Drawing on recordings by Chic and Funkadelic, and more generally on the affective dimensions of black popular culture, this essay considers the relationship between teleological and reflexive conceptions of black politics and black political thought. Teleological approaches to black politics—even in their more radical versions—tend, in this reading, to reproduce modern narratives about the meaning and substance of emancipation, the role of the nation-state, the political implications of visibility traditionally understood, and, more broadly, the proper ends of black politics. Templates of black politics cast in more reflexive modes, in contrast, insist on and assist in the disclosure—that is, the opening up—of black and modern texts, including the emptier freedom narratives. Through various forms of labor and play, they seek to disrupt the teleological within not just black politics but also the touchlines of the modern political field. This essay engages questions related to the function of geography in black political thought, to diaspora, to the significance of space, and to the possible readings of the postcolonial moment, as well as the political salience of sound, texture, rhythm, and the visual register in order to draw distinctions between teleological and reflexive conceptions of black politics and black political thought.
Richard Iton; Still Life. Small Axe 1 March 2013; 17 (1 (40)): 22–39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-1665416
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