In the introduction to this special issue, we argued that ambivalence is a disposition animating all criticism, even if only its disavowal, but that ambivalence becomes particularly charged in criticism of the present, because not only do our objects get inside us through our distorting ingestion but also we cannot get outside of the object that is our shared historical horizon. The essays for this special issue looked to varied scenes in the recent history of U.S. culture and wrote as part of an ambivalent collective that denies purity at the level of a field, instead opting for contradiction re-valued as positions on an affective spectrum whose poles love and hate are co-constitutive rather than really polar opposites.

In the spirit of collective ambivalence ambivalence as a motivation to be in collectivity with one another we do not close this special issue with a grand theory, but with an open-ended taxonomy of further sites we see as attracting critical ambivalence, as well as an exploration of the particular questions animated by them. This might be the "further research" portion of an essay if we were scientists. As humanists, we think of it more as an exercise of mapping emergences in the overlapping fields that constitute what we might think of as post-1945 U.S. cultural studies.

In forming and writing this special issue, we editors and contributors have been particularly influenced by the different objects to which the qualifier "open" has promiscuously been attached in recent years. In her essay, Christina León theorizes open wounds and open secrets in the legacies of colonialism. Amber Jamilla Musser and Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan tackle the topics of open borders, open access to cultural knowledge, and open dialogues across cultural difference. And Mark Seltzer and Summer Kim Lee explore open concepts, open worlds, and open-endedness. Whenever something is called "open," we think ambivalence is already on the scene. Contemporary life moves across perpetually shifting types and scales of openness. Open markets define our lives, as do the open secrets of big data. Open office layouts, open source coding, and open access publications enable or circumscribe work lives. Borders are permeable. Classified documents leak. Open-carry advocates parade on government steps. Interdisciplines proliferate in the academy. A virus crosses from one species to another, and the time of contagion is open-ended. In humanity's collective absence, the margin of visibility expands. A line remains open. People have open minds. People have open relationships. People long for open air.

We conclude this special issue with the sense that many of the most interesting debates in cultural studies today reside within the tensions inherent to the open, its many conjugates (opened, openness, opening . . . ), and its many objects (worlds, borders, offices . . . ) and this is because of the openness of the object's particular affinity for the ambivalence of the critic. For some, the openness of the contemporary is a good thing if it means that the future has not been foreclosed, if rupture within toxic structures is always immanent, if there are openings toward utopia within the everyday. For others, it may be a tragedy, if openness means a new regime of control through flexible labor and neoliberal markets, or if the urgent political task is not opening up space for the future, but healing the open wounds of the past. Different orientations toward openness collide at the crux of urgent contemporary issues: people demand open borders but not open markets; accommodations at work without the flexibilization of work; stable careers within gig economies; transparency from governments and corporations but privacy for their citizens and consumers; ecstatically different futures born out of history's fetid wounds. Where do we find openness and how do we know if we want to hold onto it? When does openness become a political project of world-building, and when does it become a cruel optimism of a hope rehearsed but not actualized? As a collective field, we are ambivalent about openness.

In the remainder of this afterword, we lay out what we think have been the central appearances of openness in cultural studies in the past decade, as well as the ambivalent questions these appearances invite. This is an atlas, not a strong theory. It is a map of aesthetic objects and the critical questions and ambivalences that they animate. We do not pretend to exhaust the field, but we do find these tenconjugations particularly provocative: open worlds, open wounds, open borders, open markets, open-ended, open secrets, open concept, open dialogue, open mind, and open access.

