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Eugenia Zuroski on Twitter: "In yesterday’s #CSECS18 roundtable on “Decolonizing ... Practices from the Perspective of C18 Studies,” @ashleycmorford pointed out that decolonization cannot happen within the university, but /1… https://t.co/InSKAfPp
"In yesterday’s #CSECS18 roundtable on “Decolonizing ... Practices from the Perspective of C18 Studies,” @ashleycmorford pointed out that decolonization cannot happen within the university, but /1 https://twitter.com/zugenia/status/1050378780328497152
Doing antiracist/anti-imperialist work within existing institutions is good but it is not decolonizing work. Decolonizing Turtle Island means restitution of land and Indigenous sovereignty. Making colonial institutions better is at odds with removing them. We have to see this. …

a commitment to unsettling, anticolonial pedagogy could teach the people who will go forward and take up decolonization. This morning I’m thinking about this alongside Moten and Harney’s “The University and the Undercommons”—of teaching toward a “fugitive enlightenment” /2

that must steal knowledge from the institution and take it away from there, out of there, so as to put it toward something that doesn’t reproduce the institution/profession, but that thinks collectively toward what would replace the institution’s mode of organizing power. /3

Anticolonial pedagogies that are practiced in relation to decolonization must therefore inhabit, as Tuck and Yang point out, a particular temporality—one that doesn’t just reject the kind of constant clocking in for quantified “marks” that prove the labor of learning is /4

already being translated into wealth for someone (else), but that commits to Indigenous futurities over the future of “the profession,” and locates the value of teaching in preparing students for a better world than the institution either represents or materializes. /5

The university has an important role to play, in other words, but it can’t fulfil its obligations without committing away from itself—without giving up what it holds and regenerates to those who will “waste” it (Moten and Harney) on not becoming “Enlightened” subjects. /6

Anyway, my thanks to @ashleycmorford and the other people who contributed to yesterday’s conversation, which has helped me think about teaching not as “decolonizing” practice but as the (de)forming of subjects capable, in various ways, of decolonization. /6

Also thanks to @morganevanek for her comments on university teaching as a form of “hospicing work” (I didn’t write down the citation for this—?) on bad culture, and for this reminder, which it seems to me is one pragmatic thing we should all do immediately: [image: some notes including "ABOLISH GRADING"]

I’ll be on a roundtable this afternoon (Friday, 4:45, Niagara Room), where I’ll speak about collectives and #BIPOC18 and venture some thoughts on Twitter as an “Undercommons of Enlightenment” that will likely be messy and wrong, should be fun, you should come #CSECS18

I want to clarify that working toward these ends, as an academic, does not mean divesting from the university. It is still the site of our work and we have to fight to maintain/create better structures for doing that work effectively, non-exploitatively.

I will continue to advocate for resources for researchers, teachers, editors, for more hires of BIPOC, queer, disabled, trans scholars, for fair working conditions and best practices toward just institutional co-existence. Absolutely.

But I am beginning to understand these commitments—which are likely lifetime ones for me—as “harm reduction measures” (Tuck and Yang) along the long path toward a future that is not mine or my profession’s."
decolonization  highered  highereducation  eugeniazuroski  2018  fredmoten  stefanoharney  undercommons  messiness  academia  education  grades  grading  colonialism  colonization  fugitives  hospice  pedagogy  unschooling  deschooling  impericalism  sovereignty  institutions  ashleymorford  power  control  future  enlightenment  fugitiveenlightenment  indigeneity  anti-colonialism 
october 2018 by robertogreco
.freethought
"freethought aims to blur the boundaries between thought, creativity, and critique and meld them into a trans-language practice, working with and as artists and knowledge producers in a new way. Making radical combinations of critical work and practice in the arts freethought strives to place these new models in unexpected contexts."



"WHO WE ARE
freethought is a collective working in public research and in curating concepts of urgency.

Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno and Nora Sternfeld formed freethought in 2011. Traversing disciplines, blending influences, and borrowing forms freethought experiments with new combinations of criticism and practice in the arts.

For 2016 Bergen Assembly, freethought focused on its continuing collective interest: Infrastructure. By looking at many different understandings of this keyword – from legacies of colonial and early capitalist systems of governance to current conditions of the financialization of the cultural field to the subversive possibilities of thinking and working with infrastructures as sites of affect and contradiction – infrastructure emerged as the invisible force of manifest culture today. This large-scale investigation reworked the term away from the language of planners and technocrats to put to creative and critical use within the cultural sphere.

Throughout 2015-16 freethought led a programme of public seminars, invited guest lectures and independent research in Bergen with the intention of developing a collective body of research and insights. This research, an interrogation of infrastructure on a local and global scale of ecology, finance, administration, labour, communication, hospitality, and the basic act of assembling culminated in a programme of exhibitions, discursive platforms, publications and artistic commissions opening for the Bergen Assembly in September 2016.

Previous projects have included freethought for FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, 2013, and freethought I: Economy of crisis workshop, Steirischer Herbst Festival, Graz, 2012.

BIOGRAPHY

Stefano Harney
CURATOR

Adrian Heathfield
WRITER/CURATOR

Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona
WRITER/FILMMAKER
ANTHROPOLOGIST

Louis Moreno
URBANIST/THEORIST

Irit Rogoff
WRITER/TEACHER/
CURATOR/ORGANISER

Nora Stenfeld
EDUCATOR/CURATOR"

[via: http://scratchingthesurface.fm/post/176253243375/85-mindy-seu ]
stefanoharney  adrianheathfield  massimilianomollona  louismoreno  iritrogoff  norastenfeld  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  infrastructure  capitalism  decolonization  colonialism  ecology  finance  administration  labor  communication  hospitality  anthropology  urban  urbanism  curation  education 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Fred Moten’s Radical Critique of the Present | The New Yorker
“He is drawn to in-between states: rather than accepting straightforward answers, he seeks out new dissonances.”



““I like to read, and I like to be involved in reading,” he said. “And for me, writing is part of what it is to be involved in reading.””



“For Moten, blackness is something “fugitive,” as he puts it—an ongoing refusal of standards imposed from elsewhere. In “Stolen Life,” he writes, “Fugitivity, then, is a desire for and a spirit of escape and transgression of the proper and the proposed. It’s a desire for the outside, for a playing or being outside, an outlaw edge proper to the now always already improper voice or instrument.” In this spirit, Moten works to connect subjects that our preconceptions may have led us to think had little relation. One also finds a certain uncompromising attitude—a conviction that the truest engagement with a subject will overcome any difficulties of terminology. “I think that writing in general, you know, is a constant disruption of the means of semantic production, all the time,” he told me. “And I don’t see any reason to try to avoid that. I’d rather see a reason to try to accentuate that. But I try to accentuate that not in the interest of obfuscation but in the interest of precision.””



