Archive for the ‘AfroFuturism’ Category

Soul on Ice: the Afrofuturist Twist (rhythm III)

Monday, September 7th, 2009

It was Chubby Checker’s mission, bearing the Twist as good news, to teach the whites, whom history had taught to forget, how to shake their asses again. It is a skill they surely must once have possessed but which they abandoned for puritanical dreams of escaping the corruption of the flesh, by leaving the terrors of the Body to the blacks. (Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice: 174)

The writings of Eldridge Cleaver distort something of Cleaver’s usual image as a prison writer, Black Panther and ex-militant who found religion (though he is all of these things as well), for they also offer a different path into thinking Afrofuturism. Check out the quote above, collected in the prison writings of Soul on Ice. Afrofuturism as a philosopheme, a kind of protoza concept, is at work here. In Cleaver, the transformational potential of embodied rhythm is seen as not only part of a political critique, but an entire theory of embodied, near-Gnostic metaphysics, in which blacks and whites are long-separated entities, each requiring the other to achieve balance and harmony.


the city be the rhythm invisible (rhythm II)

Monday, August 31st, 2009
in the shadows of the urban (I)

in the shadows of the urban (I)_ MTL. photo: tV

Henri Lefebvre’s last work, published posthumously, and intriguing as it is something of a skeletal meditation, is entitled Rhythmanalysis. In it Lefebvre advances two hypotheses, each unique, urgent, and radical in scope. The first, following from The Urban Revolution, is that the engine of history, so to speak, is no longer the economic base, by which Lefebvre upends the Marxian hypothesis that the means of production drive the social production of history and class. Lefebvre instead posits the urban: the urban, in itself, constitutes a breakdown between city and country, between the means of production and the superstructure. The urban is a new, epochal and thus world historical condition – a virtual set of possibilities – encompassing the ‘urban revolution’, which for Lefebvre retains its open, virtual – and thus ateleological – futurity. This thesis, nascent in Lefebvre’s work of the early ’60s (and with the SI), comes into its own in Rhythmanalysis, wherein a second hypothesis takes shape: that the urban can be read, can be analysed, by a kind of phenomenology of rhythm, a phenomenology or psychoanalysis of the urban condition.

Unlike the sociological interpretation of Lefebvre – in which the ‘urban’ is seen as an architectural phenomena of the city’s expanse, of the suburb, and in which Lefebvre’s work is thus dated to the level of a (now dated) sociological fact – I am intrigued by the broader philosophical purchase of Lefebvre’s thought on the urban and rhythmanalysis.


fear of a wet planet: rhythm I

Monday, August 24th, 2009
Drexciya (descending AfroMer)

Drexciya (descending AfroMer)

We should linger here for a long while on rhythm: it is nothing other than the time of time, the vibration of time itself in the stroke of a present that presents it by separating it from itself, freeing it from its simple stanza to make it into scansion (rise, raising of the foot that beats) and cadence (fall, passage into the pause). Thus, rhythm separates the succession of the linearity of the sequence or length of time: it bends time to give it to time itself, and it is in this way that it folds and unfolds a “self.” (Nancy, Listening 17)

What might philosophy do with rhythm? There are three cardinal points I can think of in regards to rhythm: (1) the chapter on the Refrain in A Thousand Plateaus; (2) Lefebvre’s posthumously published work on Rhythmanalysis; and (3) Nancy’s work on rhythm in Listening. There are, of course, other writings on the topic, but these three examples are cardinal points as they mark out different approaches (mind you, within a late Western philosophy – we’ll get to Afrofuturism). In this post I’ll tackle something of D&G.