As hard as it is to believe, this is the 30th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. To get the obvious stuff out of the way: wow, time flies and this makes me realize just what getting older feels like. I was 15 when it first came out. I’ve listened to it regularly since it came out. I’ve argued with people who thought the title and title track was some sort of stupid patriotic anthem, I’ve (more…)
“Haunting is not compelling because it resonates with the supernatural, but rather because it is appropriate to a sense of what it means to live in between things – in between cultures, in between times, in between spaces – to live with various kinds of doubled consciousness. It speaks to living not only with the sense that one’s understanding of one’s own social, political, or racial reality passes through other times, other places, and other people’s experiences of the world, but also to living through those experiences in the very literal sense of making it through. (more…)
Instead of repost one of the various stories – and there will be plenty more – about Macklemore’s terrible costume, the concert, the anti-Semitic stuff, and the apology that is surely to come, I thought I’d offer some thoughts about what this moment says about us. Drawn from anecdotes, sure, but I think Macklemore’s first response to criticism is actually instructive and a window into something worth examining. (more…)
From the conclusion to my essay entitled “James Baldwin and the Question of Home” – also the final chapter of my book project tentatively entitled ‘So Unimaginable a Price’: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic.
A final few words.
I began the present reflections with a note on Balfour’s and Miller’s characterization of Baldwin’s non-fiction as a politics of recognition, oriented in part – if not a large part – toward a dialectical transformation of racial politics. In this frame, the question of home is a question of what is to come, a future not-yet (avenir, a-venir) and yet spoken in the present. In this frame, and with this politics of the future, we can register the messianic dimension of Baldwin’s remarks on love in texts like The Fire Next Time. It is not a god that can save this Baldwin. (more…)
This post is mostly an opportunity to circulate an excellent short article by Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman in Times Higher Education. Coleman’s article offers a brief reflection on the systematic exclusion – and we have to call it systematic, at this point – of black Atlantic traditions from the discipline of philosophy. It’s a topic that concerns me as well, and I’m really happy to see such a smart, precise reflection in a prominent place. (more…)
Below is the conclusion to my essay “Vernaculars of Home,” in which I explore James Baldwin’s conception of language. In the essay, I argue that Baldwin’s defense of what he calls “black English” works as an epistemological and ontological account of African-American subjectivity. This account links black English to the sorrow songs, and so to long-standing accounts of how sound and musicality function as the foundation of the African-American intellectual tradition – which, in turn, links Baldwin to Douglass, Du Bois, Locke, and others. The full essay can be found HERE (in draft form, of course, with all those caveats in place). Photos in this post are not in the essay, but are included here just for decoration. (more…)
On the anniversary of his passing, I’m posting here part of a piece I wrote on the occasion of his passing for Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy. What follows is an excerpt from that short essay. The full PDF of the article can be downloaded HERE and is open access, so no paywall is present and no password is needed. Rest in peace, Professor Glissant. Thank you for a genuinely remarkable life of writing and being. (more…)
Happy 112th birthday to Langston Hughes. A few items in memory: one video of Gary Bartz’s interpretation of “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (thanks to Chike Jeffers for the link), a reading of “The Weary Blues” to jazz accompaniment in 1958, and a passage from Haunting and Displacement on Hughes’ complex relation to Africa and America. (more…)
One of the pleasures of the shuffle setting on my music player is random re-discovery. James Carr, a Memphis legend and mystery, showed up a few days back and I’ve had his music on repeat since. He is such a special singer, one of those incredible figures from Memphis’ small label tradition: Goldwax, Stax, Hi. I’m a Memphis nationalist when it comes to music. James Carr makes that nationalism feel justified. He’s that special. The well-known line (in the 901, anyway) that a Carr B-side beats any other Memphis singer’s A-side rings pretty true, if you ask me. (more…)
I’ve never been a fan of how Pete Seeger renders American folk songs. His voice and musical arrangement never connected with me much at all. The voice is a bit too soaring and the arrangement a bit too, I don’t know – that thing you can’t quite name, but is how you feel and connect with musical pieces. And all of that completely misses the point once you stop thinking about personal taste, playing a song on your devices, and start thinking and remembering. Seeger died at 94. That’s a good, old age for a guy who played even older songs for so many years.
What seems more to the point, especially now at his passing, is how Seeger represented a blend of cultural politics and social commentary. (more…)