Skip to Content


«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Nicholas Brady

Contact the Seminar Organizers

Afropessimism is one name given to a recent movement in thought to consider blackness as a singular condition that throws the categories of the modern world into crisis at the same time as it provides the energy for these same concepts to parasitically gain their coherence. Frank Wilderson states that afropessimism is not a school of thought. At the same time that he wrote this, he also named specific thinkers that form the foundation of afropessimism, in spite of the fact that the majority of people on that list have rejected this identification. This contradiction has produced a confusing situation that makes afropessimism hard to pin down. At the same time, those who critique afropessimism tend to simplify this movement in thought to a few thinkers and treat it as a programmatic ideology with tenets, assumptions, and prescriptions. In order to render afropessimism legible for thought and critique it is simplified to the lowest common denominator of ideas shared between thinkers. While this is helpful for the critique, it has the effect of obscuring the fact that afropessimism is a moving stream of thinking. So afropessimism is reduced to one or two thinkers, marginalizing the many folks engaging the work as graduate students, junior scholars, writers, organizers, and artists.

This seminar will propose a different style of reading afropessimism, one that seeks to understand it as a movement of thought with multiple streams of engagement both inside and outside of the academy. Instead of searching for the "programmatic" shared assumptions, we will explore the inherent multiplicity within this movement of thought. Instead of seeking out one afropessimism, we are seeking the many pessimisms across Black thought, organizing, and artistic engagement. While we are open to any paper that engages what afropessimism generates for thinking and creating, we are especially interested in papers that engage one or more of the following topics

-Unthought or under-engaged genealogies for afropessimism

-Black engagements with pessimism and nihilism prior to the academic production of afropessimism

-Critical thoughts on Black gender

-Theorizing Black intramural relations

-Theorizing the antiblackness of misogynoir and cisheteronormativity

-Antiblackness as a global system of domination and the relation of Black people in different contexts

-The relationship between antiblackness and settler colonialism

-How afropessimism has been used in organizing spaces

-Artistic engagements with Black death, suffering, wake work, or afterlives of slavery

-Critiques of humanism in Black thought

-Blackness beyond identity and ontology

-Productive engagements with the critiques of afropessimism

The endpoint of this seminar is to help illuminate the multiple ways that Black thinking on afropessimism moves through critical engagement.


«Back To Seminars