Black and Blur

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: December 2017

Author: Fred Moten

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Cultural Studies

"Taken as a trilogy, consent not to be a single being is a monumental accomplishment: a brilliant theoretical intervention that might be best described as a powerful case for blackness as a category of analysis."—Brent Hayes Edwards, author of Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination

In Black and Blur—the first volume in his sublime and compelling trilogy consent not to be a single being—Fred Moten engages in a capacious consideration of the place and force of blackness in African diaspora arts, politics, and life. In these interrelated essays, Moten attends to entanglement, the blurring of borders, and other practices that trouble notions of self-determination and sovereignty within political and aesthetic realms. Black and Blur is marked by unlikely juxtapositions: Althusser informs analyses of rappers Pras and Ol' Dirty Bastard; Shakespeare encounters Stokely Carmichael; thinkers like Kant, Adorno, and José Esteban Muñoz and artists and musicians including Thornton Dial and Cecil Taylor play off each other. Moten holds that blackness encompasses a range of social, aesthetic, and theoretical insurgencies that respond to a shared modernity founded upon the sociological catastrophe of the transatlantic slave trade and settler colonialism. In so doing, he unsettles normative ways of reading, hearing, and seeing, thereby reordering the senses to create new means of knowing.


"Simply put, Moten is offering up some of the most affecting, most useful, theoretical thinking that exists on the planet today.... Moten’s work makes the activities of reading and thinking feel palpably fresh, weird, and vital." — Maggie Nelson, 4Columns

"Some readers will come here because of The Feel Trio, because of The Undercommons. Some because Moten is the activists’ theorist, the contemporary art institution’s darling, because of performance studies, jazz studies, literature. Some readers will come here to encounter a brain that is at once more erudite, generous, capacious, fierce, jokey and infuriating than most others on the planet right now. Everybody ought to arrive here to be schooled and troubled, elated and confused, invited and indicted by a sparklingly original vision for black study." — Nabil Kashyap, Full Stop

"Through his writing and the ways he discusses it in warm, beckoning language that complements his conceptually intensive texts, Moten has become a siren of sorts for artists and curators who find in his words ideas to put into their own practice." — Andy Battaglia, ARTnews

"It's this spirit of the collective effort of study and exchange and resonance, the effort to keep the channels open and keep listening, that has made Moten (or, maybe, 'Moten/s') such a celebrated thinker. At the end of sentences like these, you want to say something like Amen." — Jess Row, Bookforum

"Be ready to be wowed; be ready to be challenged; most of all, be ready for the long haul. It is, apparently, the first in a planned trilogy. Moten is tracking his own course, and it’s fast-moving and spectacular." — Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi

"At a time when both theory and criticism are frequently and convincingly attacked as exhausted forms, Moten’s trilogy has reinvented both. . . . In its mixture of theoretical complexity and disarming directness, Moten’s beautifully written trilogy offers the sheer pleasure of art."  — Lidija Haas, Vulture

"2018 must go down for me as the year of Fred Moten’s trilogy: Black and Blur, Stolen Life, and The Universal Machine. You could say they’re essays about art, philosophy, blackness, and the refusal of social death, but I think of them more as a fractal universe forever inviting immersion and exploration, a living force now inhabiting my bookshelf." — Maggie Nelson, Bookforum

"My favorite book(s) of 2018 are the three volumes of Fred Moten’s consent not to be a single being, individually titled Black and Blur, Stolen Life, and The Universal Machine. In this collection of essays stretching back fifteen years, Moten challenges the reader to imagine a radically interconnected aesthetic and political sphere that stretches from Glenn Gould to Fanon to Kant to Theaster Gates, sometimes in the space of a single sentence. This trilogy is one of the great intellectual adventures of our era." — Jess Row, Bookforum

"Black and Blur reads like a series of jam sessions organized and anchored by a single performer. . . . A nimble, eloquent, oddly moving study of a question like this: what is 'outsider' art outside of, and what is at stake, what gets lost, in thinking of it as outside?" — Paul C. Taylor, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

