Notes from the Diaspora

by Marlon Simmons (Author)
©2022 Textbook X, 124 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 535


What are the ways in which the study of Black life becomes a field of knowledge, institutionalized and at the same time forming epistemological modes of inclusion and exclusion within academe? Notes from the Diaspora tends to these distinctive forms of Black life as they become situated within particular sociocultural networks, institutions, organizations, and community establishments, conveying bearings generative of synergies in the quest of solidarity through Diasporic memory. The essays query the circumstances through which Black life comes together, remains whole, although sometimes fragile under historical pressures, to produce public forces constitutive of knowledge, subjectivities, and multiple modes of identification which come to be organized through a digitized politics of relations in sociomaterial forms. As Black life traverses through different Diasporic pathways, the author responds to how connections with place come to be, and what social networks are formed, dissolved, or made sustainable. At the same time troubling what these relationships mean for decolonial enactments, how Black people assemble and make wholesome the chunks and remnants of the Diaspora, which constitute their becoming. How at times within their relational experiences, Black life tacitly marks moments as being codified through race, to in turn open an assemblage with linkage to self-determination as ensconced within Black living. This is the potential of Notes from the Diaspora, having the capacity to attend to contingent collations as sequenced through Diasporic difference, whilst insisting on civic responsiveness to the experiences immanent to Black life.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Notes from the Diaspora
  • 1. Writing Black Life: Theoretical Underpinnings
  • 2. Locating Black Life within Colonial Modernity: Decolonial Notes
  • 3. Politics of Urban Diasporized Youth and Possibilities for Belonging
  • 4. Diaspora, Citizenry, Becoming Human and the Education of African-Canadian Youth
  • 5. The Race to Modernity: Understanding Culture through the Diasporic-Self
  • 6. Dialogue with Fanon
  • Series index

←viii | ix→


It has been over a decade since I first put pen to paper, or should I say, since I typed the first page which started the journey of bringing together this collection of chapters. During that time, my thoughts have shifted in many ways, more so through discussions as a graduate student at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Institute for the Studies in Education (OISE), and through my time teaching undergraduate and graduate students at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to Professor George Sefa Dei, Nana Adusei Sefa Tweneboah, for his mentorship and resolute support as my supervisor during my doctoral studies at OISE. Nana provided years of intellectual guidance and steadfast comradeship through my struggles and heart-warming moments. I would also like to thank the students in Nana’s thesis group. Our conversations resonated with me in many ways, and will always serve as a signpost of solidarity. Thanks to Professor Shirley Steinberg for providing a pathway to publish this work, which gives voice to some of the untold stories of the Diaspora. Thank you Professor Kari Dehli for your discerning thoughts and gentle reminders about ←ix | x→the unevenness of the writing process. To Professor Peter Trifonas, I am thankful for your earnest considerations that raised important questions for the inquiry. To my mummy, Lynette Simmons, and brother Dexter Simmons, thank you for your unbounded love, support, and belief in me. My spouse, Mairi McDermott, and children Ida and Leo Simmons, you encourage, stimulate, and provide unending care and love. These moments are dear to my heart. My nieces Brianna and Chelsea Simmons, your curiosity inspires me. My father, Reynold Simmons, your presence has always been with me. Jim and Veronica McDermott, thank you for your conversations at the dinner table which serve as a tacit prompt regarding the significance of doing this work. Liam McDermott, you remind me of the importance of laughter when thinking through these everyday historical moments.

Introduction: Notes from the Diaspora

This writing emerged from the myriad conversations I had while working through the cultural constellations of my Diasporic life. I engaged these constellations through an autoethnographic approach to make sense of my experiences of Black life as contoured through the local and the global. During the course of writing this text, my theoretical sensibilities grew in ways allowing for relational readings of my social environments. In so doing, I broached some of the limitations and possibilities involved in the process of this mind work. This text portrays my intellectual journey, filled with struggles, contradictions, and coming to make sense of my ongoing politics, which over the course of the collection has changed yet sometimes remained fixed.

Notes from the Diaspora traverses through distinct temporal periods from the late 1980s to 2020, broaching historical and contemporary tropes of Black life. Journeying through the chapters written post-2000s, I attend to a series of discussions concerning germane themes immanent to the Black experience, such as colonization, modernity, race, decoloniality, becoming and unbecoming of the human, Diaspora, and questions of belonging and citizenship. In this collection of chapters, ←1 | 2→I draw from a range of scholars such as Frantz Fanon, Claudia Jones, Sylvia Wynter, C. L. R. James, and W. E. B. Du Bois, among other social theorists to situate intellectual discussions regarding Diasporic communities. The articles are primarily concerned with the ways in which Diasporic people make sense of their experiences within their contemporary society through transoceanic histories, and simultaneously how they come to reimagine and construct different ways of being human as shaped through particular enactments of self-determination. The chapters uncover the variant interests, present epistemological challenges, and historical issues about my Diasporic life, by dialoguing with the present within historical instantiations of modernity and colonization. The discussions take up the different ways of presenting current challenges for Diasporic social formations, the interplay of cultural tradition and modernity, contestations over knowledge production, and the roles and significance of local cultural resource knowledge for thinking about Diasporic life in its varied representations. Other related discussions include social stratification, inequality, and questions of identity.

Notes from the Diaspora gives pathways to make sense of how particular beliefs, values, attitudes, and politics come to be embedded within histories of colonial discourses. Further, it points to decolonial thought as necessary for the formation of different social imaginaries as shaped through epistemological Diasporas. Discursive regularities and irregularities are broached to draw on sensibilities concerned with quotidian expressions and taken-for-granted understandings immanent to historical and current Diasporic temporalities. Notes from the Diaspora considers some of the terms and conditions for Diasporic participation and detachment, to denote how particular communicative exchanges become rendered within social practices. Such a Diasporic account allows for the placement of historical trajectories onto the innumerable experiences as delimited to the present, while concomitantly having strategies to cogently read into the discursive sociomaterial properties of the present. The collection of chapters here attend to the social histories often displaced by way of colonial endowments of institutionalized knowledge.


X, 124
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (September)
Black Life Diaspora Studies decolonial thought race modernity & coloniality Black cultural production power knowledge & culture Marlon Simmons Notes from the Diaspora
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2022. X, 124 pp.

Biographical notes

Marlon Simmons (Author)

Marlon Simmons is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. His scholarly work is grounded within the Diaspora, decolonial thought, qualitative research, and sociology of education. Related to Marlon’s teaching and research interests are network learning, governance of the self, and the role of sociomaterial relations with enhancing educational delivery.


Title: Notes from the Diaspora