No One's Witness: A Monstrous Poetics

witness

Rachel Zolf

2021

Duke University Press

In No One's Witness Rachel Zolf activates the last three lines of a poem by Jewish Nazi holocaust survivor Paul Celan—“No one / bears witness for the / witness”—to theorize the poetics and im/possibility of witnessing. Drawing on black studies, continental philosophy, queer theory, experimental poetics, and work by several writers and artists, Zolf asks what it means to witness from the excessive, incalculable position of No One. In a fragmentary and recursive style that enacts the monstrous speech it pursues, No One's Witness demonstrates the necessity of confronting the Nazi holocaust in relation to transatlantic slavery and its afterlives. Thinking along with black feminist theory's notions of entangled swarm, field, plenum, chorus, No One's Witness interrogates the limits and thresholds of witnessing, its dangerous perhaps. No One operates outside the bounds of the sovereign individual, hauntologically informed by the fleshly no-thingness that has been historically ascribed to blackness and that blackness enacts within, apposite to, and beyond the No One. No One bears witness to becomings beyond comprehension, making and unmaking monstrous forms of entangled future anterior life.