Preface to Glissant and the Middle Passage

Here is a preview of my new book Glissant and the Middle Passage: Philosophy, Beginning, Abyss, due out from University of Minnesota Press in June. The book offers a long argument for understanding the Middle Passage as a philosophical event, transforming our understanding of memory and its constitutive relation to subjectivity, aesthetics, and the nature of intellectual work. I put Glissant’s work in conversation with a number of Atlanticworld thinkers of catastrophe and its aftermath, including most centrally Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Walter Benjamin, Antonio Benítez-Rojo, and George Lamming. But the primary focus is on offering a philosophical treatment of Glissant’s non-fiction work in order to center the question of disaster and its production of an abyss at the heart of thinking. How, then, to begin thinking with the abyss? This is Glissant’s work. This is the orientation of Glissant and the Middle Passage.

A link to the uncorrected proof of the Preface is below. Thank you to the folks at University of Minnesota for letting me share this snippet.

The beginning words …

“THIS BOOK is a long meditation on and philosophical treatment of the work of Édouard Glissant, with special attention to the poetics developed in his nonfiction writings. A bit has been written recently on Glissant and philosophy in French, but English-language commentary has been of a decidedly different character. This is a critical gap in the literature.

Glissant’s work is profoundly philosophical. There can be no doubt about this, and it makes the gap all the more noteworthy. As well, Glissant’s sustained engagement with the central trends of Atlantic thought—from Négritude to various kind of existentialism to ethical-political critiques of modernity to the poststructuralist moment—places him at the center of many debates. I want to argue in part across this book that Glissant’s conscious and deeply critical movement across both the north and south Atlantic intellectual worlds makes him a uniquely important figure. The engagements are always critical; central, for Glissant, will always be Caribbeanness considered on its own terms. But the terms of the Caribbean are always unstable, chaotic, and fractal in character, which delinks Glissant from … “

[download Preface to Glissant and the Middle Passage]