Imagine Otherwise: La Marr Bruce on Renewal, Loss, and Black Creativity

Apr 15, 2021 | Podcast

Creative Renewal after Loss

As scholars, we often like to think we have everything under control. We work hard to meet deadlines, fulfill our responsibilities, and get everything done.

So what happens when global and personal events throw all of that out the window?

In episode 131 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview La Marr Bruce, whose new book How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity, ended up on a much more complicated publication path than expected due to both the global COVID-19 pandemic and La Marr’s devastating loss of his partner David this past August.

As La Marr explains in the conversation, this is a book about destabilization and derailment that also became the vehicle through which he traversed that journey, ultimately renewing his commitment to Black and mad studies, mutual care, and collective liberation.

A content note: This episode discusses some difficult topics, including the death of La Marr’s partner David. If this is a topic you need to not hear about right now, for any reason, I recommend exploring some of our other recent episodes.

La Marr Bruce wearing a white shirt. Quote reads: I approach Black studies as a practice of love and liberation. Amid all the rigmarole of the academic industrial complex—all the competition and bureaucracy, all the information overload, all the anti-Blackness, all the queer antagonism and patriarchy—it’s vital that I constantly renew my vows to that love.
La Marr Bruce wearing a white shirt. Quote reads: I want to see a worldwide way of life animated by love and dedicated to liberation. I want to see a world where a radical range of possibilities are open to people: ways of thinking, writing, identifying, creating, loving, and feeling.

La Marr Bruce

La Marr Jurelle Bruce is an interdisciplinary humanities scholar, Black studies devotee, first-generation college graduate, and associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland.

His scholarship centers black expressive cultures across literature, film, music, theatre, and the art and aesthetics of quotidian Black life.

La Marr’s first book, How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity (Duke University Press, 2021) is a study of Black artists who mobilize madness in radical art-making, self-making, and world-making.

Winner of the 2014 Joe Weixlmann Essay Award from African American Review, La Marr has also published in American Quarterly, the Black ScholarGLQ, and Social Text.

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