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Introduction

  • Carrie Noland
  • Barrett Watten

Abstract

This volume examines the intersection between two internally heterogeneous communities: poets of the avant-garde and poets of the diaspora. We want to suggest that the two communities share an approach to artistic practice as pertinent to the project of cultural transformation without, however, being interchangeable, or even consistently in harmony with each other’s understandings of how that transformation should take place. The essays collected here strive to define more precisely the type of cultural work both communities are involved in, how they each contribute to a critique of imperialism (racial, economic, aesthetic) and yet diverge from one another at significant points. Diasporic Avant-Gardes was initially conceived as a conference (held at the University of California, Irvine, in 2004), the goal of which was to create dialogue among poets and scholars from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We have pursued this same goal in the present collection, refusing hasty resolution of the tensions that invariably emerge from such an ambitious project, while finding inspiration in the commitment of our contributors to establishing some common ground. Jean-Pierre Bobillot, an experimental French sound poet, sums up the reaction of many of the poets who contributed to the exchange, poets who agreed to participate without necessarily knowing well the work of the others involved.

Keywords

Social Formation Cultural Meaning Cultural Logic African Diaspora Diasporic Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    I borrow this definition from the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: On Historical Principles, 5th ed., vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002), which itself depends upon Deuteronomy 28:25. The definition goes on to tell us that “diaspora” can refer to “all those Jews who live outside the biblical land of Israel”; or the situation of “any body of people living outside their traditional homeland” (671). An account of how discourses on diaspora have evolved can be found in Michel Bruneau’s Diasporas et espaces transnationaux (Paris: Anthropos, 2004).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Paul Gilroy provides a genealogy of the use of the term “diaspora” to designate the forced displacement of Africans in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (New York and London: Verso, 1993), 205–23. See also Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion (New York: Oxford UP, 1980) on the appropriation of the Exodus story by African American groups in nineteenth and early twentieth century.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Jean Laude, La Peinture française et l’art nègre (Paris: Klincksieck, 1968);Google Scholar
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    See Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia, 1993).Google Scholar
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    Jana Evans Baziel and Anita Mannur, “Nation, Migration, Globalization: Points of Contention in Diaspora Studies” in Theorizing Diaspora, ed. Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 3.Google Scholar
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    Edouard Glissant, Le Discours antillais (Paris: Seuil, 1981), 32. All translations are my own.Google Scholar
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    The Selected Essays of Wilson Harris: The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination, ed. Andrew Bundy (London: Routledge, 1999), 140.Google Scholar
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    See Miller, Blank Darkness and V.Y. Mudimbe, Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Michel Foucault, “What Is Enlightenment?” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Peregrine, 1986), 50; added emphasis.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    The Polyphonix Festival was a series of annual events organized by Jean-Jacques Lebel and François Dufrêne that took place between the years 1979 and 2002 and included work by the Poésie Sonore group (Bernard Heidsieck, Henri Chopin, François Dufrene, Michèle Métail, Julien Blaine), the Franco-Egyptian poet Joyce Mansour, Allen Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, Jayne Cortez, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Félix Guattari, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Brion Gysin, Jacques Roubaud, Jerome Rothenberg, Michael Smith (Jamaica), Tchikaya U-Tansi (Congo), Amiri Baraka, Ghérasim Luca, Hamadcha d’Essaouira (a band from Morocco), René Depestre (Haiti), Abdelwahab Meddeb (Morocco), and Amadou Kan-Si (Senegal). Edouard Glissant read at Polyphonix nine times, Linton Kwesi Johnson six times. On the Nuyorican café on the Lower East Side, see Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, ed. Miguel Algarin and Bob Holman (New York: Holt, 1994).Google Scholar
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    Charles Olson, “Reading at Berkeley,” in Muthologos: The Collected Lectures and Interviews, ed. George Butterick, 2 vols. (Bolinas, Calif.: Four Seasons Foundation, 1978–79), 1:112; I discuss this formulation in “Olson in Language: The Politics of Style,” in Total Syntax (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois UP, 1984), 115–39.Google Scholar
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    For an exemplary collection of revisionist critiques of the historical avant-garde, see Leah Dickerman, ed., The Dada Seminars (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art/D.A.P., 2005).Google Scholar
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    For a series of critics of modernism and the avant-garde who variously concur with Charles Altieri’s maxim “It must be abstract,” see Clement Greenberg, “Abstract Art,” in Collected Essays and Criticism, ed. John O’Brian, vol. 1 (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986), 199–204;Google Scholar
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    Rae Armantrout, Steve Benson, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Tom Mandel, Ted Pearson, Bob Perelman, Kit Robinson, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten, The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco, 1975–1980, parts 1–3 (Detroit: Mode A/This Press, 2006–7).Google Scholar
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    Ezra Pound, “I Gather the Limbs of Osiris,” in Selected Prose, 1909–1965, ed. William Cookson (New York: New Directions, 1973), 21–43.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Daniel Belgrad, The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998).Google Scholar
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    Nathaniel Mackey, “Other: From Noun to Verb,” in Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993; reprint ed., Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2000), 265–85.Google Scholar
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    On the A ACM, see its Web site (http://aacmchicago.org), and George Lewis, Power Stronger Than Itself: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2008).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    On Anthony Braxton, see Ronald M. Radano, New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Graham Lock, Forces in Motion: The Music and Thoughts of Anthony Braxton (New York: DaCapo, 1988); and my recent lecture on his work, “Transposing the Limits of Organic Form: Language Writing and Anthony Braxton,” Current Free Practices in Music and Poetry (New York University, March 2005) (at http://www.english.wayne.edu/fac_pages/ewatten/posts/post26.html).Google Scholar
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    Raymond Williams, The Sociology of Culture (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995); I discuss Williams’s account of the avant-garde in “The Constructivist Moment: From El Lissitzky to Detroit Techno,” The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan UP, 2003), 148–53.Google Scholar
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    LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Blues People: Negro Music in White America (New York: William Morrow, 1963).Google Scholar
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    Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003).Google Scholar
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    Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Black Chant: Languages of African-American Postmodernism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997).Google Scholar
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    Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone” Profession 9 (1991): 33–40.Google Scholar
  42. 49.
    Charles Bernstein, “Poetics of the Americas,” Modernism/Modernity 3, no. 3 (1996): 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 51.
    Early anthologies by Jerome Rothenberg are Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania (1967; 2nd revised ed., Berkeley: U of California P, 1985); Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (1972; reprint ed., Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1998);Google Scholar
  44. and, with George Quasha, America, a Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present (New York: Random House, 1974). Rothenberg used forms of avant-garde writing to translate non-Western and Native American literatures, and the construction of his anthologies was informed by the poetics of the avant-garde diaspora; see also Revolution of the Word: A New Gathering of American Avant Garde Poetry 1914–1945 (New York: Seabury, 1974). For archives of sound recordings, see UbuWeb and PennSound (http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound).Google Scholar
  45. 53.
    Michael Davidson, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten, Leningrad: American Writers in the Soviet Union (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1992).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carrie Noland and Barrett Watten 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carrie Noland
  • Barrett Watten

There are no affiliations available

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