1. Open Worlds

Given the extent to which social relations not only structure, but are our human world, how might we attend to the promise of an open world? Is an open world possible, and if so, where (when?) do we locate it? What happens when we make and unmake and remake social relations, embodiments, environments, and temporalities? Mark Seltzer's The Official World, for example, describes modernity as something of a closed loop a self-reflexive and recursive system that self describes and self-creates.1 "Outside" the official world is hard to imagine. As in the constructions of gender theorized by Judith Butler, the fact that the world remakes itself is, for Seltzer, not a suggestion that it might be simply unmade. Rather, the official world that Seltzer describes is a conscriptive system. This is not to say that there is no outside, however. Elizabeth Freeman's Time Binds, for example, suggests a queer time that might be considered outside of the official world's regimentation.2

Another example can be found in Joshua Chambers-Letson's After the Party, which begins with a death. Like Christina Sharpe's In the Wake, which concerns itself with black death in particular, After the Party is a meditation on life and community in the perpetual grief and knowledge of minoritarian extinguishment by which we mean both the violent attempts at the diminishment of minoritarian subjects and the literal snuffing that is death. Chambers-Letson's thinking across subject positions is linked with his commitment to a commons model of minoritarian relation, which, after Fred Moten and Jean-Luc Nancy, he describes as a communism of being-together-in-difference, of "being together in racial and sexual particularity."3 Rather than lingering in the space of death or, alternately, refusing its full acknowledgement Chambers-Letson's work describes "the breakdown and falling apart as a condition of possibility," in which "the collapse of each party [of remembrance and mourning and resurrection, the party as a proxy for a life] becomes the condition for the emergence of something new the next night."4 As in the work of José Esteban Muñoz, the new world, this utopic emergence, maintains its own, fleeting temporality in and through the aesthetic.

Yet dance scholar Thomas DeFrantz has issued the warning that the potentiality of even the most efficacious of world-making gestures can fall flat in the face of the world that is.5 Reading the black social dances of Childish Gambino's "This is America" video as a thwarted gesture, DeFrantz asserts that black social dance loses its world-making potential when it is consumed by those not called to dance themselves. Black social dance, he says, is shifty and fugitive and fun, but above all its dancer risks failure. When simply available for consumption without the commensurate risk of participation, it fails to change the terms of encounter. The essays in this special issue have taken up these and other considerations in posing their own questions about worldmaking. What kind of world do we envision as ideal? Who is included and on what terms? What is utopia founded on or in? What is its purpose and duration? And, perhaps above all, how do we move on from a world's (in)evitable end?

2. Open Wounds

In recent years, the movement against police brutality led by Black Lives Matter has brought attention to the ongoing disposability of Black bodies in what Saidiya Hartman calls "the afterlife of slavery" and what Christina Sharpe calls living on "in the wake" of the slave ship.6 At the same time, activists have resisted the "viral" regime of videos of police brutality, partly in order to balance a competing need to shore up the agency and resilience of its collective. We need both attention to trauma and attention to making space for relief from the confrontation of a constantly violent structure. The task is to confront a structural terror without being defeated, triggered, or re-subjugated by it. In an October 2017 pamphlet released on its website, Black Lives Matter called for matching activist energy "with elevated and innovative ways of caring and showing up for each other," recognizing that "organizing against violence and for Black liberation can consciously or unconsciously trigger us to relive unhealed experiences in which we, our ancestors, and our communities have been oppressed and violated." When a wound is "unhealed," there is a risk that attending to it will not close it, but infect it and cause it to fester. The tension within this project is between laying bare the reality of a violent system and making room for relief from it, or, to use another contemporary idiom, "self care." Black Lives Matter expresses a need to balance addressing the ongoing structure of violence that has sedimented through history and avoiding a triggering that could entrench it even more, or else deplete the agency of those who have assembled to erode it. It is this ambivalence that one commentator has located in the word "dehiscence," used both by Afro-Pessimists like Jared Sexton and Black optimists like Fred Moten, and meaning simultaneously "wounded flesh" and "pregnant flesh": "a fleshy register of violence as the wound that refuses to heal, and also a rupture of generative potentiality in the reproductive cellular kernel of flesh."7 In what ways is the present traumatically structured as an open wound the collapse of past and present in the ongoing brutalization of Black flesh in what Hortense Spillers called the "American grammar" and in what ways does a wound open up alternate possibilities for the future?

