Cover of Jazz as Critique by Fumi Okiji
Jazz as Critique
Adorno and Black Expression Revisited
Fumi Okiji

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July 2018
184 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503602021
Paper ISBN: 9781503605855

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Jazz as Critique, a sustained engagement with Theodor Adorno, argues that jazz models an alternative way of life. Adorno's writings on jazz are notoriously dismissive. Nonetheless, he has faith in the critical potential of some musical traditions. Music, Adorno suggests, can provide insight into the controlling, destructive nature of society while offering a glimpse of more empathetic and less violent ways for people to be together in the world. Taking Adorno down a path he did not go, this book argues that the distinctive history of blackness means that jazz cannot but call the integrity of society into question. In response to writing that tends to portray it as a mirror of American individualism and democracy, Fumi Okiji makes the case for jazz as a model of the "communal self." A mode of African American subjectivity that emerges in response to slavery and racism, the "communal self" lets us see the most pressing concerns of jazz as demands for a recognition of black humanity and alterity. Had Adorno been attuned to jazz as the product of lives spent in critical reflection, he, too, may have embraced it as a means to resist society's dominating forces.

About the author

Fumi Okiji is a Fellow in Black Arts (Performance Studies) at Northwestern University.