““The Undercommons” lays out a radical critique of the present. Hope, they write, “has been deployed against us in ever more perverted and reduced form by the Clinton-Obama axis for much of the last twenty years.” One essay considers our lives as a flawed system of credit and debit, another explores a kind of technocratic coercion that Moten and Harney simply call “policy.” “The Undercommons” has become well known, especially, for its criticism of academia. “It cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment,” Moten and Harney write. They lament the focus on grading and other deadening forms of regulation, asking, in effect: Why is it so hard to have new discussions in a place that is ostensibly designed to foster them?

They suggest alternatives: to gather with friends and talk about whatever you want to talk about, to have a barbecue or a dance—all forms of unrestricted sociality that they slyly call “study.”
We are committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal—being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory—there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it “study” is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities is already present.




“Moten’s poetry, which was a finalist for a National Book Award, in 2014, has a good deal in common with his critical work. In it, he gathers the sources running through his head and transforms them into something musical, driven by the material of language itself. “



“And he’s still trying to figure out how to teach a good class, he said. He wasn’t sure that it was possible under the current conditions. “You just have to get together with people and try to do something different,” he said. “You know, I really believe that. But I also recognize how truly difficult that is to do.””
2018  fredmoten  davidwallace  poetry  fugitivity  betweenness  liminality  dissonance  reading  howweread  fugitives  blackness  undercommons  education  highereducation  highered  stefanoharney  sociality  study  learning  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  criticalpedagogy  grades  grading  conversation  discussion 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Hapticality in the Undercommons, or From Operations Management to Black Ops | Stefano Harney - Academia.edu
"Fanon begins his conclusion by calling for the rejection of what he calls the ‘European model’ in the coming post-colonial world:

When I search for Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man, and an avalanche of murders.

But what is this European model, what is at the heart of this model, why the negations, the unending blood-soaked dawns? Here is Fanon’s answer:
But let us be clear: what matters is to stop talking about output, and intensification, and the rhythm of work.

The coming post-colonial nations must break not only with the negations of history, culture, and personality wrought by colonialism but with the ‘rhythm of work’ imposed by the European model. And he clarifies:
No, there is no question of a return to Nature. It is simply a very concrete question of not dragging men towards mutilation, of not imposing upon the brain rhythms that very quickly obliterate it and wreck it. The pretext of catching up must not be used to push man around, to tear him away from himself or from his privacy, to break and kill him.

Here is that word ‘rhythm’ again. ‘Rhythms imposed on the brain’ this time, imposed by a drive to ‘catch up.’ Catching up was a phrase much circulated in the takeoff theories of capitalist development pushed by the United States in the Cold War. But, Fanon points out, this catching up institutes a rhythm that ‘breaks’ and ‘kills’ man. This is a rhythm that ‘tears man away from himself’, that ‘obliterates’ and ‘wrecks’ his brain. Fanon uses the metaphor of the ‘caravan’ for a system that tears man away from himself."



"Fanon feared post-colonial nations would keep the regime and merely erect the outside, with flags, anthems, and new ruling classes. Who can say he was wrong? But Fanon’s warning was more than a post-colonial critique of the idea of the outside. It was an analysis of the European model and its tendency towards producing this rhythm without an outside. Indeed Fanon saw the colony as the first social factory, where worker replaces subject in society as a whole. In the colony, in the first social factory any move to other social being was, as it is today, criminal, conspiratorial. The only sound in the social factory is the rhythm of work because that is what takes place in a factory."



"This is our work today. We take inventories of ourselves for components not the whole. We produce lean efforts to transconduct. We look to overcome constraints. We define values through metrics. These are all terms from operations management but they describe work far better than recourse to the discourse of subject formation. Creativity itself, supposedly at the heart of the battle for the subject today, is nothing but what operations management calls variance in the line, a variance that may lead to what is in turn called a kaizen event, an improvement, and is then assimilated back into an even more sophisticated line. Today ours is primarily the labour of adapting and translating, being commensurate and flexible, being a conduit and receptacle, a port for information but also a conductor of information, a wire, a travel plug. We channel affect toward new connections. We do not just keep the flow of meaning, information, attention, taste, desire, and fear moving, we improve this flow continuously. We must remain open and attuned to the rhythm of the line, to its merciless variances in rhythm. This is primarily a neurological labour, a synaptic labour of making contact to keep the line flowing, and creating innovations that help it flow in new directions and at new speeds. The worker operates like a synapse, sparking new lines of assembly in life. And she does so anywhere and everywhere because the rhythm of the line is anywhere and everywhere. The worker extends synaptic rhythms in every direction, every circumstance. With synaptic work, it is access not subjects that the line wants, an access, as Denise Ferreira da Silva reminds us, that was long at the heart of the abuse of the affected ones, the ones who granted access out of love, out of necessity, out of the consent not to be one, even before that granting was abused."
stefanoharney  frantzfanon  labor  work  leisure  blackops  fredmoten  rhythm  deniseferreiradasilva  information  haptics  hapticality  art  academia  flow  athi-patraruga  zarinabhimji  creativity  flexibility  latecapitalism  capitalism  neoliberalism  society  colonialism  colonization  decolonization  nature  undercommons 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Athi-Patra Ruga | WHATIFTHEWORLD/ GALLERY
"Athi-Patra Ruga is one of the few artists working in South Africa today whose work has adopted the trope of myth as a contemporary response to the post-apartheid era. Ruga creates alternative identities and uses these avatars as a way to parody and critique the existing political and social status quo. Ruga’s artistic approach of creating myths and alternate realities is in some way an attempt to view the traumas of the last 200 years of colonial history from a place of detachment – at a farsighted distance where wounds can be contemplated outside of personalized grief and subjective defensiveness.

The philosophical allure and allegorical value of utopia has been central to Ruga’s practice. His construction of a mythical metaverse populated by characters which he has created and depicted in his work have allowed Ruga to create an interesting space of self reflexivity in which political, cultural and social systems can be critiqued and parodied.

Ruga has used his utopia as a lens to process the fraught history of a colonial past, to critique the present and propose a possible humanist vision for the future."

[See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athi-Patra_Ruga

"Athi-Patra Ruga is a South African artist who uses performance, video, textiles, and printmaking to explore notions of utopia and dystopia, material and memory.[1] His work explores the body in relation to sensuality, culture, and ideology, often creating cultural hybrids.[2] Ruga was recently included in the Phaidon book ‘Younger Than Jesus,’ a directory of over 500 of the world’s best artists under the age of 33.[2] In 2014 he presented at Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town."]

[via: "Hapticality in the Undercommons, or From Operations Management to Black Ops," by Stefano Harney https://www.academia.edu/6934195/Hapticality_in_the_Undercommons_or_From_Operations_Management_to_Black_Ops

"I want to take just two examples, very different. The first is the performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga. The second is photographer and filmmaker Zarina Bhimji. I don’t intend to read these artists nor to place them in a school or tradition. I want to say instead that they inspire me to think about the line today and its killing rhythm, and to think about the ways this line runs through us, and how it bypasses subject formation at work. But most of all I want to look at their work to think about what Fred calls Black Ops, and the undercommons their work invites us to feel around us.

