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Franco Luambo Makiadi’s Universalism and Avant-Garde Particularity

  • Barrett Watten

Abstract

Among contemporary avant-gardes, there has been a more than century-long use of a poetics of particularity at the crossroads where three roads meet: knowledge, ethics, and aesthetics. This unspoken assumption is so widespread as to seem a kind of universal in practice, though it is hardly put forward as a universal. Rather, it is the result of a consensus that comes down, for many, to the critical and aesthetic traditions that align critical theory and the avant-garde, so that to call up names like Stein and Zukofsky, or Adorno and Derrida, is a sufficient legitimation of practices. I see two routes out of what seems increasingly an impasse of radical particularism: (1) to cast the poetics of particularity as historical and thus specific to situations that cannot be universalized; and (2) to disclose the negativity that provides the occasion for foregrounding the historical and contingent. A third approach has emerged, after feminist and globalization theory, as a direct consequence of these: to draw out the universal assumptions (epistemological, aesthetic, and ethical) invoked, but often masked, in the poetics of radical particulars. In order to address this issue in the avant-garde, I need to detour through the difficult question of the universal in an unlike context: the poetics of universal address by a diasporic subject.

Keywords

Local Knowledge Master Narrative Black Panther Party National Liberation Cultural Translation 
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. 1.
    Ernesto Laclau, Emancipation(s) (London: Verso, 1996), 22.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Judith Butler, “Restaging the Universal,” in Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Žižek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left (London: Verso, 2000), 24–25.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I develop this approach in discussing the “turn to language” in poetry as a legacy of the politics of the 1960s; Barrett Watten, “The Turn to Language and the 1960s,” Critical Inquiry 29, no. 1 (Fall 2002): 139–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1991), 29.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Long poems by Language writers that explore a poetics of radical particularity include Bruce Andrews’s I Don’t Have Any Paper, So Shut Up (or, Social Romanticism and Lip Service; Steve Benson’s Blue Books; Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s Drafts; Lyn Hejinian’s My Life and A Border Comedy; Steve McCaffery’s The Black Debt; Ron Silliman’s Age of Huts and The Alphabet; and my own Progress, Under Erasure, and Bad History. On Kathy Acker and liberation, see Barrett Watten, “Foucault Reads Acker and Rewrites the History of the Novel,” in Lust for Life: The Life and Writings of Kathy Acker, ed. Carla Harryman and Amy Scholder (London: Verso, 2006).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Barrett Watten, Progress/Under Erasure (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a general history of afro-pop, see Frank Tenaille, Music Is the Weapon of the Future: Fifty Years of African Popular Music (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2002); for the development of rumbasoukous, see Gary Stewart, Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos (London: Verso, 2000).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The narrative that follows is compiled from readings in Stewart, Rumba on the River; Graeme Ewens, Congo Colossus: The Life and Legacy of Franco and OK Jazz (Norfolk, U.K.: Buku P, 1994); numerous Internet sources; and CD jacket copy.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    On Fela, see Michael Veal, Fela: Life and Times of an African (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2000);Google Scholar
  10. Trevor Schoonmaker, ed., Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003);Google Scholar
  11. and Tejumola Olaniyan, Arrest The Music!: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004).Google Scholar
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    Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Toward a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985), 129–30.Google Scholar
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    Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989).Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    Slavoj Žižek, “Beyond Discourse Analysis,” in New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time, ed. Ernesto Laclau (London: Verso, 1990), 249–60;Google Scholar
  15. Žižek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real (London: Verso, 2002).Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Anthropologist Jacalyn Harden pointed out, in response to the presentation of this talk at Wayne State University, that Franco’s account of AIDS elides one of the two models of AIDS transmission: primarily through heterosexual sex in Africa and South Asia; primarily homosexual sex and IV drug use in Europe and America. On AIDS in Africa, see Tony Barnett and Alan Whiteside, AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. and Susan Hunter, Black Death: AIDS in Africa (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Carrie Noland and Barrett Watten 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barrett Watten

There are no affiliations available

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