The following is an excerpt from my unpublished article „Antiracism in the Time of COINTELPRO: A #HabeasViscus Production of Race, Gender, Size and Lies.“ I publish it here to provide information about my use of the concepts flesh and person. The second part on pornotroping is also about the murder of Mike Brown.
Hortense Spillers writes about the flesh in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” The article thinks through the machinations that make a slave as a being-for-another and asks what on earth gender has to do with it. Spillers displays an underwhelmed attitude towards the irrelevance of all the 1970s and 1980s gender studies scholarship to her question and moves on to theorize the distinction between body and flesh “as the central one between captive and liberated subject-positions” (Spillers 1987, 67). The body has a principled boundedness and integrity and is key to discussions of gender, kinship, the domestic, and other key concepts of gender studies. Alex Weheliye suggests that this notion of the body is tied to personhood and thereby extends Spiller’s distinction between body and flesh into the distinction between person and flesh. 
The flesh is constitutively marked through and, so it seems, for violence. It is deficient and depraved in relation to the ideals of the gendered body and coherent personhood. This deficiency and depravity is the flesh’s insurgent power. The flesh is integral to the order of the world. Spillers calls the order “American Grammar,” in accordance with her focus on the impact of slavery on the U.S. and North America. The flesh is central to the rules by which the person’s I, You, We, He and She are arranged. The “hieroglyphics of the flesh” is Spiller’s concept for thinking about the aesthetic consistency of the targeted flesh and the sociality (of sorts) in the flesh that—if thought through the categories of the person—is impossible. The hieroglyphics of the flesh might be understood as a sort of image- and sound-printing of the inherently boundaryless, genderless and kinshipless human material that ties temporally and qualitatively non-identical incidents of flesh-making violence to one another.
Dwelling in the question “What is the Black female?”, Spillers beams through a heap of racial-sexual epithets, scenes of torturous branding of female slaves’ tissue, the public policy rationality about the deficiencies of the “Negro family” in the Moynihan report, and more incidents of flesh-making violence (65-7). Spillers’ revolutionary impetus is to not particularize these incidents but to ponder on the exact ways how they are articulated with each other in a desire to unhinge their revolutionary power to break asunder the “American grammar” that cannot do without them.
Pondering the temporal and qualitative disjunctures in the workings of the hieroglyphics of the flesh, Spillers wonders if “this phenomenon of marking and branding actually ‘transfers’ from one generation to another” (67). Building on Spillers, Weheliye speaks of an intergenerational transmission of the hieroglyphics of the flesh. But the notion of “generations” evokes a passage of time and bodies in the field of patriarchally sanctioned gender, kinship, reproduction—where new bodies assume the established positions of mother, father, daughter, and son in a culturally sanctioned procedure and thereby mark the passage of time. This is a temporality that the flesh does not partake in. Kinship relations and some shadow of “intergenerationality” are part of the hieroglyphics of the flesh only insofar as they are felt by the person to be deficient. Conspicuously absent fathers, promiscuous daughters and all-domineering mothers, despite the ruse of the person’s kinship titles, are (for the person) “beings out of time” whose imagined relationships to one another make a mockery of the sanctioned patriarchal family order.
If we stay with the idea of a grammar of personhood, the hieroglyphics of the flesh have to be embedded more directly in this grammar. A grammar does not transmit itself through generations but stands mostly still though it also transforms itself. Among its implicit rules, this grammar must embed a certain memory of how the break-apart between person and flesh has looked and sounded like before, a memory of how the depraved flesh has been rendered, aesthetically, in relation to the ideal person. Shifts in the aesthetic-technological mediation of personhood are produced through the incorporation of new pictoral and sonic memes into the hieroglyphics. For the person, such shifts strengthen the pretense of authentic personhood, because they make it possible to perform the distinctiveness between one type of person (e.g. one generation, one country, one community, or one distinctive individual) and another.
For the flesh such shifts are intensifications of the hieroglyphics. They are stumbling blocks where violence re-organizes itself. They make something impossible that was just possible. The flesh just can’t. This impossibility makes it necessary to decipher the hieroglyphics. It is possible only because it is necessary. The stumbling blocks are not external. They are the hieroglyphics of the flesh. But how does the flesh decipher its own hieroglyphics that are never its own? Not like the Egyptologist deciphered the Rosetta Stone. The insight of the flesh is that flesh-making violence is not containable in its target, it ricochets off it and through it and on. Deciphering the totality of the ricochets’ oscillation is to ask that one abysmal question: where does all the violence come from?
Pornotroping, Or How the person rises from the ricochet of the world’s end
The word ricochet entered my vocabulary through the youtube video “Mike Brown’s story as told by his friend, Dorian Johnson.” Johnson renders his experience of Mike Brown’s murder by the policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson on August 9, 2014. Dorian Johnson was walking next to Mike Brown as Wilson’s police car pulled up close to them. Johnson tells:
“[Officer] tried to thrust his door open but we were so close to it that it ricocheted off us and it bounced back to him. And I guess that, you know eh, got him a little upset. Eh, at that time he reached out the window – he didn’t get out the car – he just reached his arm out the window and grabbed my friend (…)”
Dorian Johnson sees the person in the officer when he guesses at his affect. The car door ricochets back at the person after the person thrusts it against Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson, and that got the person upset and makes it lash out again. The person got exactly what it got itself, it is upset about the ricochet of its own action. Wilson’s affect of being “a little upset” channels the ricochet into a U-turn and deflects it back at the flesh, the remainder of the person’s action and the reminder that the person needs to act again.
