M. NourbeSe Philip’s work sends a deep linguistic, formal, economic, social, cultural, institutional shudder throughout the system we have inherited. Her language tangles in and out of itself in ways that make plain (and then cover over again) that English itself is impossible to separate out from the racist colonialism that undergirds the modernism we traffic in today. This talk is from NourbeSe Philip’s contribution to the Words Aloud 7 Spoken Word Festival that has been cut up into bite-size recordings so that each piece she reads is its own fragment. They are hard to choose from and my hope is that one may lead you to the many others. Here, she performs “Discourse on the Logic of Language” that (like so much of her work) is a challenge on the page: one that asks a viewer/reader to consider how to approach the words––to question how we read, what legibility is, what laws it follows. She delivers the crushing line “English / is a foreign anguish” and asks us to consider the language we inherit, the rules we follow, the tidy separations of subject and object. NourbeSe Philip’s work takes no form for granted so that the written word on the page, the spoken word on the breath, question exactly that: the word––its inheritances, its haunts. This work refuses to comply with the disciplinary separations between philosophy and poetry, theory and practice, holding those very separations suspect. Who made these borders and whom do they serve?
M. NourbeSe Philip is a poet and writer and lawyer who lives in the City of Toronto. She was born in Tobago and now lives in Canada.
Litia Perta‘s contribution to video school considers the possibility of “deep education” in arts and humanities