In a parallel vein, contemporary feminists have balanced the need for exposing the pervasiveness of sexual violence with the need not to re-create violence through triggering traumatic memory. Carmen Maria Machado's "The Husband Stitch" gives form to a genealogy and structure of violence against women without narrating its gory events. In its plot, it is a short story adaptation and maturation of "The Green Ribbon," a story somehow intended for children and about a girl whose head, unbeknownst to her lover and eventually husband, is attached to her neck by a ribbon tied around it; when, at the end of years of marriage, she finally allows him to untie the ribbon, her head falls off. This is a story about male entitlement when men feel they have unlimited access to women's bodies; about the femicide produced when male privilege is valued over female life. Interspersed throughout the frame story of heterosexual romance are others, usually horror stories of girls and women attacked by hitchhikers, men with hooks for hands, and wolves. But the story declines to describe the final act of violence that kills the first person narrator: "you may be wondering if that place my ribbon protected was wet with blood and openings, or smooth and neutered like the nexus between the legs of a doll. I'm afraid I can't tell you, because I don't know. For these questions and others, and their lack of resolution, I am sorry."8 Pointing to a violent structure but withdrawing its spectacles: here is one answer to a question: how do you give form to a structure of violence without re-presenting its stock images?

3. Open Borders

A photograph of Javier Téllez's 2005 inSITE performance piece, One Flew Over the Void/Bala perdida, illustrates the inherent ambiguity of borders. The lower half of the photograph shows a dense group of people gathered on a sandy beach before a tall, but rickety, slatted fence; beyond the fence an unoccupied stretch of beach is visible. On closer inspection one notices tent awnings, umbrellas, decorative posters, and a large, diagonal object not immediately identifiable amidst the throng of people. The upper third of the photograph shows a cloudless blue sky and a wedge of ocean. Not until one recognizes the single form flying through the expanse of blue as human does one understand they are seeing a human cannonball shot over a border fence.

In this photograph we see several themes: the freedom of flight and the precarity of the border-crossing body; the emptiness of the destination nation and the unknowability of our future destinations; the polarization, at times, of individual agency and communities of origin. The story of the performance proliferates the borders crossed. One might wonder at the legality of the performance, for one thing, of whether Téllez's collaboration with psychiatric patients crosses the borders of ethics or propriety.9 Additionally, though the majority of English language engagement with the work ignores the second, Spanish-language part of the title, "bala perdida" is not a repetition of the title's first part, but rather a phrase that translates idiomatically as "loose cannon," "stray bullet," or "misfire." Given, on the one hand, the liberating associations with flight and, on the other, the threatening connotations of each of the Spanish language phrases (let alone the autonomous connotations of an adjective like "stray" in a work of border crossing), One Flew Over the Void is less a performance of pure affective orientation than a work of ambiguity.

The border crossing referenced by One Flew Over the Void is nothing new, of course. From the traders and the crusaders of the Medieval era, to the conquistadors and slavers of the Middle Passage, to the Chinese and Irish laborers who facilitated American manifest destiny, to flows of money and weapons that constituted the Iran-Contra Affair, the global circuity of people, technology, capital, and ideologies has been a constant. Nevertheless, borders do define the contemporary moment in profound and rapidly shifting ways. Europe has seen an upsurge in nationalist sentiment in a number of countries, and the growth of parties that demonize "foreigners" (many of whom were born in the nation in question) for the "erosion" of national cultures. In the United States and Israel, politicians have erected walls against real and rhetorical enemies, even as the militarized forces they unleash (and, at times, the allies they support) commit terrorist acts in the name of the state. During the global pandemic beginning in 2019, the President of the United States banned travel from China to the United States in the face of real and rhetorical threats of viral contagion, and Americans found themselves turned back from the border of "our closest neighbor," Canada. And the precarity of citizenship for Black, Latinx, Asian, and Arab-appearing subjects has been highlighted in the face of various political contingencies. With the increased contentiousness of the border, can one still reside in the borderlands of Gloria Anzaldua's formative Borderlands/La Frontera, or do we need new paradigms for residing in liminal space?