When Athi-Patra Ruga stages his synchronised swimming in a bath bathed in bright coloured lights, or when he or his models appear in balloon suits, or in helmets of black hair and high heels, or naked with a white boy kabuki mask, climbing police stations or strolling down dusty roads or painting studios with their bodies, there is no question of ‘who am I’, There is nothing chameleon here, no subject in transformation. Instead there is a kind of militant access to the materials, to light, bright colours, hair, but also to flesh, intelligence, movement, liveliness. Ruga offers a practice of what runs through but is not based on the protocols of work, or a killing rhythm. This is a practice that helps me to see that access is already granted by the time it is granted, that what is found to be beautiful, erotic or painful, or mournful is what is already conducted, transduced in the flesh and the intellect before the arrival of the performance, the figure, the bursting embroidery of the painting. This is the line before the line that makes us vulnerable to abuse, and always more than that abuse.

The rhythm of the line is unsettled by such practices not because these practices unsettle the subject, something about which capital could not care less today, one way or the other. Ruga unsettles with what passes through, what recombines, what mocks and dances around the social factory in plain sight, late at night, on the lunch break, in the undercommons, in a differing rhythm. The line may speak of its innovation, entrepreneurship, and logistical reach, but it appears like the dull rhythm it is next to Ruga’s work, next to the hapticality that lets us feel our own access."]
athi-patraruga  southafrica  art  artists  uncommons  stefanoharney  hapticality  rhythm  performance  utopia  dystopia 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Zarina Bhimji: Yellow Patch
"A film installation entitled "Yellow Patch". This film was shot in India.

I am interested in the spaces, micro details and the light of these distant interiors. The location of light is an element of my composition and becomes just as intricate and important as having a figure in my work. The stillness has a suspension of everyday life and yet narrative is deferred by mood and mystery and incompleteness. So that atmosphere is tactile, moist light. But as I worked further I kept coming back to disconnection and belatedness."

[See also: "Zarina Bhimji's world without people"
http://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/picture-galleries/2012/january/18/zarina-bhimjis-world-without-people/ ]

[via: "Hapticality in the Undercommons, or From Operations Management to Black Ops," by Stefano Harney https://www.academia.edu/6934195/Hapticality_in_the_Undercommons_or_From_Operations_Management_to_Black_Ops

"I want to take just two examples, very different. The first is the performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga. The second is photographer and filmmaker Zarina Bhimji. I don’t intend to read these artists nor to place them in a school or tradition. I want to say instead that they inspire me to think about the line today and its killing rhythm, and to think about the ways this line runs through us, and how it bypasses subject formation at work. But most of all I want to look at their work to think about what Fred calls Black Ops, and the undercommons their work invites us to feel around us.



Empty but not unoccupied, rooms, buildings, and fields, the access in Zarina Bhimji’s aesthetically gorgeous film Yellow Patch at first might seem to be about memory. But memory for the line is a matter of metrics, of not making the same mistake twice. It is useful for improvement. And Bhimji’s camera resists the application of memory to the present for purposes of improvement. Her sound rumbles with labour and logistics, above the empty buildings, echoing in the rooms. But with her we enter a militant preservation, not keeping up, not improving, not looking for productive variance. I would say that old administrative papers stacked on the aging wooden office bookcases, or the yellow shutters cut by blocks of light from outside are aestheticised not to make memory useful through nostalgia, where it can be preserved and sold, or judgement where it can be used for improvement. Instead her film displays a calmness, peace, rest, in history, in contemporary history. Not the de-historicised rest of the meditation industry nor the preservation of the history industry, but a militant rest for history, in history, in struggle, right now. Her rooms, ships, fields, and bays do not leave history to give us preservation or provide us with rest in the struggle. Other lines are right here, the film suggests to me, the undercommons is never elsewhere, its touch is also a reach. Its touch is a rest, a caress. Hapticality occupies these rooms with a tap, tap, stroke rhythm of love."]
zarinabhimji  film  towatch  belatedness  disconnection  2011  haptic  hapticality  tactile  everyday  undercommons  stefanoharney  art  artists  uganda  india 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney (part 2) | Full Stop
"I also think there is a story of something more radical than the student movement — wildcat strikers, black liberation armies, etc., that is not so much surpassed by economic changes but politically, violently destroyed. And with it the possibility of more political democracy in general in society comes to a halt, at least temporarily."



"there is something kind of cool about the way we are writing to each other from under this work regime of bulk teaching, as my friend Marina Vishmidt called it. We’re writing to each other from our conditions, conditions that we make harder by being kind to the students and to each other. So that’s what we got to do, even if it makes us uncouth.

It’s also good timing that you wrote to me about this comment I made to you in an earlier conversation because I just finished a terrific book called Dixie Be Damned by Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford. They write about insurrections in the South from the dismal swamp in the 18th century to a 1975 uprising in a North Carolina women’s prison. It’s stirring stuff and then in a really sound, clear-hearted concluding chapter they surprised me. They said our enemies have been saved not by fascism but by democracy. It should not have surprised me, given that we were just speaking about Du Bois and democratic despotism, but it did. They are right. And I think it is in this sense that a better university would be worse for us, has been worse for us, in a paradoxical way."



"In any case, whiteness is either absence or violence, and in either case, not much to offer as an ally. But on the other hand white people have a big role to play in the revolutionary violence Shirley and Stafford speak of because the act of abolition of white communities is a monumental task."



"But we have to be careful here. Blackness is neither the opposite nor the total reversal or abolition of whiteness. Blackness exists in/as the general antagonism. It’s always anti-colonial, always fugitive."



"What I realize now is that leisure evokes free time that we have in opposition to work, no matter how much that leisure has now been commodified itself. But this opposition between free time and work is alien to the black radical tradition, something Angela Davis, Barbara Smith and many others have taught us for a long time now. The black body, especially the black female body, under racial capitalism, should either be working or must be interrogated for why it is not working. Free time doesn’t come into it, but that is not the only reason. Free time itself has to be ‘reworked’ within an abolitionist history. Freedom is neither possible nor — more controversially perhaps — desirable. Fred and I talk about the opposite of slavery being something like service, not freedom, learning from Saidiya Hartman. And Denise instructs us to think of time outside its deployment in enlightenment European philosophy, instead through her concept of difference without separability. So a free time that is neither about freedom nor sequential time."



"Otium starts as a term in Greek that is in opposition to war. It is the time of rest, of peace, or pursuits antithetical to war, a way of being without war. Then with the Romans it starts to stand for time that is in opposition to public service, a way of being without the civic. The first sense gives us a time of preservation, of militant rest, in opposition to the ongoing war of settler colonialism. And then the second sense gives us a time without public service. Think of what we learn from Frank Wilderson about the impossibility of black civic life and we see the other side to this is some kind of anti-colonial otium, an otium of black operations. Otium is fugitive from the good cop- bad cop of politics and war."



