Culture is autonomy, autonomy is revolution : Afro-Nicaraguan Creole women’s cultural politics of opacity

White, Melanie Yvette
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This report explores the relationship between expressive culture and decolonial politics by taking up an analysis of contemporary Afro-Nicaraguan women’s diasporic cultural production. It shows how, in the face of political exclusion and national unbelonging within the context of the Nicaraguan nation, appeals to diaspora and the counter-nationalist threat they pose may aid in securing state-granted cultural, political, and material rights for Afro-Nicaraguans. Yet, if not, they may at the very least aid in establishing a fuller sense of autonomy from the state through a symbolic alliance with the Anglophone Caribbean. This contemporary forging of diaspora is made possible through cultural production as well as through what I term a cultural politics of opacity/interiority that figures heavily in Afro-Nicaraguan women’s art, and perhaps black women’s art more broadly. This report suggests that it is the obscurity of opacity that makes it a radical political mechanism for social transformation, and argues that despite the eternal navigation of contradictions and neoliberal markets, Afro-Nicaraguan women artists make space in their work for the centering of black women’s sexuality, pleasure, and erotic desires for a more autonomous and liberatory future. It is precisely the illegibility of culture as politics and of the interiority of black women’s erotic desires to the Nicaraguan state that enables the radical political potential of Afro-Nicaraguan women’s cultural production. This report brings together scholarship on the black radical imaginary, black feminist pleasure politics, and the political mobilization of Afro-Nicaraguan women to further think through what more liberatory and decolonial visions for the future might look like, as well as the strategies that might be used to get there. I argue that a politics of opacity rooted in the intersectional experiences of black women, as demonstrated in the context of Afro-Nicaraguan women, may not only privilege the erotic as an interior and perhaps less co-optable form than the pornographic promoted and sold within larger neoliberal markets, but may be the very place from which to think liberatory politics.