4. Open Markets

Under neoliberalism as a "normative order of reason" in which economization infiltrates all areas of life, Wendy Brown says "both persons and states are construed on the model of the contemporary firm, both persons and states are expected to comport themselves in ways that maximize their capital value in the present and enhance their future value, and both persons and states do so through practices of entrepreneurialism, self-investment, and/or attracting investors."10 Nowhere is this conflation of scales (personal, political) more apparent than in the question of openness: the need not only for states to open themselves up to global flows of capital, but for individuals to open themselves up for open flows of information. And yet, what neoliberalism teaches us is that openness is not the default of nature, but the construction of order, for what distinguishes it from classic liberalism is that it does not believe in the absolutely free market; rather, as Quinn Slobodian has shown, neoliberals theorized that maximizing the flow of global capital required state intervention, especially in building international institutions, culminating in the founding of the World Trade Organization in 1995.11 In what ways can this construction of openness be exploited toward other ends? In what ways can the hegemony of capital be closed? When might we want to close the markets, to protect some spaces from others?

The concrete workings of global, neoliberal capitalism only complicate matters through their collision with a multicultural discourse of tolerance and the monetization of creativity. How do we read the line where cosmopolitan "multi-culti" values become mere self-congratulation, virtue signaling that has more to do with affirming diversity as part of one's personal brand, rather than as an active commitment to justice? Witness the debate over Jeanine Cummins's 2019 novel American Dirt and author Myriam Gurba's searing critique.12 Given the runaway success of Cummins's novel, the excoriating reviews of writers like Gurba, and the simultaneous appearance of first-person accounts such as Karla Cornejo Villavicencio's The Undocumented Americans, American Dirt offers a particularly vivid example of the ways such debates can proceed in the current climate of publishing and media.13 Yet the core issues of cross-cultural storytelling are not new. Native Alaskan writers, for example, have been forcefully arguing for their ownership of certain stories for several decades. In the messy world of aesthetics and ethical relation, the extent to which you believe that artistry can allow for the assumption (or presumption) of another's life will depend, to no small extent, on where you draw the boundary between cultural particularity and baseline humanism. A writer, after all, will always imagine themselves into the lives of others. How do we forge intimacies, enabled by globalization, without entrenching globalization's evils? Is the most pressing question the flow of material resources, or the ethics of relation? Do stories belong solely to the culture of origin, or also to the culture of encounter?

5. Open Ended

The open-ended story is often offered as a kind of freedom: the movie's director or the novelist's author leaves it up to the audience or the reader to decide what happens. But what are the stakes of ambiguous plot resolution when the increasing reality of apocalyptic narratives so often seems like an ending of a democracy, of a species, of a planet that has already been decided? Beginning in the 1990s, when the scene of apocalypse in the cultural imagination shifted from nuclear war to global warming, our sense of time and of endings has changed alongside the development of a planetary and ecological consciousness. In his classic of literary criticism, The Sense of an Ending, Frank Kermode pointed out that apocalyptic discourse, which seems so much about the disorganization of the world, actually provides temporal organization: a cataclysmic future event "humanizes time by giving it form," for "to make sense of our lives from where we are, as it were, stranded in the middle, we need fictions of beginnings and fictions of ends, fictions which unite beginning and end and endow the interval between them with meaning."14 But in the climate change imaginary, apocalypse is indexed not only by the future event in manmade history, but also by, as Tobias Menely has shown, the seemingly banal ongoingness of meteorological time that is supposed to be its plain background.15 What happens to narrative and aesthetic form when the "sense of an ending" is an ongoing condition of the present a present of permanent crisis and not a distinct event in time?

