Interviews on Critical Race and Trans/Queer Approaches to Filmmaking: Incommensurabilities—The Limits of Redress, Intramural Indemnity, and Extramural Auditorship



In the first part of this interview, Frank B. Wilderson IIII discusses how his documentary Reparations . . . Now (work in progress from 2008) theorizes black perspectives on loss and redress in context with his larger body of work. He further reflects upon the degree of alignment between the experimental video’s formal strategies, means of production, political aims of its participants, and audience reception. What does using a video camera as a tool for witnessing, confession, surveillance, and documentation reveal about the limits of relationality? How does the technological medium shape its libidinal thrust and aesthetics? In the second part of this interview, Cecilio M. Cooper discusses their movement away from performance and filmmaking (including Uncle Samima Wants U [2008, 2012] and SHADOWPLAY [2013]) toward critical writing. This is a move made necessary by the way that most audiencing for these media is hostile to a performer—a queer nonbinary black transmasculine person—usually foreclosing the territorial integrity of their body, and infringing their capacity for bodily autonomy. Critical writing has made it possible, despite interdisciplinary antiblackness combining with the violent erasure of Black trans people from academic personnel, to ask questions embedded in but not foregrounded by the earlier filmmaking: What are the affective registers through which humans are emplotted into space and place? How is blackness disavowed in the ways that nonblack people understand and map the world? How does antiblackness shape how black people inhabit Atlantic World territory and debilitate their claims to it in pursuit of possessive individualism?

Author Biographies

Frank Wilderson III, African American Studies, UC Irvine

Frank B. Wilderson III is an award-winning writer whose books include Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid; and Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. His literary awards include the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Creative Nonfiction; The American Book Award; The Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America; a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; a Jerome Foundation Literature Award; The Eisner Prize for Creative Achievement of the Highest Order; and The Judith Stronach Award for Poetry. Dr. Wilderson was educated at Dartmouth College (A.B.), Columbia University (MFA), and UC Berkeley (PhD). He spent five and a half years in South Africa where he was one of two Americans who held elected office in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He also worked as a psychological warfare, secret propaganda, and covert operations cadre for the ANC’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. He is professor and Chair of African American Studies at UC Irvine.

Cecilio M. Cooper, Northwestern University

Cecilio M. Cooper holds a PhD in African American studies (2019) and Graduate Certificate in Critical Theory from Northwestern University. They also earned an MA in performance studies, with a designated emphasis in feminist theory & research, from the University of California, Davis. Visual culture, trans studies, medical humanities, and occult sciences are among the interdisciplinary topics they teach. Complementary to their art practice, Dr. Cooper’s scholarly interests range from early modern cartography to demonological discourse to the sex-gender binary. Their current project examines how blackness is portrayed in early modern alchemy. They were awarded a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship for doctoral study. Dr. Cooper’s archival research has also been supported by the American Antiquarian Society, John Carter Brown Library, Yale Center for British Art, Helmerich Center for American Research, and Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.






Alternative Methods and Histories