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Darker than Blue

Darker than Blue

On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture

Paul Gilroy

ISBN 9780674060234

Publication date: 05/15/2011

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Paul Gilroy seeks to awaken a new understanding of W. E. B. Du Bois’s intellectual and political legacy. At a time of economic crisis, environmental degradation, ongoing warfare, and heated debate over human rights, how should we reassess the changing place of black culture?

Gilroy considers the ways that consumerism has diverted African Americans’ political and social aspirations. Luxury goods and branded items, especially the automobile—rich in symbolic value and the promise of individual freedom—have restratified society, weakened citizenship, and diminished the collective spirit. Jazz, blues, soul, reggae, and hip hop are now seen as generically American, yet artists like Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Bob Marley, who questioned the allure of mobility and speed, are not understood by people who have drained their music of its moral power.

Gilroy explores the way in which objects and technologies can become dynamic social forces, ensuring black culture’s global reach while undermining the drive for equality and justice. Drawing on the work of a number of thinkers, including Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi, and Frantz Fanon, he examines the ethical dimensions of living in a society that celebrates the object. What are the implications for our notions of freedom?

With his brilliant, provocative analysis and astonishing range of reference, Gilroy revitalizes the study of African American culture. He traces the shifting character of black intellectual and social movements, and shows how we can construct an account of moral progress that reflects today’s complex realities.

Praise

  • Paul Gilroy's most important gift to cultural criticism is the deft manner in which he finds novel ways to explicate his great concern: the interweaving of ethics and aesthetics, through the example of the African American tradition. In Darker than Blue, Gilroy brilliantly examines some basic tensions within African American culture—in particular the changing relation, over the past half-century especially, between expressions of group consciousness and atomistic individualism. Gilroy is delightfully curious and rigorously analytical, making this book a pleasure to read and to argue with. It reaffirms his position as one of the leading cultural critics of our time.

    —Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

Author

  • Paul Gilroy holds the Anthony Giddens Professorship in Social Theory at the London School of Economics.

Book Details

  • 224 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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