In the first part of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, appropriately titled "Millennium Approaches," Harper meditates on "beautiful systems dying, old fixed orders spiraling apart."16 She thinks immediately of the hole in the ozone layer, which she considers a safety net gifted to the earth by God as a "crowning touch to the creation of the world," but there are other safety nets, more or less metaphorical, that are also dissipating: "everywhere, things are collapsing, lies surfacing, systems of defense giving way."17 In Harper's generalized immunological imagination ("People are like planets, you need a thick skin"), concentric spheres of containment are being breached: planetary (with the breaching of the ozone), national (with the end of the Cold War), and bodily (the susceptibility of the body to AIDS).18 These are each "systems" whose circulatory ecologies are being perturbed. And yet this apocalyptic bent to "Millennium Approaches" is revised in the second play of Angels in America, "Perestroika." Just as the new antiretroviral drug AZT makes AIDS manageable, continuously deferring fatality which is to say medical crisis becomes chronic so, too, does this play imagine not the millennium that could arrive at any moment, but a stretched-out temporality of uncertainty and contingency in which people manage to live on. Harper, who has the last words of the play before the epilogue, returns to her ozone theme but in an opposite direction, no longer tracking downwards from planetary disrepair to bodily disintegration, but instead working up from the bodies of the dead to the atmospheric: "the souls of the[] departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules, of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired."19 When is the ambiguity of an ending a beginning? How do we know when to invest optimism in ending and when to expect apocalypse? How much ending can we bear before utopia comes?

6. Open Secrets

An open secret is knowledge officially disavowed but unofficially widely known: the emperor has no clothes. In a world of WikiLeaks, where news is almost always "off the record," open secrets proliferate. Yet for many in a queer tradition, the open secret is not a paradox of the state, but of the sexual subject: the closet queen, for instance, who is officially not out but everyone knows he's that way. The proximity of secrecy and sex is one reason even governmental leaks seem at times to have a sexual charge, as Michael Dango has argued, going back, of course, to Watergate's "Deep Throat."20 Although a liberationist politics has foregrounded the necessity of "coming out," of being open about one's secret instead of having an open secret, D. A. Miller, more than anyone else, has, throughout his career, from The Novel and the Police to his books on Jane Austen's style in The Secret of Style and Hollywood musicals, considered the generativity of failing to make one's self fully present, of dwelling within the potentiality of latency instead of its always reductive, always disappointing realization.21 So, too, has Anne-Lise Françoise, in her book on Open Secrets, pointed out the release provided by embracing the nonevent of the secret.22 Declining the heroism of action that does something to transform the world, she calls for a kind of action that is about dwelling in the present, making do, without making a claim for change; these actions withdraw their actors rather than enmesh them in the creation of a world, cancelling the enlightenment and modernist project of cultivating and elaborating the self. Jaime Cortez's graphic novella Sexile tells the true story of Adela Vasquez, a trans woman and activist from Cuba who lives in California and who has a more ambivalent relation to the open secret. On the one hand, the closet is a literally a joke for Adela, who, upon being drafted into the Cuban military as a fabulous teenager, remarks that she will have to "go into the closet and find the perfect military ensemble."23 There is an open secret she is that way, even if never explicitly said; when let go from her teaching job, she is told "I think you know why," the why never spelled out. But without the contents of the secret filled out, the wrong secret is often interpreted: she is read not as a woman, but as a fag. And it turns out the progressive gay community in San Francisco will accept fags, but not trans women: "I always thought those queens were wild and open to all kinds of sexuality and gender, but that wasn't true.24 One of the things transition signifies for Adela is a closing of the meanings her secret can have, a movement from the space of ambiguity and gender play to gender affirmation, from ambiguous queerness to unambiguous woman. So, too, has Grace Lavery recently pushed back on the fetish of free-play in queer theory, seeking instead to theorize "ontologies of trans life absent the categories of parody and drag and to orient us away from descriptions of trans as instability, fuckery, or interstitially that reduce such ontologies to intellectual or aesthetic patterns."25 When to dwell in ambiguity as a refusal of the confessional mode and when to delimit the range of interpretations of an open secret?