"There’s something else about this otium and maybe the closest I can come to it right now is through a phrase Che Gossett uses, ‘an ontological cruising.’ I came across this phrase in an amazing piece Che wrote for the Verso blog and it stayed with me. Here’s the whole sentence: ‘As queer and/or trans people of color, already dispossessed, we yearn to be with one another; our search and seeking is a be-longing, an ontological cruising.’ Otium is this, not leisure, not free time, but this be-longing away from war, away from the public and the civic, and not an opposition to work but an alternative to it."



[Michael Schapira] "This is a long way of saying I’m not sure. I’ve suggested laying yourself bare in a different way than the laborer or developing a different relationship to death as two ways to get back leisure. I suppose this is like the existentialist’s guide to teaching. But I do think you are right in what you said earlier, that getting sucked into policy is a bit of a trap despite the pressing policy issues like debt, unionization, job security, etc. It pushes the personal off the table in favor or professional concerns."



"And you are right that it is increasingly all students who stand before capital as supplicants, without mediation, and it is increasingly all of us. Under these circumstances it might be important to distinguish between this exposure to capital and the persistence, perhaps especially in business education, of what Foucault called a total education, something Fred and I have been speaking about.

As you may recall he was talking about how the prisons instructed prisoners in every aspect of prison routine, to use your mentor’s apt distinction from study. Foucault says this total instruction attacked what it saw as the perversion of prisoners. And the first step in this attack, this instruction, was the individuation of bodies and minds. That’s the first and most brutal reform, individuation. Perversion on the other hand therefore could be thought of here as the refusal to be individuated. It is another word for the entanglement of beings, the encircling, winding, curling flesh, blurred and indistinct parts, different but inseparable, as Denise Ferreira da Silva would put it. Total education is an organized attack on our perversions, our versions, our differentiated inseparability. The brutal individuation of the prisoner, his or her straightening, the construction of fortifications around each of these bodies not just around all of them, the training in the distinction of individualized bodies and minds. This is the instantiation of reform of total education. Literally a re-forming of these perverse unformed, under-formed, deformed beings into proper forms. That is why reform is the true punishment, the truly vicious side of the prison and of reforming, conforming societies like ours. We do the same in education.

In education the very first lesson is individuation in time and space. What are the first two lessons kids are taught? First, you can’t touch each other. Second, you are required to stay. You cannot leave when you want to — to go to the bathroom or eat or because you are bored. You leave when they say. Fred and I have also been writing about the relationship between wandering and gathering, and refuge and receiving. And it all starts here. Kids are taught they cannot wander, and they are taught they cannot gather. By gather I mean as with the prisoners they cannot retain what society calls perversion, indistinct, experimental and blurring forms of senses and porous bodies being together. Collective self-unorganisation, wandering, seeking refuge and receiving is replaced by order, and the classroom as the only place they can be, or the playground and lunchroom at regulated times. Denied their own forms of both gathering and wandering, they are educated.

This instruction in individuation of the body and mind that precedes and accompanies instruction in the interactions, routines and spatial propriety of the student or the prisoner might be opposed to something else. This something else would be another kind of education, or study — the kind that prisoners persistently find a way to convene, as we know from the black radical tradition in prison, famously for instance with Malcolm X and George Jackson. Moreover there is plenty of evidence that this kind of study has never gone away. For instance, I am reading an amazing doctoral dissertation by Angelica Camacho from UC Riverside who is writing about the families supporting the recent prisoner strikes at Pelican Bay, and the forms of study that emerged inside and outside with those strikes. We might call this a form of study that takes place despite instruction, despite the brutal individuation of solitary confinement, despite the sadistic separation of families — we might call this a partial education. As opposed to a total education, a partial education is, as its roots suggest, partisan. It is an education where as Mao said the one becomes two, or perhaps as Fred and I would say the one becomes both less and more than one. Totality itself is exposed as partisan in the process.

But a partial education is also partial in another sense — in the sense of being incomplete, and indeed being based on incompleteness, vulnerability, needing other people. Cedric Robinson speaks of a principle of incompleteness in communities in Africa, and elsewhere, in his great book Terms of Order. I also remember this amazing moment where Albert Woodford is asked why he continued to think of himself as a Panther through all the years of confinement in Angola Prison even as the Panthers seemed to fade into history and commodification. He said he needed them. This most extraordinary figure who might otherwise be narrated as a lone, brave unbreakable singular man of principle, talks about himself very differently, as needing others, as being incomplete."



"How can we join with the only force of resistance to all this delusional individuated sovereignty? That is, how can we join with the students?"



"And here an important point should be made about a partial education. Their total education always becomes more and less than one, and any time they make it one, any … [more]
stefanoharney  fredmoten  michaelschapira  jessemontgomery  2017  education  highereducation  highered  individuation  neoliberalism  capitalism  markets  labor  work  leisure  individualism  study  studies  solidarity  society  liberation  resistance  refusal  democracy  nealshirley  saraleestafford  chrisnefield  marcbousquet  revolution  whiteness  blackness  escape  fugitivity  opposition  saidiyahartman  angeladvis  barbarasmith  deniseferreiradasilva  chegossett  otium  frankwilderson  settlercolonialism  decolonization  colonialism  colonization  socerignty  howeteach  teaching  learning  cedricrobinson  hortensespillers  love  annettehenry  fordism  fugitives 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, "Michael Brown" [.pdf]
[Also here: https://www.academia.edu/17216167/Michael_Brown_by_Stefano_Harney_and_Fred_Moten ]

"We fall so we can fall again, which is what ascension really means to us. To fall is to lose one’s place, to lose the place that makes one, to relinquish the locus of being, which is to say of being single. This radical homelessness—its kinetic indigeneity, its irreducible queerness—is the essence of blackness. This refusal to take place is given in what it is to occur."



"But what if together we can fall, because we’re fallen, because we need to fall again, to continue in our common fallenness, remembering that falling is in apposition to rising, their combination given in lingering, as the giving of pause, recess, vestibular remain, custodial remand, hold, holding in the interest of rub, dap’s reflex and reflection of maternal touch, a maternal ecology of laid hands, of being handled, handed, handed down, nurture’s natural dispersion, its endless refusal of standing. Hemphill emphatically announces the sociality that Luther shelters. Fallen, risen, mo(u)rnful survival. "



"The state can’t live with us and it can’t live without us. Its violence is a reaction to that condition. The state is nothing other than a war against its own condition. The state is at war against its own (re)sources, in violent reaction to its own condition of im/possibility, which is life itself, which is the earth itself, which blackness doesn’t so much stand in for as name, as a name among others that is not just another name among others.

