“You spend all this time trying to figure it out, but then you realize that there’s also this interaction and interplay that’s still going on in the text. It’s not a dead thing. What you listen to or what you’re reading is still moving and still living. It’s still forming" (107).
Fugitive Planning and Black Study Fred Moten and Stefano Harney
|So far this is probably the best piece of literature that I have ever read in my life.|
"Where did logistics get this ambition to connect bodies, objects, affects, information, without subjects, without the formality of subjects, as if it could reign sovereign over the informal, the concrete and generative indeterminacy of material life? The truth is, modern logistics was born that way. Or more precisely it was born in resistance to, giv- en as the acquisition of, this ambition, this desire and this practice of the informal. Modern logistics is founded with the first great move- ment of commodities, the ones that could speak. It was founded in the Atlantic slave trade, founded against the Atlantic slave" (92).
|Stefano Harney, Historian|
|Fred Moten, English Professor and Poet|
If you want to know what happens when you mix the the beautiful prose Fred Moten with concise factual data from the historian Stefano Harney you get The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning And Black Study. This book criticizes everything that you thought you knew and forces you to grapple with Moten's commanding manipulations of the English language (in some chapter he makes up his own words, but trust me when I say if you don't understand the text you will feel it). My favorite chapter in book is the final one titled "Fantasy In the Hold". The hold that they are referencing is the hold of the slave ship. They discuss the connection within Black diaspora to the forced bond created amongst different tribes of Africans thrown together in the slave ship:
"Hapticality, the touch of the undercommons, the interiority of sentiment, the feel that what is to come is here. Hapticality, the capacity to feel though others, for others to feel through you, for you to feel them feeling you, this feel of the shipped is not regulated, at least not successfully, by a state, a religion, a people, an empire, a piece of land, a totem. Or perhaps we could say these are now recomposed in the wake of the shipped. To feel others is unmediated, immediately social, amongst us, our thing, and even when we recompose religion, it comes from us, and even when we recompose race, we do it as race women and men. Refused these things, we first refuse them, in the contained, amongst the contained, lying together in the ship, the boxcar, the prison, the hostel. Skin, against epidermalisation, senses touching. Thrown together touching each other we were denied all sentiment, denied all the things that were supposed to produce sentiment, family, nation, language, religion, place, home. Though forced to touch and be touched, to sense and be sensed in that space of no space, though refused sentiment, history and home, we feel (for) each other" (97)
The past is inextricably linked to the present. This book tackles multiple issues from an intersectional standpoint that connects race, class and gender. This is what makes their train of though so radical, so important and so beautiful to me. It also makes it extremely depressing. One of my professors told me "History isn't pretty" and it isn't. As they discuss some of the sociological and logistical oppressions of Black people this book has the ability to crush you. But one thing I can guarantee is that you will never read a history book that sounds this beautiful:
"There’s a touch, a feel you want more of, which releases you. The closest Marx ever got to the general antagonism was when he said “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” but we have read this as the possession of ability and the possession of need. What if we thought of the experiment of the hold as the absolute fluidity, the informality, of this condition of need and ability? What if ability and need were in constant play and we found someone who dispossessed us so that this movement was our inheritance. Your love makes me strong, your love makes me weak. What if “the between the two,” the lost desire, the articulation, was this rhythm, this inherited experiment of the shipped in the churning waters of flesh and expression that could grasp by letting go ability and need in constant recombination. If he moves me, sends me, sets me adrift in this way, amongst us in the undercommons. So long as she does this, she does not have to be" (99).
This book is so rich, so dense and honestly it is a struggle to read because Moten's writing style is very unique. However once you get accustomed to way he uses language and the way he manipulates it you can finally see how beautiful it is. Even if you don't understand all of the concepts and the terminology that he uses it will start to coalesce. Every Sentence is so beautifully crafted and handled with care. Reading The Undercommons is a journey and I hope that all of you enjoy the ride.
Lisa Del Sol