“the absolute / of water”: The Submarine Poetic of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!


Despite its status as ahistorical in metanarratives of modernity that serve the colonial project, the sea nonetheless features as a prominent and dynamic space in the global (and especially Western) historical imaginary. In M. NourbeSe Philip’s 2008 long poem Zong!, the seascape features as a kinetic contact zone of modernity by creating a responsive archive that documents and preserves the cultural and historical agency of colonized subjects. This paper examines Philip’s text from the perspective of two related spatial schemas that stand in opposition to land-locked narratives of Western modernity: Kamau Brathwaite’s tidalectics, and Katherine McKittrick’s (via Sylvia Wynter) demonic grounds. Bringing these two lenses together in conversation with Philip’s text highlights the oppositional archive of space and being engendered by Zong!’s resistant maritime poetic.

This article ““the absolute / of water”: The Submarine Poetic of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!” originally appeared in Emerging Scholars 2. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 228-229 (Spring/Summer 2016): 111-130.

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