Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Grave in Exchange for the Commons

Here goes a paragraph from the piece I presented for the Project on the Commons in Vancouver this past weekend. Thanks again to Stephen Collis for making the event happen, and to Taylor, Rob, Steve, Donato, Cecily, Aaron, and others for their incredible participation. We are hoping to have some new materials about the project up at the Nonsite Collective's website soon:

One of the great ironies of the European notion of commons in regards to a Black (America) Radical Aesthetic tradition, as the poet and theoretician Fred Moten points out, is the extent to which it cannot account for the African-American slave, whose subjectivity and subjection was of course defined by its status as a commodity and by a certain logic of value endemic to the North Atlantic Slave trade in conjunction with primitive accumulation. Moten draws out this irony of a collective desideratum for a commons where he cites the well-known passage from Capital in which Marx identifies the commodity as that which is silent, passive, and worldless. Against Marx’s formulation, which cannot account for slave subjectivity, Moten insists that the Black Radical Aesthetic tradition is defined by the fact that through the Blues and other Black aesthetic forms the commodity cum slave does indeed talk (back), if only through the ambivalence of its subjective origins and erstwhile commodity status, the body radically objectified through slavery and the body becoming subject in equally radical fashion through particular modes of performance born through and after the condition of slavery. What can the conditions of African-American slavery and the Black Radical Aesthetic tradition issuing from that tradition teach us about a commons and an activity of commoning? How does a commons emerge through the freedom drive of a slave subjectivity, subjectivity divided by its radical status as an object of private property (commodity) and of the fact of its human-animal species being?
from "A Grave in Exchange for the Commons: Commoning and the Resistance of the Object"

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