Because of my mothers. Because of my fathers. Because of my teachers. Because of my wit­nesses. Because of my sisters. Because of my brothers. Because of all my rela­tions. Because of my com­munity. Because of my col­lab­o­rators. Because of our ancestors. Because of the sweet pur­veyors of our unpromised future. Because of my champion. You know who you are. Mul­ti­tudes. Thank you.”

​By beginning my work with this acknowl­edgment found in Alexis Pauline Gumbs’sbook, Spill: Scenes of black fem­inist fugi­tivity I summon and appre­ciate the, how? The how of all the par­tic­i­pants and actors men­tioned here. How can all of this be done unless I explain who? I give honor to these par­tic­i­pants and actors as I embark on inves­ti­gating black African female presence and char­ac­ter­i­zation in the Dorotea-Micomicona episode in Don Quijote de la Mancha I by Miguel de Cer­vantes Saavedra. This ultimate recog­nition of black African female presence is some­thing con­sistent throughout this work. Moreover, my scholarly agenda joins this con­ver­sation as it grapples with learning from the past to under­stand the present. Enjoy.

In order to begin to bring Micomicona into presence, it is nec­essary to structure our reading prac­tices along a new set of prin­ciples. The first of these prin­ciples is a worldview and a cosmos that set Micomicona at the center. This restruc­turing estab­lishes the con­di­tions of pos­si­bility for a range of sub­jec­tiv­ities that pop­ulate the pre­vi­ously unspeakable and unreadable zone that is Cer­vantine Blackness in Don Quijote. I am indebted to Nicholas Jones for the term “Cer­vantine Blackness.” With Micomicona set at its center, the Dorotea-Micomicona episode is revealed, through a kind of anamor­phosis, thor­oughly struc­tured by Blackness, and by a Blackness that is revealed, moreover, in striking variety and specificity.

This Blackness I the­orize is uncon­ven­tional, in the sense that it is not solely a matter of somatic skin color. Rather, it is a literary-cultural form; moreover, it con­notes a geo­graphical sense of the engagement between Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The way toward the analysis I offer is opened by a number of important critical inter­ven­tions in the areas of Black studies, critical race theory and decolonial studies. The foun­dation of my argument employs a Black abject and White subject dimension but focuses on the Black abject dimension as its own cat­egory. Specif­i­cally in Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: whiteness and the lit­erary imag­i­nation, it explores the abject and subject position through lit­erary crit­icism and in Herman L. Bennett’s essay “Sons of Adam”: Text, Context, and the Early Modern African Subject,” it explores the Black woman in the position of the abject. Kim­berlé Crenshaw’s inter­vention engages ideas sur­rounding inter­sec­tion­ality and mul­tiple issue analysis which allows for a mul­ti­plicity and mul­ti­faceted life in the abject. While I focus pri­marily within the Black abject dimension, I do not seek to per­petuate a black/white binary but rather an analysis of Blackness from outside of the con­fines within which it has pre­vi­ously been dis­cussed to open up dis­cussion of ways to explore Blackness beyond the con­ven­tions of the early modern world. The literary-cultural form that I ref­erence is a focus on lit­erary works such as drama, epic poetry, lyric poetry, and prose nar­rative attending to influ­ences made by sub-Saharan African cul­tures and how it ishas embedded and shaped early modern Iberian cultures.

​I interpret the appearance of black Africans or impli­cation of black Africans as both mar­ginal and central char­acters in Iberian imperial cul­tural pro­duc­tions. I show how Blackness is inscribed in this lit­erary work in ways that elu­cidate many of the ways in which black African epis­te­mologies and cul­tural prac­tices have shaped early modern Iberian cul­tures. I focus on the influence of sub-Saharan African culture on early modern Iberia, and how it is key to under­standing the inscription of Blackness within early modern culture and thought. This sub-Saharan influence is visible within early modern Iberian cul­tural pro­duction, material culture, and ethnicity/ancestry of Spaniards and Por­tuguese peoples. While exploring drama, epic poetry, lyric poetry and nar­rative with a focus on the culture/practice of Blackness, this gesture chal­lenges the social, lit­erary, and artistic man­i­fes­ta­tions from the period in the face of the growing black African pop­u­lation on the peninsula.

Nicholas R. Jones in Staging Habla de Negros estab­lishes a second reading of Blackness that is not racist nor of buf­foonery but rather as Blackness in its own cat­egory — not in com­parison to Whiteness. He ana­lyzes the early modern lit­erary and cul­tural archive by incor­po­rating the African lineage of Black women char­acters in the Cer­vantine lit­erary corpus that opens up racial dis­course for various char­acters. I draw from Jones as I deepen the analysis on inter­sec­tion­ality. In chapter three of his book titled, “Black Divas, Black Fem­i­nisms: The Black Female Body and Habla de Negros in Lope de Rueda,” Jones focuses on two Black female char­acters, Eulalla and Guiomar, and how their speech and presence wields agency and royalty in Lope de Rueda’s play Los engañados. He describes the familial back­ground of specif­i­cally Guiomar and through the matri­archs of her family such as her mother and aunt, con­structs her subject position as sub-Saharan African. Through wordplay by the play­wright, Jones sit­uates Guiomar with these matri­archs. This is a response to how Sancho com­ments on sub-Saharan Blacks and how they can be uti­lized to make gold and silver, but Jones’s response frames this concept to wield sub­jec­tivity to sub-Saharan Africans.

In approaching the Dorotea-Micomicona episode, I see even greater potential to recover the black African female presence. The com­bined char­acter DoroMicona enables us to see the inter­sec­tion­ality and multi-axis analysis. The context for Kim­berle Crenshaw’s coinage of inter­sec­tion­ality is rel­evant to this dis­cussion. Crenshaw is a Black Fem­inist who addressed the mar­gin­al­ization of wide vari­eties of female expe­rience (the expe­ri­ences of Black women, of poor women, of non-Western women) in first- and second wave fem­inism of the twen­tieth century by opening dis­cussion towards a multiple-issue analysis. In her ground-breaking essay “Demar­gin­al­izing the Inter­section of Race and Sex: A Black Fem­inist Cri­tique of Antidis­crim­i­nation Doc­trine, Fem­inist Theory and Antiracist Pol­itics,” she pri­marily focuses on the inter­section of two vari­eties of mar­gin­al­ization: race and gender. In the Micomicona episode, the two inter­secting con­di­tions are Blackness and femaleness, two vectors which render the presence and the agency of the black African woman illegible, first from the per­spective of the White gaze, and, thence, from the lit­erary ten­dency that typ­i­cally depri­or­i­tizes femaleness.

In this position paper, inter­sec­tional, multi-axis analysis enables us to recover black African female presence in the char­acter of DoroMicona by setting tropes, asides, ges­tures and ref­er­ences into con­ver­sation with their cor­re­sponding sig­ni­fiers in African cul­tures. In so doing, we reveal the dis­tinct sub­jec­tiv­ities that pop­ulate the cat­egory pre­vi­ously deemed “abject.”