TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT September 2020

TOP TEN

Katherine McKittrick

Katherine McKittrick is a professor of gender studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is the author of Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (2006) and Dear Science and Other Stories (forthcoming).

  1. BEES: CHARMAINE LURCH, WILD BEES, 2012–

    I have been thinking about bees for years—particularly their presence in Gayl Jones’s novel Eva’s Man (1976). I have not written about bees at length because I am still working out how to unlink them from some kind of romantic ecology; I am also afraid to reduce them to an easy metaphor. Yet the more I look, the more of them I find, animating novels, music, poetry. The fuzzy insects have long been tied to political economies, food systems, and the beauty industry. Dictionaries and ledgers dedicated to bees abound, as do instructive texts on how to care for them. Lurch’s beautiful giant wire bees insist on the connections among metal, mechanical loads, pollination, environmental decline, flight, and Black ecologies.

    *Charmaine Lurch, _Red-Tailed Andrena_, 2014,* wire, 27 × 10 × 10". Charmaine Lurch, Red-Tailed Andrena, 2014, wire, 27 × 10 × 10".
  2. HEADPHONES: GRADO SR225E

    I am drawn to the physical and auditory sexiness of these clunky headphones, with their heavy cord, metal grills and screens, stripped-down ear cushions, and perfectly rounded-out sound waves.

  3. TERCETS: DIONNE BRAND, OSSUARIES (2010)

    There are fifteen ossuaries in this text; each is filled with tercets, and some tercets include stories narrated by the character Yasmine. Ossuaries is diasporic-poetic theory that works through, but does not fully delineate, how we navigate different scales of catastrophe. The tercets live outside of themselves: You read them and then your soul is broken and then you walk away and look back and notice that the words have been reassembled—as though the tercets were telling a totally different story: “to love is an impediment to this hard business / of living / so I cannot have loved, not me.”

    *Cover of Dionne Brand’s _Ossuaries_* (McClelland & Stewart, 2010). Cover of Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).
  4. KITCHENS: CARRIE MAE WEEMS, “The KITCHEN TABLE SERIES,” 1990

    When I was an undergraduate student learning how to read by rereading and sitting with Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977) for weeks and weeks, I came across Weems’s Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Makeup), 1990, from her “Kitchen Table Series,” and I thought to myself, This is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. I remember that feeling clearly—it was something like terrible desire and loss (you [we] cannot know this; this is an impossible attachment) interrupted by possibility (I will keep this photograph in my heart).

    *Carrie Mae Weems, _Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Makeup)_, 1990,* gelatin silver print, 27 1/4 × 27 1/4". From “The Kitchen Table Series,” 1990. Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Makeup), 1990, gelatin silver print, 27 1/4 × 27 1/4". From “The Kitchen Table Series,” 1990.
  5. GLITTER: FRANK OCEAN, “NIKES” (2016)

    The pitched-up vocal shift at the three-minute mark, the kick-drum delays, the Mellotron, and the deep mixing can be read and heard with what Alexander Weheliye described to me as glitter properties and intermittences: flecks and shine and light refractions and sparkling artifacts. We laid out.

    *Still from Frank Ocean’s 2016 video _Nikes_, directed by Tyrone Lebon* Still from Frank Ocean’s 2016 video Nikes, directed by Tyrone Lebon
  6. PAPERBOARD: SLEEVES, COVERS, JACKETS, AND GATEFOLDS

    Paperboard jackets and gatefolds protect vinyl records from scratches, dents, and cracks; the decorative sleeves evoke, through their inclusion of art, stories, and lyrics, what we will hear and dance to. Millie Jackson sounds fantastic on vinyl, and her songs and stories are punctuated and complemented by the cover of I Had to Say It (1980). In the Black diaspora, Paul Gilroy writes, the album cover, the sleeve, is part of a “convoluted distributive process” nested in profit and commodification, multinationalism and location, politics and creative labor. My neighbor left us an Oscar Peterson Quartet record that is 33 1/3 rpm. The back of the jacket declares that this LP format, unlike that of a 78 rpm record, allowed Peterson to forget time.

    *Cover of Millie Jackson’s _I Had To Say It_* (Spring Records, 1980). Cover of Millie Jackson’s I Had To Say It (Spring Records, 1980).
  7. WAVES: ANOKA FARUQEE AND DAVID DRISCOLL, 2016P-13 (WAVE), 2016

    Faruqee and Driscoll have led me through color theory and aided my research on how Black cultural producers write and sing and talk about yellows and oranges and blues. In their paintings, patterned lines, circles, and waves move together, tied up with harmonizing and repeated colors. The lines and hues move as we move—the waves change as we reorient ourselves in relation to the image. Faruqee and Driscoll generate optic tethering.

    *Anoka Faruqee and David Driscoll, _2016P-13 (Wave)_, 2016,* acrylic on linen mounted on panel, 33 3/4 × 33 3/4". Anoka Faruqee and David Driscoll, 2016P-13 (Wave), 2016, acrylic on linen mounted on panel, 33 3/4 × 33 3/4".
  8. LETTERS: “YOURS IN THE INTELLECTUAL STRUGGLE”

    Sylvia Wynter’s complimentary closing.

  9. CITATIONS: BETTY DAVIS, “THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT” (1974)

    This song has an intense groove. Davis’s vocals are clever and stunning. Citations are the infrastructure of the song, and her sources—the performers she names—contribute to a soundtrack that exceeds the specificity of the story she shares. Davis uses the practice of referencing (calling out Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Chuck Berry, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Son House, Freddie King, Bessie Smith, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Wild Lou) to produce a narrative of rhythm and strangeness and sonic intemperance.

    *Cover of Betty Davis’s _They Say I’m Different_* (Just Sunshine Records, 1974). Cover of Betty Davis’s They Say I’m Different (Just Sunshine Records, 1974).
  10. GLOSSARY: MARIAM & ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHANISTAN: A LEXICON (2011)

    I am curious about lists, registers, ledgers, chronologies, and indexes; my curiosity is partly satisfied by glossaries—collections of unusual terms and their attendant explanations, often found at the end of a book. The glossary is a set of definitions, but many readers know that meanings are flexible and imprecise. In Malemort (1975), Édouard Glissant tells us, cheekily, that the glossary is for readers from elsewhere and for those who want to know everything. In M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! (2008), the glossary is made up of “words and phrases” overheard on a slave ship; it is dizzying. Mariam and Ashraf Ghani’s lexicon is informative and complex, replete with images, archival materials, a partial Afghan vocabulary, and details of specific events. The alphabetical entries—such as coup d’état, games, land, plans, ruins, secrets, and unfinished—overlap: The secrets entry, for example, discusses the impact of the 1973 and 1978 coups. The text is riddled with fragments of monumental histories that can be visualized, the writers state, as a “nonlinear . . . recursive loop.” The Ghanis annotate troubling temporalities.

    *Cover of Mariam & Ashraf Ghani’s _Afghanistan: A Lexicon_* (Hatje Cantz, 2011). Cover of Mariam & Ashraf Ghani’s Afghanistan: A Lexicon (Hatje Cantz, 2011).