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On Cuddling

On Cuddling

Loved to Death in the Racial Embrace

by Phanuel Antwi

Series: Vagabonds

What can a cuddle tell us about intimacy, violence and racism?

Ranging from the terrifying embrace of the slave ship's hold to the racist encoding of 'cuddly' toys, On Cuddling is a unique combination of essay and poetry that contends with the way racial violence is enacted through intimacy.

Informed by Black feminist and queer poetics, Phanuel Antwi focuses his lens on the suffering of Black people at the hands of state violence and racial capitalism. As radical movements grow to advance Black liberation, so too must our ways of understanding how racial capitalism embraces us all. Antwi turns to cuddling, an act we imagine as devoid of violence, and explores it as a tense transfer point of power.

Through archival documents and multiple genres of writing, it becomes clear that the racial violence of the state and economy has always been about the (mis)management of intimacies, and we should face it with resistance and solidarity.

Phanuel Antwi is Canada Research Chair in Black Arts and Epistemologies. He is an artist, teacher and organiser concerned with race, poetics, movements, intimacy and struggle. He works with text, dance, film and photography to intervene in artistic, academic and public spaces. He is a curator, activist and associate professor at the University of British Columbia.

'A necessary book about holding, being held and the hold(s) of the past. Playful, vulnerable, ever acute - Antwi gets down with the funk of language, history, and bodies to make fugitive sense of modernity as anti-Black grammar and embrace.'

- Nadine Attewell, scholar of intimacy, empire, and diasporic life

'Antwi invites us to look more closely at the associations between the cuddle, the choke, the hold and the coffle for Black people. But, beyond the violence of the racial embrace, he also finds a place for fugitive cuddling, the comfort that arcs back and forth between those who flee, those who escape and even those who remain held back. This book will take its place among others by Christina Sharpe, Saidiya Hartman and Hazel Carby that have investigated the violence of intimacy and the intimacy of violence.'

- Jack Halberstam, author of 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire'

'An urgent and elegant text ... excavating the many meanings of cuddling under racial capitalism. Antwi's writing is lyrical and powerful; the way he harnesses epistemology and polysemy to build both dancing prose and crucial political analysis, is revelatory.'

- Sophie K Rosa, author of 'Radical Intimacy'

Be Held
A Scroll 
Scene of Subjection, Choreography of Care 
Racial Embrace
Hold. Womb. Tomb. Spoon.
The Dead Can Love Us Too
Grammars of the Black Atlantic
Attraction and Abjection
Continuous Present 
State Cuddling 
Loved to Death 
Theater, Hustling, Embrace 
It’s Almost Time 
Fugitive (Solidarity (Betrayals)) 

Published by Pluto Press in Nov 2023
Paperback ISBN: 9780745346113
eBook ISBN: 9780745346137

110mm x 215mm