That we survive is beauty and testament; it is neither to be dismissed nor overlooked nor devalued by or within whatever ascription of value; that we survive is invaluable. It is, at the same time, insufficient. We have to recognize that a state—the racial capitalist/settler colonial state—of war has long existed. Its brutalities and militarizations, its regulative mundanities, are continually updated and revised, but they are not new."



"The law of the state is what Ida B. Wells rightly calls lynch law. And we extend it in our appeals to it.

We need to stop worrying so much about how it kills, regulates, and accumulates us, and worry more about how we kill, deregulate, and disperse it. We have to love and revere our survival, which is (in) our resistance.We have to love our refusal of what has been refused. But insofar as this refusal has begun to stand, insofar as it has begun to seek standing, it stands in need of renewal, now, even as the sources and conditions of that renewal become more and more obscure, more and more entangled with the regulatory apparatuses that are deployed in order to suppress them. At moments like this we have to tell the truth with a kind of viciousness and, even, a kind of cruelty."



"The innovation of our survival is given in embrace of this daimonic, richly internally differentiated choreography, its lumpen improvisation of contact, which is obscured when class struggle in black studies threatens to suppress black study as class struggle."



"Michael Brown and his boys: black life breaking and making law, against and underneath the state, surrounding it. They had foregone the melancholic appeal, to which we now reduce them, for citizenship, and subjectivity, and humanness. That they had done so is the source of Darren Wilson’s genocidal instrumentalization in the state’s defense. They were in a state of war and they knew it. Moreover, they were warriors in insurgent, if imperfect, beauty."



"Rather than dissipate our preoccupation with how we live and breathe, we need to defend our ways in our persistent practice of them. It’s not about taking the streets; it’s about how, and about what, we should take to the streets. What would it be and what would it mean for us jurisgeneratively to take to the streets, to live in the streets, to gather together another city right here, right now?"
stefanoharney  fredmoten  michaelbrown  blackness  indigeneity  refusal  resistance  governance  illegibility  state  homelessness  queerness  survival  settlercolonialism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney (part 1) | Full Stop
"He is perhaps best known for The Undercommons, an absolutely essential work on the contemporary university (and much, much more) co-written with Fred Moten. But an Internet search will show interests pushing in all kinds of exciting directions — from study to infrastructure, from cultures of finance to leisure, from public administration to the metroversity."



"There is as little point in demanding something of this president as of the last. Not only because we will not get it, but because it is probably not what we want. We get sucked into policy. But the university, the NEA and the NEH, these institutions are just the enervating compromise, the residue of a past battle. Preserving them has the perverse effect of weakening us. These are just settlements we have to reject in our ongoing war against democratic despotism, which is of course the ongoing war against us.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about democratic despotism in ‘The African Roots of War,’ published in 1915. The current US regime could be said to be the realization of this trajectory of democratic despotism. Du Bois was very specific about democratic despotism. He observed capitalists in the United States and Europe offering a compact with their white working classes, offering a share, however meager, in the nation’s wealth. This share would be extracted from black and brown peoples living in the nation, but excluded from this pact, and through imperialism, shares would be extracted from what Du Bois called the black, brown, and yellow peoples throughout the globe. Democratic despotism was a cross-class alliance based on the color line. Through this agreement, governments could function as ‘democracies.’ Indeed participation in a white democracy was part of what being offered as part of the stabilization package. The modern university is a phenomenon of this agreement sealed along the color line. Thus I would say the undercommons remains the moving violation of that agreement.

I have a friend called Jonathan Pincus. He’s a very smart Marxist development economist, and recently he turned his attention to the development and future of universities around the world. He points out that the deal between the capitalist classes and the nation-state is fraying. One effect of this is that the capitalist classes do not want to pay for universities that serve a national purpose anymore, whether that purpose is producing research, training labour, or preserving national culture and identity. They only want to pay for universities to educate their children — that is, teach them the etiquette of the capitalist classes — and their children go to Princeton or Oxford, or wherever. But their children certainly do not go to Rutgers-Newark nor UC-Riverside, never mind state colleges, small private colleges, and numerous other regional universities. As Jonathan notes universities like Princeton already cater to a global, not national, capitalist class. They are flourishing. The question this raises for me is not whether the vast number of colleges and universities outside the attention of the global capitalist classes will continue to be funded. They won’t, except where vestiges of the white middle class can effectively threaten legislatures to give their kids and not Latino, Black, Asian, and Indigenous kids, the remaining bits of this system. But what can we do, together with the rest of these kids, with these abandoned factories of knowledge? That’s what interests me. How can we occupy them once they are discarded?"



" Fred and I work under the influence of Denise Ferreira Da Silva here, as elsewhere. She speaks about difference without separability and about entanglement in a way that becomes most available through this nautical event, through blackness. She adds that without separability, our ideas and practices of determinacy and sequentiality, which I’ve reduced to time and space here, also get called into question. Her work is rich and deep and I am still finding my way through this entangled world with her help. Shipping and the Shipped, the show at the Bergen triennial, owes much to her thought."



"And so, to shift registers slightly from our thing to theirs, if you think about recent political battles coming out of the United States and its imperial decline, they could all be seen as logistical. So, I agree with you Michael that logistics can be a capacious category for understanding what they are doing, as well as what we are trying to do. The Black Snake winding through Dakota lands, the wall along the current border with Mexico, the ban directed at the seven Islamic countries the US has strategised to destroy and dominate, these are all about the movement of energy, goods, and labour, about ensuring control of the flows. So too the South China Sea ‘stand-off’ is a reaction to China’s ‘belt and road’ strategy — the Silk Road Belt and the Maritime Silk Road — China’s plan for connectivity, shipping, logistics across vast territory. The Maritime Silk Road is to run from Papua New Guinea to East Africa and the Silk Road Belt from the ports of Southern Italy and Greece through Turkey to Siberia. China is building this infrastructure as we write, all along these routes, in massive undertakings. Infrastructure is however only one aspect of logistics, or one dimension might be a better way to put it.

Another dimension of logistics is its unconscious. The dream of logistics, and you can find this in the academic journals, is the elimination of human time, the elimination of the slowness and error of human decision-making, actions, and indeed mere bodily presence. Now you might think this means replacing truck drivers with self-driving trucks running automated routes where algorithms recalculate constantly and link to fuel prices and inventory signals, all without people having to intervene, and you would be right. But interestingly the jobs that have already been replaced by the most important machine in logistics — the algorithm — are management jobs."



"Finally, one might object that logistics does not have much to say about something like police brutality, or as my friend Dylan Rodriguez would correct me, police, since police brutality is, as he says, redundant. But what Fred and I tried to suggest in our piece ‘Leave Our Mikes Alone’ is that the demand for access — intensified by logistical capitalism — also identifies the inaccessible as sabotage. Anyone who does not immediately open oneself fully to the police upon demand for access is a saboteur. But anti-black racism means it is impossible for black people to comply with this order for access since black people are by definition opaque to the police and to white supremacist society. Access kills, but not indiscriminately."



