A journal of critical
humanities and
social sciences,
since 1985.


︎Visit Ki, a new project
overseen by the Editorial
Board of Qui Parle

  Copyright © 2023 Editorial Board, Qui Parle

Vol. 31 | No. 1 | June 2022

        Special Issue: The Paranormative

Introduction: The Paranormative
Editorial Board

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Over two years later, a “return to normal” remains the pandemic’s most enduring political promise, a token of hope to hedge against continued death and precarity. Held within this recursive promise, however, is a prima facie condition that deserves interrogation. What, exactly, is the “normal” to which we will return? Will capitalism and its attendant crises no longer demand our attention absent a continual state of emergency? The coherence and stability of the “normal” eludes us. Georges Canguilhem sees the normal as itself a chimeric category that, from the perspective of medicine and science, is not so distant from the “pathological” it is meant to foil.

In the contemporary moment, what we might term paranormativity has further infringed on our so-called norms, unfolding in internet circles, blue-chip art institutions, and scenes of communal mourning.

Read now at Duke University Press

Poetry, Ghosts, Mediation
Jack W. Chen

This essay takes the example of a poem composed by a ghost in the Tang dynasty—one of many preserved in literary anthologies and treated as actually having been authored by the dead—as an entry point to ask broader questions of ghostly haunting and poetic presence. What the essay demonstrates is how both the ghost and the poem are informed by logics of analog mediation (rather than representation): how the ghost finds purchase in the world only through bodily possession, spatial haunting, material displacement, and psychic transference and how the poem effects the transmission of mind through the channels of linguistic form, meter, and rhyme. Neither the ghost nor the poem exists except in or as its mediations, yet through these mediations, both the ghost and the poem become present and are communicated into the world. While contemporary media theory has identified the intertwined discourses of technology and spiritualism, the focus has almost solely been on the nineteenth century and later, on the age of electric and electronic telecommunications. The medieval ghost poem, as an exemplary case, complicates this account, showing how poetry has long served as a necrotechnology that mediates the dead and returns ghosts to presence.

Read now at Duke University Press

Two Poems by Cristina Peri Rossi

Translated and Introduced by Liz Rose

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Cristina Peri Rossi was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, but has lived in Barcelona since the early 1970s, when she went into political exile. The only woman associated with the Latin American Boom, Peri Rossi has continued writing despite political repression, tenuous immigration status, and linguistic discrimination. She has published nineteen books of poetry and earned many literary prizes, most recently the 2021 Premio Cervantes.

My translations focus on the theme of lesbian intimacy as it relates to queer concepts of home in exile. Peri Rossi’s portrayal of exile is woven with eroticism, affection, and affect made manifest in corporeal experience. Yet her work highlights what is in excess of the corporeal, especially what is beyond normative body/spirit and human/animal distinctions.

Read now at Duke University Press

The Para-Worlds of Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

Delali Kumavie

This essay argues that Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection of short stories, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, evokes para-worlds that reveal and contend with the world and its norms. Examining the collection’s entwinement of magical, mythical, and animist modes with science, technology, and innovation, the essay shows how Arimah’s work creates its own metagenre, which functions as a paranormal frame that disrupts the common sense of existing interpretive frameworks of progress and difference. The paranormal in Arimah’s work is a space where the illegible significance of Blackness exists. These para-worlds, the essay contends, are paranormal because they function as parallel, ancillary, and barricading structures that reveal the spatial and temporal continuums that order the world. Viewing the norm as the world-constituting structures instantiated in 1492, the essay contends that Arimah’s para-world functions as a continuum to reveal the ever-present structures of violence.

