• Surveillance, Sexuality, Subversion: A Digital Poetics of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin’s FBI Files

    Author(s):
    Tyne Daile Sumner (see profile)
    Date:
    2020
    Group(s):
    DH2020
    Subject(s):
    Digital humanities, Queer studies, Surveillance studies, Poetry, Postcolonialism, Modernism
    Item Type:
    Video
    Tag(s):
    marginalia, FBI, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/43cf-ns75
    Abstract:
    This paper traces a critical thread between surveillance, modern American poetry, Digital Humanities, and queer activism in the 20th century. In doing this, the paper will examine the creation, metadata, digitisation, and reception of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's archive of dossiers on two well known gay African American poets: Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Constantly on the lookout for any excuse to stifle African-American activism, the FBI was keen to conflate homosexuality, race and poetics by placing all three under the broad category of “perversity.” These acts of overt Bureau interjection into the ebb and flow of the modern American poetic landscape reveal the extent to which the FBI’s role as surveillance agency went well beyond the job assigned to it as enforcer of federal law and instead assumed the role of a guardian of morality and censor of literary writing. The files themselves also read like complex literary texts – encoded, blanked-out, and catalogued according to their own internal ontological method. They represent an organizational system that can be read alongside the ‘code breaking’ and close reading principles of high-modernist literary criticism as well as within the context of the FBI’s now well-know attempts to quash black queer activism in the early to middle decades of the twentieth century.
    Notes:
    Global Renderings in the Queer Digital Humanities Tully Barnett Creative Arts and English Studies Flinders University, South Australia (AU) Megan Cytron Spanish Philology Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain (SP) Tyne Daile Sumner Literature and Digital Humanities University of Melbourne, Victoria (AU) Rahul K Gairola Comparative Asian and Postcolonial Studies Murdoch University/ Asia Research Centre, Western Australia (AU)
    Metadata:
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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