"In style and content, Black and Blur forms a stimulating extension to In the Break. . . . Black and Blur’s wider purview, taking in the cultural history of modernity and a lot of passionate contemporary art criticism, will likely appeal more to readers who aren’t specialists in black music or literature. — Kevin Higgins, Popular Music

"How does blackness become a state of suspension where the suspension is not a state of being in-between, but a state of being unable to be in-between, or being rooted in involuntary rootlessness? Fred Moten’s Black and Blur leads us to this question. He wonders, 'More precisely, how would one inhabit such eccentric, such impossible ground?' (91). The ordinary, and extraordinary, inhabiting of this impossible ground is what Moten continues to teach us."  — Margo Natalie Crawford, American Literary History

"Black and Blur, not entirely unlike Moten’s In the Break, will be a text for black studies and cultural studies scholars to return to over the coming years. . . . Black and Blur is recommended for scholars of black aesthetics, performance, music, poetics, and cultural criticism." — Jeramy Decristo, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

"consent not to be a single being, titled after a phrase of Édouard Glissant’s, ranges across an impressive number of disciplines: black studies, performance studies, aesthetics, phenomenology, ontology, ethnomusicology, jazz history, comparative literature, critical theory, etc. Without announcing its intervention as interdisciplinary–Moten deftly renders discipline beside the point. . . . Taken together, the series amounts to a powerful argument for black study—as an analytic, an impetus, a mode, the collective shout from a radical vista, whose bellow requires nothing less than 'passionate response' (Moten 2003)."
  — Mimi Howard, boundary 2

"Though Black and Blur sometimes engages in strategies of retreat and introspection, the conversations staged within it are a multi-vocal, participatory event." — Christine Okoth, European Journal of American studies

"In this profound work, Fred Moten makes a sustained and thrilling attempt to think philosophy and music together, which is also to think philosophy as music, which is also necessarily to think music as philosophy. In its capaciousness and in its persistent, challenging, dazzling intelligence, Black and Blur is a book that is worthy of the reputation and influence of its author. Its publication is a major event." — Brent Hayes Edwards, author of Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination

"Poetry and philosophy can't convincingly be condensed or speeded up. To feel each fully they must be read and sounded in time. Such is the case with Fred Moten's words. Black and Blur allows and opens this feeling-mind-sense-body splitting possibility, in its stunning and generative appositionality of aesthetics and life. An intertwined, journeying flight, examining and composing variegations distinctly, yet together placed to read and imbibe. Beautiful, sobering, intricately pleasurable, delicious, and necessary as a way to now begin again delving into the specific immense variegated borderless blur of black that is profound, wide, and bittersweet." — Renée Green, artist, filmmaker, and author of Other Planes of There


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Fred Moten is Professor of Performance Studies at New York University and the author of B Jenkins, also published by Duke University Press, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, and coauthor of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii
Acknowledgments  xv
1. Not In Between  1
2. Interpolation and Interpellation  28
3. Magic of Objects  34
4. Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia  40
5. Taste Dissonance Flavor Escape (Preface to a Solo by Miles Davis)  66
6. The New International of Rhythmic Feel/ings  86
7. The Phonographic Mise-en Scène  118
8. Line Notes for Lick Piece  134
9. Rough Americana  147
10. Nothing, Everything  152
11. Nowhere, Everywhere  158
12. Nobody, Everybody  168
13. Remind  170
14. Amuse-Bouche  174
15. Collective Head  184
16. Cornered, Taken, Made to Leave  198
17. Enjoy All Monsters  206
18. Some Extrasubtitles for Wildness  212
19. To Feel, to Feel More, to Feel More Than  215
20. Irruptions and Incoherences for Jimmie Durham  219
21. Black and Blue on White. In and And Space  226
22. Blue Vespers  230
23. The Blur and Breathe Books  245
24. Entanglement and Virtuosity  270
25. Bobby Lee's Hands  280
Notes  285
Works Cited  317
Index  329
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Fred Moten is the recipient of the 2020 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Honor of Newton Arvin for the book Black and Blur. The award is presented by the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Honorable Mention, 2018 William Sanders Scarborough Prize, presented by the Modern Language Association

Honored by ArtNews as one of the Best Art Books of the Decade

Additional InformationBack to Top