Kate Thomas responds to Julia Fuller

Julia’s citation of the introduction to the special issue “Undisciplining Victorian Studies” provides a wonderful key for how we might extrapolate Exquisite Materials.  Because Victorian logics of biological determinism were and are operative in perpetuating racial injustice, logics of biological indeterminism – or gender performativity – therefore also form a double-helix with race.   The call to “become undisciplined” is in large part a call to reject the “partitioning and co-opting of knowledge” that has enabled fictions of race-neutrality to bloom.  Joseph’s multi-media archive and her method of attending to diverse cultural textures together produce a lush, pouting refusal to be answerable to disciplinary norms or palisaded histories – “pasts that are not pasts,” to use the words of Black studies scholar Christina Sharpe. [1]  The special issue of Victorian Studies notices that if we are to reckon with the field’s failures to account for the racial regimes that its own era propagated, we will need to pay attention to the categories of the “everyday” and the “material” (as opposed to just the metaphorical).  It is perhaps not obvious that these categories will help us engage race, but “draw[ing] from a wider range of senses” can help us think about touch, adjacency, intersection, intimacy, friction – and these are all terms that we will need as we continue to think through the politics of relation.  As Patricia A.Matthew has recently pointed out, sometimes abolitionist quatrains gained circulation through everyday life by being painted on teapots; we’d better, therefore, be ready to theorize the pot, the table, the cloth, the calling card.  Exquisite Materials is one of the lamps that lights the way. [2]

[1] Quoted in Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong, “Introduction: Undisciplining Victorian Studies,” Victorian studies 62.3 (2020), 369.

[2] Patricia A.Matthew, “Serving Tea for a Cause,” Lapham’s Quarterly Wednesday February 28, 2018.

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