• None Like Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life

    Pages: 208
    Illustrations: 9 illustrations, incl 8 in color
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
    Series: Theory Q
    Series Editor(s): Lauren Berlant, Lee Edelman
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  • Introduction. Unfit for History  1
    Part I. On Thinking Like a Work of Art
    1. My Beautiful Elimination  29
    2. On Failing to Make the Past Present  63
    Part II. A History of Discontinuity
    Interstice. A Gossamer Writing  83
    3. The History of People Who Did Not Exist  91
    4. Rumor in the Archive  107
    Acknowledgments  133
    Notes  135
    Bibliography  173
    Index  193
  • “Stephen Best's ambitious new book makes a valuable contribution to current debates at the intersection of literary and historical studies and provides nothing less than an aesthetic reappraisal of the aims and methods of black historiography. Erudite, searching, and eclectic, the intervention of None Like Us will reverberate widely across the field of black studies for years to come.” — Tavia Nyong’o, author of, Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life

    “Stephen Best gives us an entirely new way of understanding the constitution of black subjectivity. Identifying cognates for that process in the aesthetic strategies of numerous exemplary literary and visual artworks, he allows us to see black subjectivity itself as an aesthetic function, wholly distinct from the problematic collectivisms conventionally taken to originate in slavery. Deeply learned and beautifully written, None Like Us will provoke lively discussion among black studies scholars, significantly reorienting the theoretical conversation.” — Phillip Brian Harper, author of, Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture

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  • Description

    It passes for an unassailable truth that the slave past provides an explanatory prism for understanding the black political present. In None Like Us Stephen Best reappraises what he calls “melancholy historicism”—a kind of crime scene investigation in which the forensic imagination is directed toward the recovery of a “we” at the point of “our” violent origin. Best argues that there is and can be no “we” following from such a time and place, that black identity is constituted in and through negation, taking inspiration from David Walker’s prayer that “none like us may ever live again until time shall be no more.” Best draws out the connections between a sense of impossible black sociality and strains of negativity that have operated under the sign of queer. In None Like Us the art of El Anatsui and Mark Bradford, the literature of Toni Morrison and Gwendolyn Brooks, even rumors in the archive, evidence an apocalyptic aesthetics, or self-eclipse, which opens the circuits between past and present and thus charts a queer future for black study.

    About The Author(s)

    Stephen Best is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Fugitive's Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession.
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