A fury for justice : Reading the dead in Leslie Marmon Silko, Marx and Walter Benjamin

Ray, Gene (HEAD - Genève, Haute école d'art et de design, HES-SO // Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale)

In the planetary meltdown now unfolding, the deaths head of capitalist modernity is grinning. The still-kicking corpse attached to that skull is rendered sharply by Leslie Marmon Silko in her fierce and prophetic 1991 masterpiece, The Almanac of the Dead. This novel should be studied today by every historical materialist, for it narrates the encounter, missed but still possible, between Marx and the earthly ancestors, those powerful spirits and relentless seekers of justice also known as the dead. Silkos forceful conjuration of Indigenous land struggles, climate chaos, accumulated impunity, fugitive diaspora and settler-colonial panic is a strong glance into the future, a lesson-and image-book for a Left finally ready to unload the giant dams, tractors and algorithms of techno-progressivism, which in 2019 weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. The end-Holocene interventions of the dead, as well as those of non-human allies and antagonists, also count in the balance. The dead, we know, are called to both sides in the class war. But in the ruins of modernitys cliff-leap, Silko shows, the avenging energy to strike at impunity and the endurance to organize communal survivance, both flow from the ancestors the vivifying dead of the oppressed and defeated. Here is a vision of self-rescue from below that compels respect and reflection. How far can it be generalized? This paper reads the material force and agency of the dead in Silkos novel, in dialogue with reflections on same in Marx and Walter Benjamin.

Conference Type:
Design et Arts visuels
HEAD - Genève
HEAD Institut de recherche en art et en design - IRAD
London, Historical Materialism 16th Annual Conference, SOAS
Historical Materialism 16th Annual Conference, SOAS
1 p.
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Historical Materialism 16th Annual Conference
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 Record created 2021-01-20, last modified 2021-02-03

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