Advanced Search

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
pass_pop_up
sidebar
wooframework
slide
african_issues
book_series
magzine_issues
african_live_events
research_posts
inprint_posts
installation_posts
periodicals_posts
ecwid_menu_item
sp_easy_accordion
acf-field
give_payment
give_forms
acf-field-group
Filter by Categories
African Cities Reader
Archive
Arts & Pedagogy
Books & Oration
Cash & Commerce
Chimurenga Books
Chimurenga Library
Chimurenga Magazine
Chimurenganyana
Chronic
Comics
Faith & Ideology
Featured
Gaming
Healing & bodies
Indie Books
Installations
Library Book Series
Live Events
Maps
Media & Propaganda
Music
News
PASS
PASS Pop Up
Research
Reviews
Systems of Governance
Video

The Breathers, a collaborative long poem by Daniel Borzutzky and Stacy Hardy

Available now!

What cannot be said? What cannot be seen? What cannot be done? Where does language fail us? What do we have no words for? What bodies are allowed and not allowed to speak? What obfuscates these bodies? How does disease eat away at them? How does disease eat away at their ability to breathe, and how does breathing constitute a reparative act of resistance? What cannot be done to save the diseased bodies or to save the bodies from becoming diseased? How does labour kill? How does policy fail? How does the very agenda of human rights fail to prevent the deterioration of bodies due to the imperialist agendas of unregulated capitalism?

The questions underpin what we are calling the “politics of breath,” a concept we explore more fully in our interdisciplinary, collaborative project with anthropologist Kaushik Sunder Rajan and South African composer Neo Muyanga. Together, we seek to build mechanisms for shared breathing (“breathing machines”) in response to the colonial and imperial suppressions of breath.

The Breathers is one such machine which might allow us to see the ways in which breathing can be a reparative and radical practice of collectivity.

Imperialism has always functioned through the suppression and exploitation of breath. As Frantz Fanon writes in A Dying Colonialism, in a colonial context, breath is a site of occupation, destruction and resistance: “under these conditions, the individual’s breathing is an observed, an occupied breathing. It is combat breathing.”

Combat breathing. Combat breathing.

The Breathers is an attempt to experiment with ways to document both the suppression of breath caused by capitalism, and the liberation of breath, or, the mere act of breathing as a form of political resistance to those forces that confront our bodies with what cannot be said, what cannot be seen, and what cannot be done. Through Fanon we absorb the physiological and political realities, and the liberatory possibilities of breath.

The Breathers, then, begins with breath: the occupation of breath; the suppression of breath; and the idea that breath, voice, art, dignity, representation, and historical memory are all intertwined forces. Shared breathe, we submit, can be felt deeply throughout the Americas and throughout Africa, the spaces from which we write.

Within these contexts, the extraction and looting that fuel global capitalism and imperialism have accelerated to the point where the “disaster” or “massacre” is no longer the event but rather daily life. Here people are subjected to conditions of life that confer on them the status of living dead. The result is a fractured and mutated form of life, marked by the physical, as well as the residual psychic and social scars of history and increasingly characterised by asphyxiation.

Yet our shared histories also attest to countless uses of breath as a form of resistance, through music, poetry, choral expression and lamentation, healing practices and feminism.

The Breather’s is thus necessarily a collaborative project, and our voices also exist in chorus with other poets – from Africa and the Americas, who have given voice to how breath has and continues to be suppressed and exploited, while opening up potentialities and promises for liberation that might emerge from our differentiated yet collective breathing.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.


An edition of The Breathers is available in print at the Chimurenga Factory (157 Victoria Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town) or from our online store.

This article and other work by Chimurenga are produced through the kind support of our readers. Please visit our donation page to support our work.

Share this post:

,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial