Read In The Break: The Aesthetics Of The Black Radical Tradition by Fred Moten Online


In his controversial essay on white jazz musician Burton Greene, Amiri Baraka asserted that jazz was exclusively an African American art form and explicitly fused the idea of a black aesthetic with radical political traditions of the African diaspora. In the Break is an extended riff on "The Burton Greene Affair," exploring the tangled relationship between black avant-gardIn his controversial essay on white jazz musician Burton Greene, Amiri Baraka asserted that jazz was exclusively an African American art form and explicitly fused the idea of a black aesthetic with radical political traditions of the African diaspora. In the Break is an extended riff on "The Burton Greene Affair," exploring the tangled relationship between black avant-garde in music and literature in the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of a distinct form of black cultural nationalism, and the complex engagement with and disavowal of homoeroticism that bridges the two. Fred Moten focuses in particular on the brilliant improvisatory jazz of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, and others, arguing that all black performance-culture, politics, sexuality, identity, and blackness itself-is improvisation. For Moten, improvisation provides a unique epistemological standpoint from which to investigate the provocative connections between black aesthetics and Western philosophy. He engages in a strenuous critical analysis of Western philosophy (Heidegger, Kant, Husserl, Wittgenstein, and Derrida) through the prism of radical black thought and culture. As the critical, lyrical, and disruptive performance of the human, Moten's concept of blackness also brings such figures as Frederick Douglass and Karl Marx, Cecil Taylor and Samuel R. Delany, Billie Holiday and William Shakespeare into conversation with each other. Stylistically brilliant and challenging, much like the music he writes about, Moten's wide-ranging discussion embraces a variety of disciplines-semiotics, deconstruction, genre theory, social history, and psychoanalysis-to understand the politicized sexuality, particularly homoeroticism, underpinning black radicalism. In the Break is the inaugural volume in Moten's ambitious intellectual project-to establish an aesthetic genealogy of the black radical tradition. Fred Moten is associate professor of African American studies and visual studies at the University of California, Irvine....

Title : In The Break: The Aesthetics Of The Black Radical Tradition
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ISBN : 9780816641000
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 332 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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In The Break: The Aesthetics Of The Black Radical Tradition Reviews

  • Dont
    2019-03-17 07:16

    Since the death of Jacques Derrida in 2004, there has been a subtle but unmistakable shift away from the project of deconstruction in the more radical quarters of the humanities. The rise of Badiou and the titan of Ljubljana have pushed the problems of writing and differance further from current debates. The decades-long argument between Badiou and Derrida -- both heirs to the earlier generation of structuralists, specifically, Lacan and Althusser -- seems a thing of the past as English-translations of Badiou's books seem to crowd bookstore shelves once laden with Derrida's copious output. Elsewhere, favor towards the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari continues to expand where Derrida's recedes. It is somewhat ironic and a testament to a fundamental misunderstanding, that as Deleuzean scholarship makes phenomenology something of a hot-topic these days, that resurgence of interest has had little impact on Derrida's standing. Leonard Lawlor's recent excellent study, Derrida and Husserl, offered a compelling and radical argument for reading the totality of Derrida's work (even/especially his work on Marx) as a loyal engagement with phenomenology. Published a year before Derrida's death, Fred Moten's In The Break clearly draws upon the problems and analytical strategies of the philosopher most associated with deconstruction. But whereas many of Derrida's followers lose themselves in the cleverness and pomposity of their own play with ideas and words, Moten draws upon a very concrete and urgent set of concerns in writing his book. On the one hand, he finds himself writing and theorizing about the Black radical aesthetic at the precise moment when the signposts of that tradition have greatly receded from the horizon. The ideas of collective struggle, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, and anti-imperialism seem to have lost much of the hold on the Black imaginary they once possessed during the heyday of Free Jazz and experimental Black writing. On the other hand, Moten is equally aware of the legacy of masculinism that typified much of that tradition. Even today when some in the community call for the necessity of a new Black leadership, the masculinity of the imagined response remains firmly in place. Too often forgotten are the wise words of Ella Baker; "A great people doesn't need great leaders." Between these modernday concerns, Moten assembles a cast of characters through which to channel his reflections on the meanings and practices of a Black radical aesthetic. He begins with Frederick Douglas's iconic origin narrative of his Aunt Hester's beating at the hands of the plantation owner. This narrative becomes the basis for Moten to articulate a different basis of aesthetics, not on the ground of the image or the word, but on the basis of sound and listening. In this sense, In The Break is first and foremost a book of sound theory. And as such, he draws together his cast of characters -- Abby Lincoln, Cecil Taylor, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Samuel Delaney, and Adrian Piper -- to develop the argument that sound is not merely the other to vision. Rather, as the other, sound functions within a re-organization, a coordination of the sensorium. This sensorium Moten describes as, an ensemble. Thus, for Moten, the Black radical aesthetic plays with the conventional binaries of self and other, or individual and collective, by embodying a play with the senses; a looking that listens and a listening that looks. This leads to Moten's central formulation about improvisation as an activity of description, not in a prophetic sense but rather one of foresight. Ensemble is the site and means of that activity. I have to be honest that much of the book rests just on the other side of understanding for me. This is usually the case of much of the continental philosophy I have read. However, there are moments in Moten's text of such extraordinary clarity and/or beauty, that I found myself deliciously savoring the read like one would very difficult but beautiful poetry. This is not an accident. In addition to being a theorist of philosophy and art, Moten is also an incredible poet and experimental writer. There are large sections of the book that just read like poetry with a kind of risk-filled working through of language that, as Audre Lorde reminded us years ago, remembers the importance of experience. For this reason, when Moten locates improvisation within a practice of description (versus the more familiar formulations that relate it to interpretation or expression), he is not advocating a return to Husserl. The fact that the book ends with a quiet but earnest reclamation of the promise of communism, suggests a descriptive act that anticipates a radically different future, a future we can feel on the soles of our feet as we walk this road together. In some alternative universe of sound theory and practice, Moten's In The Break is required reading and discussion. The challenges of revolutionary poets is considered sound art. And improvisation is the manner in which the ensemble investigates how it moves in time. I am grateful to Moten for having the foresight to describe and embody such an alternative universe.

  • Miguel
    2019-02-24 03:24

    In the Break (2003) is, by design, a profoundly difficult text to get a grasp on. I found myself listening to Kind of Blue and Lady in Satin and opening my dog-eared copies of Philosophical Investigations and Écrits. Moten’s text is referential and at times confoundingly so. And yet what the text achieves is a simultaneous enactment of a form, style of reading, style of writing, and style of thinking it announces in its pages. In the Break does not have the same analytical points of contact of texts like Scenes of Subjection or Demonic Grounds. Rather than containing an argument that is organized around a particular theoretical innovation or constellation of concerns, In the Break reads like the works of art it cites and analyzes. Reading in the mode of analytic philosophy, to distill formulations, was fruitless for me. I began to come into contact with the text when I began to read it differently, in a more literary mode. That is not to say there are not complex formulations that are evident here. Moten writes at length about improvisation and ensemble, two of his overriding concerns throughout the text. The text revealed a dimension of itself to me in Moten’s brief evocation of drag. He writes:The ongoing refusal of adjustment or assimilation at the same time as a movement emerges, one that seems as if it’s all about the desire to adjust and assimilate, the paradoxical inexorableness of what we now know to have been an impossible inclusion. The avant-garde is always subject to inclusion’s injunction to pass. This is what Paul Taylor, businessman, teaches us. (This is a lesson also taught and retaught at various drag balls, as if in contrast to such a scene’s other interventions, as if to signify Harlem’s ongoing prefigurative recapitulation of the whole downtown scene.) This is the political limit of realness. (Moten 166-7)Moten includes the reference to drag and the idea of “realness” within two different registers as something like an “easter egg.” In the context of the drag ball, to have one’s “realness” (the extent to which one is passing as a particular gender, social class or presenting an overridingly recognizable pop-cultural image) judged disavows the possibility of the “reality” (in the hetero-masculinist-modernist-Enlightenment sense) of that “realness.” Moten’s text, too, passes freely through the registers of aesthetic and philosophical (false binary though it is) and seems to hold any disciplinary loyalty in contempt. It disavows the reality of the philosophical and aesthetic realness it doubly serves. This mode of thinking and writing is necessary, according to Moten, in the insurgence against anti-Blackness. To put A Tribe Called Quest in conversation with Shakespeare and Wittgenstein in conversation with Baraka is a delightfully satisfying transgression.

  • Yejin
    2019-03-01 02:29

    This was the hardest, most satisfying, most enlightening/ensounding text I've ever encountered. The beautiful yet purely improvisational nature of the text really illuminated the importance of the sonic in afro-modern culture, and comfortably alluded to the most uncomfortable shrieks of history. Moten's grasp of the woman's core involvement in the complicated formation of the modern (by engaging with Hortense Spillers) is highly courageous and productive. He reconfigures what you think you know into what you now know you don't know at all...and then from what you don't know at all to a fluid framework of understanding changes in knowledge. Highly recommended for those who don't mind dying several times while they read.

  • www
    2019-03-22 03:32

    beautiful as bones. but not easy, and i don't know in the end just how much i was able to be there in the way moten asks, but what i did catch was moten in his usual animating, life affirming way

  • Ayanna Dozier
    2019-02-28 07:44

    Reading Fred Moten, for me, is always a fascinating and challenging experience, In the Break is no exception. It is worth noting that I orient myself quite differently to Moten's text than others. Much like Lorde's poetic stylistic prose, I often intuitively understand the theoretical and philosophical concepts Moten is acknowledging before he states them clearly. I understand that most individuals who read theory do not appreciate this tactic because it can, on occasion, obfuscate the denseness/complexity of his philosophy on Blackness, which is an understanding that all readers could benefit from. I can not do justice to Moten's prose here for it goes beyond comprehending the text, it is definitely a feeling. Published in 2003 before the "affective turn," I would dare state that Moten's prose is an exercise in philosophical affective Blackness. For as Moten states in the introduction that Blackness is resistance, it is always orienting oneself in resistance to the object, which can be read as white humanity (p. 8). Many people will find that this books resists the reader. I think that rather to be frustrated by the resistance one should give in to it. It's through resistance and struggle to the object that Blackness both as a philosophy and lived experience can be made mildly comprehensible to the reader.

  • Ralowe Ampu
    2019-03-05 06:15

    this text is a site of ever-deepening exploration. this is one of those companions that continually returns guiding, challenging, mesmerizing. but i'll have to come back yet again. what was my impulse to review, beset by a thousand hesitations, is that moten asserts that the question of blackness is at the psychic center of every last institution of our ongoing enlightenment west. blackness is the archimedian point for everything: consciousness, the human, all of it. focusing on cultural producers and their productions, the common theme is seeking to fully understand blackness, which moten suggests is both performance and essence. moten is noted for an interest in what is productive of this necessarily painful and traumatizing historic situation from which blackness emerges. he is perhaps the only person who can bring the type of attention required to inhabit history responsibly in all its inescapable complexity. so that's it. i'll try to add more but really, honestly, that's it. read this already.

  • Jalylah
    2019-02-23 08:20

    I started this book in grad. school and abruptly stopped. This is extra dense and extra convoluted but apparently could offer me some insights if I would plod through it. I'm all about accessibility though, so I might not return to this book on principle.

  • Stephen
    2019-02-27 04:14


  • Matthew Somoroff
    2019-02-25 07:15

    Continually reading this unusual and beautiful book.

  • Ying
    2019-02-25 03:25

    a plea: someone gift me this totally erotic text - or we can trade books!

  • Karli
    2019-03-20 01:31

    A very difficult read, which makes it rather frustrating. Although it toes the line of theoretical scholarly pretension, there are some genuinely insightful points to uncover.

  • molly
    2019-03-16 08:43

    i don't think i'm capable of rating this book