"I think students who study business are in a sense very logistical. Whereas a student studying music or history must say how can I fit what I like to do into this economy, a business student says how can I fit the economy into me. The business student is immediately ready for interoperability, for being accessed, plugged in, traversed by flows, modulated, wherever necessary. These students are unmediated by an interest, such as anthropology, that has to be converted into the economic in an extra step of logistical effort. Now, the curious other side to this is that the business student is also often ‘the last Fordist.’ Even when Fordism ‘never was’ for that particular student or her family. By this I mean because it is impossible to be interested, really, in Human Organisation and Development (the way it is inevitably taught as an extension of logistical capitalism), students place their interests elsewhere, in a non-work sphere. Now this is not true for those upper middle class business students who are convinced business can deliver meaning for them (including through green business, social entrepreneurship and all the rest of the more sophisticated delusions). But amongst the average student taking business courses, I have found little illusion about why they are doing it, or what it is going to be like, even if they have hopes. I say all this to say the student taking philosophy in your class is probably there to take philosophy, as if in an old-fashioned division between work and leisure. I am personally happy to make my classes into places of leisure under these circumstances (or any). The real question I want to ask with you both is this: outside of the places Jonathan is talking about — the global universities responding to a global capitalist class — students are struggling. They are over-worked, over-taught, piled with requirements and internships, plagued by debt and psychological distress, and they are often the new welfare state for grandparents, kids, and disabled relatives. In other words, leisure is being made impossible for them and I think this means it is hard to ask them to take our classes with a kind of leisure. How can we organize with the students for leisure as a first step toward study?"



"But I wanted to ask an unrelated, slightly inarticulate question. I mentioned at one point in our initial email conversation that I’m genuinely curious about the co-author phenomenon (Adorno & Horkheimer, Mouffe & Laclau, Hardt & Negri, etc.). I’m still curious about this, like the phenomenology of it versus any crude craft or process question, but I’m not quite sure how to ask it.

Actually, Michael, I also like to ask the question of how people write together. I always ask it when I find people writing together. In our case, we hung out together for fifteen years before we wrote anything down! But for us the transition to writing things down had two impulses. On the one hand, we were trying to understand our workplace, and we wrote a couple of early pieces about conditions of academic labour, one called the Academic Speed-Up, and another called Doing Academic Work. There was not much to them, but they did make us realize we could not consume … [more]
stefanoharney  fredmoten  2017  education  highered  undercommons  highereducation  colleges  universities  labor  work  capitalism  webdubois  jonathanpincus  denisederreiradasilva  frankwilderson  omise'eketinsley  nourbesephillip  christinasharpe  refusal  resistance  blackness  whiteness  michaelbron  bodies  neoliberalism  study  jessemontgomery  michalschapira  ayreenanastas  renegabri  valntinadesideri  stevphenshukaitis  norasternfeld  edouardglissant  consent  blackstudies  academia  body 
december 2017 by robertogreco
ROAR Magazine: Undercommoning within, against and beyond the university-as-such
[Also at: http://undercommoning.org/undercommoning-within-against-and-beyond/ ]

"Undercommons (n.): The networks of rebellious solidarity that interlace within, against and beyond dominant institutions and power structures

Undercommoning (v.): The conscious and unconscious labors and process of interlacing the undercommons

The Undercommoning Project (n.): A network of radical organizers working in the shadow of the university.

The university-as-such (n.): Their dream, our nightmare.

Beyond the university-as-such (n.): Our dream, their nightmare.

THE UNIVERSITY IS A THIEF
No specter is haunting the university; the university is haunting us.

While we are accustomed to imagining “the university” as an enlightening institution that works in the public interest, we, The Undercommoning Project, hold that: in an age of skyrocketing tuition prices, soaring student debt, the hyperexploitation of precarious service workers, the proliferation of highly-paid senior administrative positions and the increased commercialization and corporatization of higher education, universities today are anything but a public good.

Indeed, we insist the university-as-such has never been a bastion of progress, learning, and fairness; it has always excluded individuals and communities on the basis of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship and politics. Indeed, it is implicated in the past and present of slavery and colonial genocide in North America.

Worse, the university has always been a thief, stealing people’s labor, time and energy. We charge that the university-as-such is a criminal institution. Along with the Edu-Factory Collective we understand the university today as a key institution of an emerging form of global, racial capitalism, one that is a laboratory for new forms of oppression and exploitation, rather than an innocent institution for the common good.

From its pirating of Indigenous biomedical knowledge to the marginalization and containment of non-traditional inquiry, from the training of corporate kleptocrats to the cronyistic production of private patents, from the university’s role in gentrification and urban enclosures to the actions and implications of its investments and endowments, from the white-supremacist and eurocentric knowledge it exalts to its dark collaborations with the military-industrial complex, the university thrives on its thievery.

So when we say the university-as-such is criminal, we mean criminal like the police: a force of racialized and class-based figures of authority, enforcement, and violence that guards, incarcerates, entraps, on the one hand, and on the other, punishes freedom, solidarity, and communal potential.

You may accuse us of losing faith in the university; it never had faith in us. Long ago it transformed us, as it had others before us, into overwhelmed debtors, precarious adjuncts, and exploited service sector workers. We were only the latest in a long line of its waste products.

You may accuse us of devaluing study, learning and research; far from it — we value them so greatly that we know they must be liberated from the structures of the university-as-such, which today already lie in ruins. The university-as-such can be the occasion for the joys of study, of solidarity, of poetic play, of learning and honing our powers. We refuse to relinquish these pleasures. But we will insist that these are gifts we give one another, not tokens of the university’s affection for its subjects.

We dream of the thing to come after the university.

WITHIN, AGAINST, BEYOND
Therefore, when we say that we organize in the shadow of the university, we mean that we organize with those who have been used and abused by the university-as-such: students and workers of color who endure institutional racism while having their images used in the name of diversity; precariously employed adjunct faculty who must rely on social or communal assistance for survival; exploited graduate teaching fellows still urged to play the rigged academic game; custodial and food services staff who are treated as disposable in patriarchal and racist divisions of labor; so-called “dropouts” who’ve been ejected from the university because they can’t stand its discipline; students and former students who will be haunted by debt for decades; and organizers who educate, study, and research outside and in spite of the university’s present configurations.

We want to experiment, explore and enjoy building solidarity between these outcasts onto whom the university-as-such casts its shadow, in order to create conditions where something monstrously new can grow amidst the rubble. And so our study must be molded in the traditions of freedom schools and oral histories, of fugitive campfires and underground reading groups. We value autonomous study as an exercise in cultivating collective, transformative liberation.

