ferreira in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018

tive relationship between the two. I borrowed the
concept of poethics (with an added h) from the poet, essayist,
and scholar Joan Retallack, where it has been further taken
on by the artist and critical racial and postcolonial studies
scholar Denise Ferreira da Silva; but in my exploration of
the term, I will also draw on the specific forms of feminist
poetics developed by literary theorist Terry Threadgold. I
will weave these concepts together and adapt them to start
speculating what a specific scholarl

ch ethics
and aesthetics can come together to reflect upon and
perform life’s changing experiences, whilst insisting upon our
responsibility (in interaction with the world) to guide this
change the best way we can, and to keep it in motion.
Denise Ferreira da Silva takes the concept of poethics
further to consider a new kind of speculative thinking—a
black feminist poethics—which rejects the linear and rational,
one-dimensional thought that characterises Western

The Poethics of Openness


European philosophy and theory in favour of a fractal or fourdimensional thinking, which better captures the complexity
of our world. Complicating linear conceptions of history and
memory as being reductive, Ferreira da Silva emphasises
how they are active elements, actively performing our past,
present and future. As such, she points out how slavery and
colonialism, often misconstrued in linear thinking as bygone
remnants of our past, are actively performed in and through
our present, grounded in that past, a past foundational to
our consciousness. Using fractal thinking as a poethical tool,
Ferreira da Silva hopes to break through the formalisations
of linear thought, by mapping blackness, and modes of
colonialism and racial violence not only on time, but on various
forms of space and place, exploring them explicitly from a
four-dimensional perspective (Bradley 2016). As such, she
explains, poethical thinking, ‘deployed as a creative (fractal)
imaging to address colonial and racial subjugation, aims to
interrupt the repetition characteristic of fractal patterns’
(Ferreira da Silva 2016) and refuses ‘to reduce what exists—
anyone and everything—to the register of the object, the
other, and the commodity’ (Ferreira da Silva 2014).

(such as the closed print-based book, single authorship, linear thought, copyright,
exploitative publishing relationships) or succumb to the closures that its own
implementation (e.g. through commercial adaptations) and institutional

Stone. 2017. “Changing Publishing Ecologies: A Landscape
Study of New University Presses and Academic-Led Publishing”. London: Jisc. http://
Bradley, Rizvana. 2016. “Poethics of the Open Boat (In Response to Denise Ferreira Da
Silva)”. ACCeSsions, no. 2.
Darnton, Robert. 1982. “What Is the History of Books?” Daedalus 111 (3): 65–83.
Derrida, Jacques. 1973. Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of
Signs. Northwestern University Press.
Ferreira da Silva, Denise. 2014. “Toward a Black Feminist Poethics”. The Black Scholar 44
(2): 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/00064246.2014.11413690.
———. 2016. ‘Fractal Thinking’. ACCeSsions, no. 2.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2011. Planned Obsole


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