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Paul Gilroy seeks to awaken a new understanding of W. E. B. Du Bois’ 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 automobilerich in symbolic value and the promise of individual freedomhave 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.
Table of Contents
- Get Free or Die Tryin’
- Declaration of Rights
- Troubadours, Warriors, and Diplomats
What People are Saying About This
No one writes about black music with more warmth and authority, urgency and conscience, than Paul Gilroy. With sentences jagged as bumpers, Darker than Blue focuses Gilroy's planetary attention on consumption and mobility in ways that open afresh the cases of Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson and Charlie Christian. Suddenly they seem brand-new destination points on Gilroy's ethical compass.
W. T. Lhamon Jr., Author of Deliberate Speed and Raising Cain
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