We have no nostalgia for the fabled university of the past, the mythical ivory tower of meritocracy, civility and white collegiality: that supposedly utopian place never existed, at least not for anyone outside the raced, classed and gendered elite.

We also have no nostalgia for the future long promised by advocates of the university-as-such. We do not believe access to present universities merely needs to be widened or brought into the virtual world, nor do we believe that the mission of the public university merely needs to be redeemed from the forces of managerialism or commercialization. We believe the university-as-such must be abolished.

Of course we believe in the value of high-caliber research. Of course we believe everyone should be able to study to develop their skills and knowledge. Of course we believe in debate, freedom of expression and rigorous critical thinking. Of course we believe in communal intellectual joy. We believe in them so fiercely we refuse to continue to see them enclosed, warped, choked, defined by and destroyed in the university-as-such.

Does this sound entitled? It should. The undercommons deserves to enjoy and reinvent all that it produces, which is to say everything. It is our collective labor and knowledge that university-as-such prepares, consumes, digests and uses to reproduce itself: we are mobilizing to reclaim that labor and knowledge, within, against and beyond the university-as-such, in the name of producing something monstrous.

KNOWING/PRACTICING OUR VALUE
Thus we advocate grassroots study groups and collective research projects within, against and beyond the university as we know it. We advocate the creation of new networks of study, theory, knowledge and collaborative learning outside the system of credit(s) and of debt. We see the university-as-such not as an alma mater (“giving mother”) but as a parasite. It feeds off its students’ future earnings via their debt, and off its increasingly precarious employees via their labor; it thrives on the good intentions, the tragic idealism, and the betrayed hopes of those over whom it casts its shadow.

Undercommoning is the process of discovering and practicing our value within, against and beyond the university’s measures. We refuse to suffer silently the depression and anxieties the university-as-such and its constant crises instill, trigger and exploit. We will not relinquish the senses of radical wonder, passionate curiosity, and critical integrity we create together. We insist that the splendor of the university is not to be found in the mahogany or the oak of its aristocratic chambers but in the tapestry and grain of insurgent collaborations.

We recognize that the university as it currently exists is part of an archipelago of social institutions of neoliberal, free-market racial capitalism. It includes the for-profit prison and the non-for-profit agency, the offshore army base and the offshore tax haven, the underfunded public and the elite private school, the migrant-worker staffed shop floor and the Wall Street trading floor, the factory and the factory farm. All are organs for sorting, exalting, exploiting, drilling, controlling and/or wasting what they call “human capital” and that we call our lives.

We are well aware of how much privilege and comfort the university-as-such affords many of its inhabitants, employees and clients. But the privileges of this university life are less evidence of institutional largesse than they are how the university-as-such sustains and reproduces the reigning social order. If this university appears to provide a greater latitude of freedom for independent thought and action, and if it bears within it resources unlike any other, we can nevertheless only advocate, along with Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, who coined the term “the undercommons,” that the only appropriate relation to the university today is a criminal one.

To resist the university-as-such from within is to recognize that it has already turned us into criminals in its own image. If the university is, today, already a criminal institution, one built on the theft of the time and the resources of those it overshadows, we who enjoy its bitter embrace must refuse its codes and values of ownership and propriety.

Don’t just steal a piece of chalk and write on the sidewalk. We advocate forming autonomous study and affinity groups that build alliances between students, faculty, workers, families, insiders and outsiders. We advocate using the university’s classrooms, spaces, libraries, databases and infrastructure as resources for abolitionist organizing. We advocate repurposing trade unions and student associations as platforms for developing new forms of mutual aid and solidarity within and beyond the university-as-such. We advocate taking time with and taking pleasure in our evolving collective powers. We advocate revolt.

You may accuse us of abandoning the university. Far from it; we would be loath to give the university-as-such the satisfaction. Rather, we recognize the centrality of the university-as-such in the … [more]
undercommons  universities  colleges  highereducation  neoliberalism  2016  education  labor  work  capitalism  marginalization  containment  whitesupremacy  militaryindustrialcomplex  solidarity  freedom  study  studies  fredmoten  stefanoharney  racism  liberation 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney on Study (Interview July 2011, Part 5) - YouTube
"we’re talking about getting together with others and determining what needs to be learned together and spending time with that material and spending time with each other without any objective, without any endpoint"



"[Study] almost always happens against the university. It almost always happens in the university, but under the university, in its undercommons, in those places that are not recognized, not legitimate…"

[See also Margaret Edson: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:181e6f50825b ]
2011  stefanoharney  study  studies  highered  highereducation  resistance  unschooling  deschooling  labor  work  informal  community  interdependence  cv  credit  credentialism  accreditation  slavery  blackness  debt  capitalism  fredmoten  universities  undercommons  freedom  practice  praxis  learning  communities  objectives  messiness  howwelearn  productivity  production  product  circumstance  producing  nothing  nothingness  idleness  relationships  imperatives  competition  howestudy  self-development  sharing  subversion  education  baddebt  studentdebt  completion  unfinished  margaretedson 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Critic and poet Fred Moten is profiled by Jesse McCarthy | Harvard Magazine
"IN 2013, a manifesto entitled The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study began making the rounds among the growing pool of nervous graduate students, harried adjuncts, un-tenured professors, and postdocs whirling through the nation’s faculty lounges. The Undercommons was published by the small anarchist press Autonomedia and made freely available for download; in practice, however, it circulated by word of mouth, copies of the PDF forwarded like samizdat literature for those in the know. On the surface, the text is an analysis of alienated academic labor at the contemporary American university. But it’s also more radical than that: it is a manual for free thinking, a defiant call to dissent within educational institutions that betray their liberal credos, filling their coffers even as they prepare students, armed with liberal arts degrees and “critical thinking” skills, to helm a social and economic order in which, “to work…is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.”

For those with little or no knowledge of black studies, the text’s deployment of terms like “fugitivity” and “undercommons” may seem baffling. To those in the circle, however, this lexicon of continental philosophy, remixed with a poetic and prophetic fire resembling Amiri Baraka’s, bears the signature of one of the most brilliant practitioners of black studies working today: the scholar and poet Fred Moten ’84."



"This past fall, Moten took up a new position in the department of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, arriving from Los Angeles and a teaching appointment at the University of California at Riverside. In early September, his office was still a bare room with a single high window looking out over Broadway. He hadn’t had a chance to unpack his library, but already a small stack of books on jazz theory, performance, and quantum mechanics rested in a pile near his desk. It soon became clear, however, that he is the kind of thinker who keeps all his favorite books in his head, anyway. His Paul Laurence Dunbar is always at his fingertips, and he weaves passages from Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, or Hortense Spillers into his conversation with equal facility.