7. Open Concept

The organization of space is another ambivalent site of openness in contemporary life. In an extended joke from the sitcom W1A, BBC head of values Ian Fletcher searches in vain for a place to hold a private meeting in a massive building of flexible space. He turns to increasingly unlikely spaces already occupied for increasingly absurd purposes, finally holding his meeting on a couch pushed against a window, as in an airport gate lobby. If corporate office space's movement to open cubicles left workers feeling exposed and surveilled, the flex space environment has often left them unmoored. Additionally, the move to remote work and flexible hours, liberating for many, have also created their own systems of technological Taylorisms and oversight. Under what economic pressures does the open office both facilitate a sense of freedom and entrench a regime of surveillance?

Home life, too, is affected by the sense of open or closed space, from open floor plans to tiny houses. Entire shows and networks are dedicated to the revamping of space. Marie Kondo teaches us to spark joy by unburdening ourselves, and Bobby Berk teaches us that no personal transformation is complete without an overhaul of our habitat. Under the pressures of what class and race anxieties does the renovation of a kitchen come to seem a necessary project? What is spatial "flow" and what does it assume about life about noise and clutter, about numbers of bodies and colors and smells?

8. Open Dialogue

Open communication among members of a community and open dialogue within partnerships are hallmarks of nonviolence. They are also signs of a flourishing community, if it means that all members have equal access to being heard and understood. Scholarly works, too, stage open dialogues across incommensurate positions to engender new worlds. Kara Keeling's Queer Times, Black Futures interweaves her readings of Black production with an ongoing discussion of Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener": the idea there is not that the old, canonical white guy legitimizes the minoritized archive but, in a resonance of form, engages with and is engaged by it.26 And yet the therapeutic idiom of open communication has also been appropriated by conservative agents, not acting in good faith, as a way of delaying political action through the fetish of speech. The "let's talk about it" instead of "let's do something about it" performs democracy instead of enacts it. Here, "open" becomes a style rather than a method or process, just as Tavia Nyong'o and Kyla Wazana Tompkins call civility "a political aesthetic that obscures its politicity by asserting that it is 'only' an aesthetic or a style."27 Could, ironically, something be opened up in the world by closing the circuit of communication, by discovering rhythms of self-affection, by stubbornly refusing to engage?

Todd Haynes's 1995 film Safe focuses on Carol White, who fails to show up in her world, her name emphasizing her non-exceptionality. Visually, she is dwarfed by expansive shots that seem to suggest her teal furniture is more interesting than her face, and sonically, her speech is often drowned out by the various tracks playing in the background: neoliberal self-help ("emotional maintenance . . . stress management . . . it's about how to own your own life") and new age psychology ("deep ecology goes beyond the traditional scientific framework to incorporate a greater spiritual awareness of the planet"). Diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity, she must shut her body off from the environment in order to survive it. She retreats from the world, from these discourses, and in the film's final scene, in her own self-contained bubble, she tells herself in the mirror, vacantly but not ironically: "I love you. I love you." But, as Leo Bersani suggests, we cannot know who this "I" or the "you" is anymore without a world she is in dialogue with.28 How does the subject made by a world undo herself by refusing the conditions of engagement, of dialogue, of openness in that world?

