36. Daring to Hope w/ Anwar Uhuru

In Episode 36, we talk to Dr. Anwar Uhuru about using literature to start conversations about racial justice, reprioritizing the mental health of faculty and students, centering the oppressions and experiences of other people, and grappling with the construction of gender roles and categories.

Anwar Uhuru is an Assistant Professor of African Diaspora Literature and culture at Monmouth University. They are currently writing their forthcoming book, The Insurrectionist Case for Reparations: Race, Value and Ethics, that will be published through SUNY Press. Their recent publications include, “Textual Mysticism: Reading the Sublime in Philosophical Mysticism” in the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience and “Thoughts on the shooting in Orlando: Autobiography as Activism” in Humanities Review. Their research interests include Black Existentialism, African American and Africana Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Black Male Studies, Surveillance, and Carceral Studies.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“I’ve been thinking about reparations, but not in a fiscal sense […] I’m more concerned with what does it mean to value a whole person beyond a monetary compensation? And of course, I’m not telling anyone don’t take the check, quite the opposite […] but I’m more so concerned about what does it mean for American society to value a Black life, singular, and then Black lives in general?” @AnwarUhuru

“What would it mean for this country and then the world to value Black life period?” @AnwarUhuru

“We don’t talk about culture shock in the reverse where there’s a singular demographic that rules the majority.” @AnwarUhuru

“The students often get a bad letter on them when often they’re open to [discussions about their privileges]. It’s the colleagues I find that stay in that little pit of privilege, and when you call that out that’s when the tensions and meetings, etc. percolate.” @AnwarUhuru

“A lot of students have said thank you so much for just daring to teach this stuff or having the conversation because oftentimes professors don’t want to talk about it.” @AnwarUhuru

“If you don’t get questioned, then you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I stopping to learn and being open to a different perspective?'” @AnwarUhuru

“My whole project is to get people to think about how narratives are constructed that show up in the real world.”  @AnwarUhuru

“We want students to be thinking about their thinking and not just idly going through things.” @AnwarUhuru

“Everybody’s like ‘Oh, we just have to do that so we go back to normal’ and I’m like who’s normal are we talking about here? That normal, I don’t want that. We really need to be thinking about a new way.” @AnwarUhuru

“Just checking in on all the PTSD that we’ve all been experiencing, with not just COVID, but also literally watching a lynching. It’s become kind of cliché now, but that’s still fresh […] as well as what happened with Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and then the list just keeps going on and on, and I don’t want to forget about trans people who’ve lost their lives this year either, as well as people who just lost their lives. All that’s just whirling around in very real-time. So […] the people in charge [of the University] really have to take this into account as opposed to saying, ‘Make an appointment with counseling services.'” @AnwarUhuru

“I want us to think about [James] Baldwin outside of the protester, essayist, novelist, or the queer theorist or queer person and think about how is he grappling with what does it mean to be gendered male, raced Black, and then thinking about loving someone of the same gender during his time and even post-Civil Rights movement. How is he still pushing back against this notion and how when you’re of that construct you’re kind of an amalgamation in everyone else’s eyes except for your own.” @AnwarUhuru

“I’m really grappling in my research with Black masculinity as well as the non-binary discourse.” @AnwarUhuru

“There’s a lot of work done in Feminist Womanist theory [on gender constructs], and rightfully so, but what would it mean for the ‘other gender’ to think about themselves as a construct too, and how does that impact not just racial construction, but also class and national identities, as well as sexuality?” @AnwarUhuru

“When we just look at the binary of male-female, females never get to just be girls for as long as they want to. It’s like, alright, you just get to skip and jump and then soon as puberty hits you’re a woman now, and then literally the shackles of society are on your ankles in ways that boys, for the most part, get to be boys for as long as they want.” @AnwarUhuru

“We’re really in a great space to reconfigure what does it mean to be male, female, or non-conforming in ways that would be super fruitful for society.” @AnwarUhuru

“I know that when I pursued a Ph.D. and then a tenure-track, I wanted to do it on my terms as much as possible, as opposed to being shaped into what someone else wanted me to be. I knew that would not work.” @AnwarUhuru

“I dare to have an audacity of hope, even in this dark chapter we’re all in.” @AnwarUhuru

This episode was recorded on November 17. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

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