In someone else this learnedness could come off as intimidating, but in Moten it’s just the opposite. Something about his composure, his relaxed attentiveness, the way he shakes his head with knowing laughter as he pauses over the direction he’s about to take with a question, instantly erases any stuffiness: one can imagine the exact same conversation taking place on the sidelines of a cookout. And then there’s his voice: warm, low, and propelled by a mellow cadence that breaks complex clauses into neat segments, their hushed, conspiratorial air approaching aphorism. At one point, Moten asked about my dissertation, which I confessed, sheepishly, was kind of a mess. His eyes lit up. He leaned back with a wide grin, his hands spreading out in front of him. “You know what a mess is?” He said. “In Arkansas, a mess is a unit of measure. Like of vegetables. Where my people come from folks might say: ‘You want a bushel?’ And you’ll say, ‘Nah, I want a mess.’ You know, like that great James Brown line: ‘Nobody can tell me how to use my mess.’ It’s a good thing to have. A mess is enough for a meal.”"



"One difficulty for outside readers encountering Moten’s work is that he tends to engage more with the avant-garde than with pop. It’s easy to see why the art world has embraced him: his taste gravitates toward the free-jazz end of the spectrum so strongly it’s as if he were on a mission, striving to experience all of creation at once—to play (as the title of a favorite Cecil Taylor album puts it) All the Notes. This spring, Moten is teaching a graduate course based on the works of choreographer Ralph Lemon and artist Glenn Ligon. In recent years he has collaborated with the artist Wu Tsang on installation and video art pieces, where they do things like practice the (slightly nostalgic) art of leaving voicemail messages for each other every day for two weeks without ever connecting, just riffing off snippets from each other’s notes. In another video short directed by Tsang, Moten—wearing a caftan and looking Sun Ra-ish—is filmed in “drag-frame” slow motion dancing to an a cappella rendition of the jazz standard “Girl Talk.”

By way of explanation, Moten recalls his old neighborhood. “I grew up around people who were weird. No one’s blackness was compromised by their weirdness, and by the same token,” he adds, “nobody’s weirdness was compromised by their blackness.” The current buzz (and sometimes backlash) over the cultural ascendancy of so-called black nerds, or “blerds,” allegedly incarnated by celebrities like Donald Glover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Issa Rae, leaves him somewhat annoyed. “In my mind I have this image of Sonny Boy Williamson wearing one of those harlequin suits he liked to wear. These dudes were strange, and I always felt that’s just essential to black culture. George Clinton is weird. Anybody that we care about, that we still pay attention to, they were weird.”

Weirdness for Moten can refer to cultural practices, but it also describes the willful idiosyncracy of his own work, which draws freely from tributaries of all kinds. In Black and Blur, the first book of his new three-volume collection, consent not to be a single being (published by Duke University Press), one finds essays on the Congolese painter Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu and C.L.R. James, François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a comparison between Trinidadian calypso and Charles Mingus records composed in response to the Little Rock Nine, David Hammon’s art installation Concerto in Black and Blue, Wittgenstein and the science fiction of Samuel Delany, a deconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s writings on music and a reconstruction of Saidiya Hartman’s arguments on violence. Sometimes the collision can happen within a single sentence: “Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, in their upper rooms, are beautiful,” he writes. “They renovate sequestration.”

Taken together, Moten’s writings feel like a Charlie Parker solo, or a Basquiat painting, in their gleeful yet deadly serious attempt to capture the profusion of ideas in flight. For him this fugitive quality is the point. We are not supposed to be satisfied with clear understanding, but instead motivated to continue improvising and imagining a utopian destination where a black cosmopolitanism—one created from below, rather than imposed from above—brings folks together.

For Moten, this flight of ideas begins in the flight of bodies: in the experience of slavery and the Middle Passage, which plays a crucial role in his thinking. “Who is more cosmopolitan than Equiano?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Igbo sailor and merchant who purchased his own freedom, joined the abolitionist movement in England, and published his famous autobiography in 1789. “People think cosmopolitanism is about having a business-class seat. The hold of the ship, among other things, produces a kind of cosmopolitanism, and it’s not just about contact with Europeans and transatlantic travel. When you put Fulani and Igbo together and they have to learn how to speak to each other, that’s also a language lab. The historical production of blackness is cosmopolitanism.”

What can one learn from the expression of people who refuse to be commodities, but also once were commodities? What does history look like, or the present, or the future, from the point of view of those who refuse the norms produced by systems of violence: who consent not to be a single being? These key concerns course through the entirety of Moten’s dazzling new trilogy, which assembles all his theoretical writings since In the Break. At a time of surging reactionary politics, ill feeling, and bad community, few thinkers seem so unburdened and unbeholden, so confident in their reading of the historical moment. Indeed, when faced with the inevitable question of the state of U.S. politics, Moten remains unfazed. “The thing I can’t stand is the Trump exceptionalism. Remember when Goldwater was embarrassing. And Reagan. And Bush. Trump is nothing new. This is what empire on the decline looks like. When each emperor is worse than the last.”

* * *

A THESIS that has often been attractive to black intellectuals (held dear, for example, by both W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison) was that the United States without black people is too terrifying to contemplate; that all the evidence, on balance, suggests that blackness has actually been the single most humanizing—one could even say, slyly, the only “civilizing”—force in America. Moten takes strong exception. “The work of black culture was never to civilize America—it’s about the ongoing production of the alternative. At this point it’s about the preservation of the earth. To the extent that black culture has a historic mission, and I believe that it does—its mission is to uncivilize, to de-civilize, this country. Yes, this brutal structure was built on our backs; but if that was the case, it was so that when we stood up it would crumble.”

Despite these freighted words, Moten isn’t the brooding type. He’s pleased to be back in New York City, where he’ll be able to walk, instead of drive, his kids to school. He’s hopeful about new opportunities for travel, and excited to engage with local artists and poets. His wife, cultural studies scholar Laura Harris, is working on a study of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who is currently being “re-discovered” by American artists and critics. “I circulate babylon and translate for the new times,” opens another poem in The Feel Trio, … [more]
fredmoten  2017  2013  highereducation  highered  work  labor  anarchism  race  slavery  blackstudies  dissent  radicalism  via:javierarbona  resistance  blackness  bodies  aesthetics  amiribaraka  dukeellington  adrianpiper  billieholiday  nathanielmackey  poetry  scholarship  academia  rebellion  subversion  karlmarx  marxism  hortensespillers  kant  paullaurencedunbar  attentiveness  messes  messiness  johnashbery  ralphellison  webdubois  everyday  writing  undercommons  margins  liminality  betweenness  alternative  preservation  uncivilization  decivilization  consent  empire  imperialism  body  objects  cosmopolitanism  charlieparker  basquiat  weirdness  donaldglover  neildegrassetyson  issarae  georgeclinton  tshibumbakanda-matulu  charlesmingus  samueldelany  saidiyahartman  clrjames  françoisgirard  davidhammon  héliooiticica  lauraharris  charlesolson  susanhowe  criticism  art  stefanoharney  jacquesderrida  jean-michelbasquiat  theodoradorno 
december 2017 by robertogreco

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