9. Open Mind

Partway through her autobiographical collection of idiosyncratic, philosophical, and linked short essays, Calamaties, Renee Gladman finds herself reading Herta Müller's 1997 novel about communist Romania, The Appointment. Although she does not discuss its original German title, Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet, or, "Today, I would have rather not met myself," Müller's phrase speaks directly to Gladman's theme. This is because, while reading, she becomes, like Müller's protagonist, Eastern European. "I'm not Eastern European in real life," Gladman explains, "at least I can't get anyone to think of me this way": "I can't get anyone to understand how black people are another kind of Eastern European, especially not the Eastern Europeans. . . . How eventful it would be for the Eastern Europeans to begin calling themselves black, or even black Asian. How undermining of all that is the case were I to proclaim in my bios, 'Renee Gladman is an Eastern-European African American.'"29 If Gladman's "all that is the case" cites Ludwig Wittgenstein's first proposition in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  "The world is everything that is the case" she suggests that a cross-racial and trans-continental identification undermines "the world" itself. The world ruptures or becomes different by way of unlikely intimacies, the coming-into-commons of the African American and the Eastern European: a contemporary reparation and instantiation of Lisa Lowe's groundbreaking study The Intimacy of Four Continents.

Approaching these unlikely intimacies requires an open mind so that they can be chanced upon: the suspension of disbelief that allows Gladman to stumble across, and then identify as, an Eastern European. If openness refers to a willingness to see differently, it might also encompass seeing a difference that is not so much willed but arrived at through error, mutation, contingency, or glitch. How might we think through the autism-spectrum sensing described by Mel Chen in Animacies, or the knowledges of materiality described by Jane Bennett in Vibrant Matter?30 How can we do more with the agentially ambiguous object knowledges of the black women Uri McMillan describes in Embodied Avatars?31

10. Open Access

In 2019, Zackary Drucker launched The Gender Spectrum Collection, "a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés." Made freely available through a Creative Commons license, the images show quotidian scenes, trying to deflate the sensationalism of trans representation elsewhere. But although all the photos were taken by Drucker, many featuring her friends, the Collection is owned by VICE network, and users are advised to credit, not Drucker herself, but the Collection, in captions. And although the Collection website offers guidelines for using the images, advising respect, the license in no way prevents the photos from showing up in phobic contexts. Who owns the trans and non-binary ordinary? And might vulnerable communities at times want to close off access, to create safe spaces rather than ones open to all?

Open access has emerged in the millennium as an ethics of liberating knowledge from its elite sites of confinement: from behind the paywalls of price-gouging Elsevier's database of peer-reviewed articles or from behind the more literal walls of tuition-hiked colleges and universities. Making content, both creative and academic, freely available is part of what it means to dwell in what Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey call the undercommons of the university, a commons that smuggles rather than critiques knowledge. Their book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study was published open access.32 And yet, in a post-Web 2.0 world, in which we find ourselves giving up content for free making videos on TikTok, generating memes for Twitter, posting vlogs on YouTube and in which we produce value for the platforms that profit from that content, might a return to copyright seem particularly pressing? We might be optimistic about what Jean-Luc Nancy calls "literary communism," the giving over of individual ownership of thought to the community, or even about plagiarism as what Emily Apter calls an "effective tactic[] aimed at radical de-ownership," but what does it mean to plagiarize from someone who never had ownership to begin with, whose content always already belonged to the firm, the platform, the institution?33 How to make knowledge and cultural production accessible but not appropriable? Especially when cultural production is driven by scenes most outside the centers of profit, whether the bedroom of the queer teenager who vogues on TikTok or the laboratory of original memes that is Black Twitter?

Tina Post is an Assistant Professor of English and Theater and Performance at the University of Chicago, where she is also affiliated with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Her first book project, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression, is forthcoming from NYU Press in the Minoritarian Aesthetics Series edited by Uri McMillan, Sandra Ruiz, and Shane Vogel. Her scholarly work has appeared in Modern DramaTDR: The Drama ReviewInternational Review of African American Art (IRAAA), and the edited collection Race and Performance after Repetition (Duke University Press, 2020). Her creative work can be found in Imagined TheatersStone Canoe, and The Appendix.

