Jacqui Alexander introduces Pedagogies of Crossing by framing the questions that transnational feminisms pose within the context of advanced capitalism and neocolonialism. She explores in the chapters that follow the relationship between the uneven distribution of power (capital) globally and “the production and maintenance of (sexualized) hegemony” (4). Alexander discusses the constructions of the state and other institutions as producers of this hegemony in a variety of global contexts, some of which are surprising. She argues that “if hegemony works as a spectacle, but more importantly as a set of practices that come to assume meaning in people’s everyday lives (that is, the ways in which ordinary people do the work of the state and the work of war), then all spaces carry the potential for corruptibility” (5). Her overall project within Pedagogies of Crossing is to make the forces that shape our understanding of the world more apparent and intelligible to ourselves and students. Like Freire’s vision, we hope to develop a political consciousness of the historical and geographical epistemologies influencing twenty-first century experience.
Alexander’s work is not just postcolonial, to be more clear. The project of Pedagogies “summons subordinated knowledges that are produced in the context of the practices of marginalization in order that we might destabilize existing practices of knowing and thus cross the fictive boundaries of exclusion and marginalization” (italics mine) (7). The destabilization that Alexander proposes here is clearly a queer theoretical inquiry, which becomes more distinct in her descriptions of the chapters that follow. The legacy of empire as well as its modern manifestations are central to her intersectional discussions of state formation, genealogies of feminist, racial, and sexual discourses, and economic power structures. The Crossing Alexander explores is the crossing of the Atlantic, the Middle Passage and the ideologies prompting this removal and transplantation of people. Also key to Alexander’s transnational feminism is the role of memory (or rememory) and the role of spirituality. Without having read more about her position on the Sacred and the role of spirituality in forms of understanding, it’s difficult to respond to her criticism of secularization. I admittedly agree with her point that postmodern analysis avoids such static, monolithic terms like spirituality, and the inclusion of it seems out of step in the politics of racial or sexual identity that she seems to be exploring on a transnational basis.
The chapters that I would be most interested in reading would be Chapter 3, on teaching social justice rather than allowing the academy to become another institution being restructured as a service industry (12), and Chapter 5 which disrupts the linearity of colonialism, neocolonialism and neoimperialism (13). From Alexander’s introduction, I gather she further describes Payal Banerjee’s concept of trafficking ideologies between these temporal distinctions regarding heterosexual democracies.
I wanted to read the Alexander before we read Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads because I think the novel has some answers to her questions about spirituality, which are difficult to grapple with for me as well. We know how to deal with such ideas when they appear in fiction, yet to hear them invoked in theory is awkward; but whether we should maintain such a binary is an open question, I think.