness and antiblackness. Admittedly, the text is at-times quite dense and repetitive, but Jackson’s piercing insights and beautiful prose easily kept me engaged and excited by the prospect of returning to this capacious masterpiece for years to come. I especially recommend this to anyone working with or interested in posthuman studies, broadly speaking (multi-species literature, OOO, new materialism etc), and of course anyone engaged in black studies.