Michael Dango is Assistant Professor of English and Media Studies at Beloit College, where he is also affiliated with Critical Identity Studies. He is the author of Crisis Style: The Aesthetics of Repair, part of the Post*45 series at Stanford University Press, and is under contract to write a book on Madonna's Erotica for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series. His current research project is tentatively titled, What Does Rape Look Like?Sexual Violence and Aesthetic Education, parts of which have recently appeared in Signs and differences


  1. Mark Seltzer, The Official World (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). []
  2. Elizabeth Freedman, Time BindsQueer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010). []
  3. Joshua, Chambers-Letson. After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (New York: NYU Press, 2018), xx. []
  4. Ibid., xiv. []
  5. Thomas D. DeFrantz, "Black One Shot 7.3: This is America," ASAP/J, August 28, 2018. []
  6. Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), 6; Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016). []
  7. Theodora Danylevich, "Beyond Thinking: Black Flesh as Meat Patties and The End of Eating Everything," Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, no. 29 (2016): 4; Jared Sexton, "The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism," InTensions, no. 5 (Fall/Winter 2011): 9; Fred Moten, "The Case of Blackness," Criticism 50, no. 2 (February 22, 2009): 187. Compare also Fred Moten, "Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh)," South Atlantic Quarterly 112, no. 4 (September 21, 2013): 740; and Jared Sexton, "Unbearable Blackness," Cultural Critique 90, no. 1 (July 23, 2015): 159-78. For a discussion of shared commitments between the two traditions, see Stephen H. Marshall, "The Political Life of Fungibility," Theory & Event 15, no. 3 (August 30, 2012). []
  8. Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties: Stories (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2017). []
  9. Jennie Klein, "Performance, Post-Border Art, and Urban Geography," PAJ 86 (2007): 37. []
  10. Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (New York: Zone Books, 2017), 22. []
  11. Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018). []
  12. Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt (New York: Flatiron Books, 2020); Myriam Gurba, "Pendeja, You Ain't Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature," Tropics of Meta (blog), December 12, 2019. []
  13. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans (New York: One World, 2020). []
  14. Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 45, 190. []
  15. Tobias Menely, "'The Present Obfuscation': Cowper's Task and the Time of Climate Change," PMLA 127, no. 3 (2012): 490. []
  16. Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, 20th Anniversary Edition (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2013), 16. []
  17. Ibid. []
  18. Ibid., 17. []
  19. Ibid., 285. []
  20. Michael Dango, "Leaks: A Genre," Post45: Peer-Reviewed, November 17, 2017. []
  21. D. A. Miller, The Novel and The Police (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989); D. A. Miller, Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); D. A. Miller, Place for Us: Essay on the Broadway Musical (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000). []
  22. Anne-Lise François, Open Secrets: The Literature of Uncounted Experience (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007). []
  23. Jaime Cortez, Sexile (Los Angeles: Example Product Manufacturer, 2004), 11-12. []
  24. Ibid., 58. []
  25. Grace Lavery, "Trans Realism, Psychoanalytic Practice, and the Rhetoric of Technique," Critical Inquiry 46, no. 4 (2020): 722. See also Grace Lavery, "The King's Two Anuses: Trans Feminism and Free Speech," Differences 30, no. 3 (2019): 118-51. []
  26. Kara Keeling, Queer Times, Black Futures (New York: New York University Press, 2019). []
  27. Nyong'o and Tomkins, "Eleven Theses on Civility." []
  28. Leo Bersani, "Illegitimacy," in Thoughts and Things (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 15-36. []
  29. Renee Gladman, Calamaties (Seattle: Wave Books, 2016), 19. []
  30. Mel Y. Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012); Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (Durham: Duke University Press: 2010). []
  31. Uri McMillan, Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance (New York: NYU Press: 2015) []
  32. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Wivenhoe: Autonomedia, 2013). []
  33. Jean-Luc Nancy, Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991); Emily Apter, "What Is Yours, Ours, and Mine: Authorial Ownership and the Creative Commons," October 126 (2008): 111. []