Seeing how the ricochet makes a U-turn in the person’s affect breaks down what otherwise all too easily appears as one gesture of escalating violence into a ricocheting rhythm, where each new grab, each new bullet, births itself from the ricochet produced by the last. The question why the Darren Wilsons of this world keep firing bullets in excess of killing their targets gives way to the question how they could ever stop. The answer, in the past tense, is that they didn’t. They never stopped from thrusting the door open to grabbing, pulling-the-trigger once, pulling-the-trigger twice, speaking the word to justify the bullet hail, shooting the teargas at protestors; it never stopped.
Images and soundbites that the person circulates through the force of the ricochet of the world’s end are pornotropes. Pornotroping (studied via Hortense Spillers, Saidiya Hartman, Frank Wilderson and Alexander Weheliye) is the spectacular finding of thingness and sentience in the humanesque-appearing flesh. Such a find infuses the human subject, the person, with life. It mandates a certain aesthetic-practical experience for the person, which fits the person into the sociality of the right-thinking. Pornotroping ensures that right-thinking is always also right-feeling. The mandated aesthetic-practical experience can take the form of the cheers of the entertained or the shock of the morally concerned. The person may be animated to gang-rape the pornotroped flesh or to launch a pity-driven campaign to save it. Another pornotrope, encountered in white academia as it strives to be anti-racist, is the person’s self-contented gushing about finding some instance of racialized-feminized speech or action “inspiring,” “powerful” or “beautiful.”
The concept of the pornotrope counters the pretense of the particularity of the most egregious forms of racial-sexual violence. The right-thinking person is inherently able to disagree with itself. The differently-toned pornotropes produce a virtual world precisely because they do not all oscillate with the same wavelength. The ricochet of Darren Wilson’s bullets makes the media jump at the task of proving that Dorian Johnson is lying, for example by polling Darren Wilson’s friends who “could tell by the sound of his voice,” as the Daily Mail did. The ricochet of Wilson’s bullet also bounces through the other media that cater to the other person who would like to hear Dorian Johnson’s voice one more time. Would he please “structurally adjust” himself into a person to render a tragedy fit for the aesthetic sensibilities of the person? “Dorian, You—Were—There!” exclaims the CNN anchorwoman delightedly before asking the sensationalist question: “Were-you-afraid-of-dying?” Johnson uses the language of the person to emphatically affirm and deny that it was so.
“Yes, I was in fear for my life, like, like I said, Darren Wilson never separated the two of us, he never said, Dorian Johnson, I’m not shooting at you, I’m not chasing you, so at the time I thought that he was after both of us, I feared for my life, yes.”
The language of the person forces the flesh to pretend that its I “was there” rather than evacuating itself when it happened. The language of the person prompts the flesh into a meditation on the strange idea of not being afraid of dying. What emerges is an image—all the while being under negation—of how a person is being exempted from a bullet hail.
flesh’s realization that it is after the end of the world is to sense the
oscillation of the world’s end, and to know that if the person arises anew–
mistaking the ricochet of the world’s end for its life – it will produce the
end of another world. For the flesh, the operative word is outlive, not
survive, and the recipe for not being afraid of dying is in a world where it
will be safe to die.
 Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe. An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics 17:2 (1987): 64-81
 Alexander G. Weheliye. Habeas Viscus. Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2014.
 Compare Sylvia Wynter’s thinking about shifting political orders in “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation-An Argument.” CR: The New Centennial Review, 3:3 (Fall 2003). Also transcoding. My thinking on sound is especially influenced by Robin James.
 Dorian Johnson, Youtube video “Mike Brown’s story as told by his friend, Dorian Johnson” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQeni0qt8Vo
 Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe. An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics 17:2 (1987); Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection. Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth-century America. Oxford University Press, 1997; Frank B. Wilderson III, Red, White & Black; Alexander Weheliye, Habeas Viscus.
 Bates, Daniel. “EXCLUSIVE: Darren Wilson’s friends demand that ’star‘ witness in Michael Brown case be charged with PERJURY for his ‚hands up, don’t shoot lie‘ after grand jury rejects teen’s version of events.” Daily Mail, 26 November 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2850308/Darren-Wilson-s-friends-demand-star-witness-Michael-Brown-case-charged-PERJURY-hands-don-t-shoot-lie-grand-jury-rejects-teen-s-version-events.html#ixzz3a7pOCFdT
On this usage of the term “structural adjustment” see Wilderson, Red, White & Black.
 CNN Video “Dorian Johnson: ‘Hurt’ by no indictment” (November 25, 2014) http://edition.cnn.com/videos/crime/2014/11/25/erin-intv-johnson-ferguson-grand-jury-no-indictment.cnn