How Writing Matters

March 21, 2019 at 6:19 am Leave a comment

“The Race for Theory” by Barbara Christian, Feminist Studies, 1988.

Last December I read Barbara Christian’s excellent “The Race for Theory.” I wish I had known about this essay when I started grad school. It highlights how those who champion academic theory often isolate their writing from the complexities of the everyday. Christian argues that much of this theory reproduces the ills it claims to oppose.

Of the various critical points, I particularly like her discussion of the difference between theorizing and theory. She identifies the ongoing work many people who experience oppression do to survive their conditions as theorizing. Their labor takes many forms that frequently involve narrative.

Academic jargon, which some art historians obscure their thoughts with, has never felt natural or useful to me. In the beginning I wasted time wondering why people wrote in that manner. Even worse, I thought that maybe something was wrong with me because that style seemed so awkward to me. I should have been reading Black feminist thought from the beginning. It would have steered me right.

Understanding writing in relationship to living has been very helpful to me while I write my dissertation. Christian’s perspective is another crucial building block for me as she elucidates a belief I have held for a long time- how I write indicates who I am and what matters to me.

I learned of Christian’s work from the tweets of the Association of Black Women Historians, #ABWH2018, conference.

#barbarachristian #theracefortheory #blackstudies #blackfeminism #womenstudies #blackliterature #blackartsmovement #arthistory #arthistorysyllabus #criticalracearthistory #interdisciplinarystudies #dissreading #disswriting #disslovenotes

[Image description: photo of first page of essay, “The Race for Theory” by Barbara Christian, Feminist Studies, 1988.]

Entry filed under: Art.

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