Academic journal article Making Connections

Cultural Memory and the Black Radical Tradition: Distraction in the Monin

Academic journal article Making Connections

Cultural Memory and the Black Radical Tradition: Distraction in the Monin

Article excerpt

If African American history has revealed anything through the major epochs marking its literary and cultural existence, it would be the non-monolithic tendencies of black art and its aestheticism. The complicated notion of what incorporates or enacts a black aesthetic offers diverse arguments that seldom reveal an ending point. Nonetheless, there is no escaping the syncretic link Julian Mayfield offers this conversation when he describes a component of black aesthetics as "our racial memory, and the unthinkable knowledge of who we are, where we have been, and springing from this, where we are going" (26). Going forward, if we agree there is at least a tradition of black writing, then that tradition most assuredly incorporates memory and trauma from what theorist-poet Fred Moten has termed the stolen-but-notforgottenii, or more specifically, those who lived and still live beneath empirical discourses and or literature. I am interested in how memory and trauma, in relationship to Jacques Derrida's theory of trace through différance and difference, ultimately creates a moan. This moanin becomes critical to the formulation of a black tradition opposed to teleological principles as it seeks to disrupt ideologies through the distraction and negation of language. By operating from a black radical poetics that turns away from a prescriptive ideology of language constructed by race and upheld by empirical discourses that implement boundaries and force cultural pockets, an entranceway into open field composition is achieved.iii

Derrida's concept of trace originates from différance and difference, offering a foundation to examine the black radical tradition in relationship to memory and trauma. Différance is the inverse or result of teleological principlesiv, and in the tracing of différance, "it no more follows the lines of philosophical-logical discourse than that of its symmetrical and integral inverse, empirical discourse. The concept of play keeps itself beyond this opposition, announcing, on the eve of philosophy and beyond it, the unity of chance and necessity in calculations without end" (Derrida 7). From this point forward I would like to substitute Derrida's trace with the term moan and or moanin, which is representative of a black radical tradition formed through psychological conditioning and the social construction of race. Through Derrida's play in language and life, this moan challenges the structures it has been conditioned to follow as it is always in opposition. One could say, by opposing or attempting to negate a prescribed course of action, that moanin is illogical; however, the illogical action of moanin is no more illogical than that which it is opposes i.e., empirical discourses that seek to suppress and oppress.

Difference marginalizes différance because of its (un)natural predilection to outline borders and boundaries. Différance is the moral judgments of the immoral that create what could be called echoes of the unremembered or the socially constructed. Moanin proves to be a lack of discipline and law through play because it refuses to follow organized structures based on an oppressive polemic. Derrida's play activates the "thing"v in moanin which keeps itself outside of the "state," veering towards beyond what we know, or are taught to know. The very act of moanin at play, in terms of poetics, is distraction or disruption to a rhetorical telos, or what I would like to call distraction in the moaninvi. Moanin offers and provides refuge for a black cultural body, manifesting and reemerging in the distraction as it operates against the grain of proposed syntax and semantics. To the (un)trained ear moanin is nothing more than fingernails across the chalkboard or the flatted fifth notevii blown from an alto saxophone. According to Fred Moten's interpretation of Derrida's trace, it is "the breaking of speech, the elevating disruptions of the verbal [...]" (6). Moanin as trace is capable of a paragrammatical assault against language systems whose main motif is governance. …

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