Black Essay Family Study

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The notion of a rehearsal—being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory—there are these various modes of activity.In person, though, Moten’s way of thinking and speaking feels like an intuitive way of seeing the world.Moten was born in 1962, and he grew up in Las Vegas, in a thriving black community that took root there after the Great Migration.They suggest alternatives: to gather with friends and talk about whatever you want to talk about, to have a barbecue or a dance—all forms of unrestricted sociality that they slyly call “study.” The book concludes with a long interview of Moten and Harney by Stevphen Shukaitis, a lecturer at the University of Essex, in which Moten explains the idea.We are committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people.Over lunch, we spoke about Moten’s essay “Knowledge of Freedom,” collected in “Stolen Life.” It’s a critique of Kant that considers the philosopher’s ideas about the imagination and his “scientific” racism alongside a close reading of “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” an autobiography published, in London, in 1789, the year after Kant published his “Critique of Practical Reason” and the year before he published “Critique of Judgment.” Equiano was enslaved in what is now Nigeria, worked for years on British ships, and later, in the United States, bought his freedom.“I neither want to refute Kant nor put Kant in his place,” Moten said.“I want to think about Kant as a particular moment in the history of a general displacement.” This, he added, “requires recognizing that Kant is a crucial figure in the development of the very concept of race on something like a philosophically rigorous level.“Whereas a ‘sound’ was really within the midst of this intense engagement with everything: with all the noise that you’ve ever heard, you struggle somehow to make a difference, so to speak, within that noise.And that difference isn’t necessarily about you as an individual, it’s much more simply about trying to augment and to differentiate what’s around you.One also finds a certain uncompromising attitude—a conviction that the truest engagement with a subject will overcome any difficulties of terminology. But I try to accentuate that not in the interest of obfuscation but in the interest of precision.”In 2013, Moten published “The Undercommons,” a slender collection of essays co-written with his former classmate and fellow-theorist Stefano Harney.“I think that writing in general, you know, is a constant disruption of the means of semantic production, all the time,” he told me. For a book of theory, it has been widely read, perhaps because of its unapologetic antagonism.

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