Bad Practice takes the form of a set of broken essays and text / image interventions circling Black failure. All of these pieces, the author hopes, will be helpfully incommensurate to the subject: the notion of Black failure came out of Shields’s frustration with Black excellence, as a vision long dependent on antiblack and white supremacist, heteropatriarchal and acquisitive markers of achievement.
Among the subjects elaborated through experimental writing, conversations and annotations, are Black people’s herbal practices, including the use of cotton root bark by enslaved people administering their own abortions, refusing productivity within chattel slavery. Further sections discuss the late writer and filmmaker Kathleen Collins, and engage Shields’s peers and collaborators in dialogue on failure in relation to art and mothering.
Published by Book Works as part of Contact, guest edited by Hannah Black in an edition of 1,000; designed by Rose Nordin. Derica Shields is a writer, researcher and cultural worker from London. As part of a 2017 Triple Canopy commission, she is completing an oral history project around Black people’s accounts of the UK welfare state.