Unsung Hero: Stephen Best

Professor Stephen Best, an English Associate Professor, an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Film and Media, and a member of the Critical Theory designated emphasis at UC Berkeley.

Stephen Best’s work is interested in Blackness and Queer Theory. He is specifically interested in ways of reading the historical archive and the ways we theorize about that archive. He analyzes the perspectives of Black Marxism, Afro-pessimism, and his own aesthetic theory about how to treat it. His take on “queering the archive” is interesting. It is a very different vibe than just straight psychoanalytic, Marxist, or ontological readings.

Suggested readings:

None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life – Book

“Coming and Going” – Essay

On Failing to Make the Past Present – Essay

(The essays can be found at this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kmPf1uZHR9Ad6rAVrqq5jH82CIheJLD3 )

To quote him directly:

“My scholarship encompasses a variety of fields and materials: American and African-American literature and culture, cinema and technology, rhetoric and the law, and critical theory. My research pursuits in the fields of American and African American criticism have been rather closely aligned with a broader interrogation of recent literary critical practice. To be specific, my interest in the critical nexus between slavery and historiography, in the varying scholarly and political preoccupations with establishing the authority of the slave past in black life, quadrates with my exploration of where the limits of historicism as a mode of literary study may lay, especially where that search manifests as an interest in alternatives to suspicious reading in the text-based disciplines. To this end, I have edited a number of special issues of the journal Representations (on whose board I sit) – “Redress” (with Saidiya Hartman), on theoretical and political projects to undo the slave past, “The Way We Read Now” (with Sharon Marcus), on the limits of symptomatic reading, and “Description Across Disciplines” (with Sharon Marcus and Heather Love), on disciplinary valuations of description as critical practice. I also published The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession (University of Chicago, 2004), a study of property, poetics, and legal hermeneutics in nineteenth-century American literary and legal culture. My most recent book, None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life, was published by Duke University Press in 2018.”

-Stephen Best

Check out his work, and comment on our Facebook post or this article with your thoughts!

Jayanne Forrest