Read now at Duke University Press

The Devil Finds Use: Black Queers Do The Exorcist
Brandon S. Callender

Beginning with James Baldwin’s critique of The Exorcist in The Devil Finds Work (1976) and ending with campy allusions to the film in the works of three contemporary black gay authors, this article argues that the aesthetics of possession helps articulate queer forms of desire that blur the lines between agency and passivity. Deploying José Esteban Muñoz’s theory of disidentification, it shows how black and queer subjects disruptively locate themselves in the horror genre by drawing on their racial affinities with the genre. The first section proposes that the most prevalent claim in black horror studies today—that black life is more frightening than the supernatural—actually originates with Baldwin’s 1976 rebuke of the film. By disidentifying with horror, Baldwin shifts attention away from paranormal evils and onto a more horrifying normative world. Sketching enthusiastic alternatives to Baldwin, the latter half of this article examines idiosyncratic attachments to the film that are routed through the demonic. By disidentifying with the possessed child, the narrators of Larry Duplechan’s Eight Days a Week (1985) and Blackbird (1986), James Earl Hardy’s B-Boy Blues (1994), and G. Winston James’s Shaming the Devil (2009) all articulate fraught performances of desire.

Read now at Duke University Press

Poems by Oksana Vasyakina and Elena Kostyleva
Translated and Introduced by Helena Kernan

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Oksana Vasyakina and Elena Kostyleva are contemporary Russian poetesses who contribute to Ф-письмо (F Letter), a digital platform that publishes, critiques, and celebrates feminist writing.1 Their work is testament to a generational change in Russophone poetry, which has seen a decline in the certainties and declamatory style of the previous generation in favor of all-embracing polyphony and linguistic experimentation, an ethical commitment to decolonization and leftist politics, and a strong focus on diverse spectrums of gender and sexuality.

Vasyakina’s “Girl” is the latest in a series of poems that trace the trials, tribulations, joys, and hopes of the author’s own biography. The poem was published not long after her debut novel, Рана (Wound), a hybrid text that includes essays, poems, and novelistic plot devices and enters into dialogue with several female thinkers, both past and present.

Read now at Duke University Press

The Prion As Nature’s Undead
Kathleen Powers

The prion is a self-replicating protein that infects the central nervous system. This essay applies Georges Canguilhem’s criterion for life, biological normativity, to the prion for the purpose of arguing that the existence of the prion within living systems requires attention to how biological matter uses space. Without the involvement of DNA, the prion protein is physically capable of transforming nonprion proteins into prion proteins—a capacity afforded by the specific characteristics of the energy landscape it propagates within, which in turn is determined by the specific arrangement of atoms in its molecular architecture. Like a hammer that is a mirror, the prion compresses and folds surrounding proteins, making its environment identical to itself. This essay studies how information exchange occurs for the prion for the purpose of arguing for a philosophy of biology premised on the analysis of space with attention to form over the analysis of language with attention to genetic code.

Read now at Duke University Press

Starships and Slave Ships: Black Ontology and the UFO Abduction Phenomenon
Jonathan Jacob Moore

Evidence suggests that the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon is exclusively experienced by white people in the United States. But while scholars have probed abductee narratives to surface political and symbolic anxieties for decades, none have thought of the phenomenon’s whiteness alongside the archival absence of Black abductees. Using abductee accounts, interdisciplinary studies of the UFO abduction phenomena, and critiques of Black subjectivity, this article attends to the ontological anxieties that permeate UFO abduction narratives and their choreographic resonance with the psychosomatics of Black life. This article begins by examining the exceptional narrative of Barney Hill, America’s first and thus far only popular Black abductee. Then it brings into focus UFOlogy’s aporetic negation of racial subjectivity and suggests that the UFO abduction phenomenon is, a posteriori, inaccessible to the Black nonsubject. Finally, it returns to Hill’s experience and offers speculative implications of a libidinal relationship between the starship’s technics and the slave ship’s terror.

Read now at Duke University Press

Cover: An Aspiration to Enfold All, from Thought-Forms: A Record of Clairvoyant Investigation, by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater (1901). © Sacred Bones Records. More info

Volume 31.1 is available at Duke University Press. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.