Stolen Life

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: Published: July 2018

Author: Fred Moten

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

"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 Stolen Life—the second volume in his landmark trilogy consent not to be a single being—Fred Moten undertakes an expansive exploration of blackness as it relates to black life and the collective refusal of social death. The essays resist categorization, moving from Moten's opening meditation on Kant, Olaudah Equiano, and the conditions of black thought through discussions of academic freedom, writing and pedagogy, non-neurotypicality, and uncritical notions of freedom. Moten also models black study as a form of social life through an engagement with Fanon, Hartman, and Spillers and plumbs the distinction between blackness and black people in readings of Du Bois and Nahum Chandler. The force and creativity of Moten's criticism resonate throughout, reminding us not only of his importance as a thinker, but of the continued necessity of interrogating blackness as a form of sociality.


"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

"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

"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

"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

"Moten presents his inimitable and endlessly generative mode of thought in encounters with a wide range of primary and scholarly texts. . . . Moten illuminates what he has called the 'improvisational immanence' of blackness to show how—as concept, radical aesthetic, political tradition, and mode of being—it precedes and disrupts the regulative discourses that enshrine notions of sovereignty." — Janet Neary, Postmodern Culture

"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 the achievements of Stolen Life reach far beyond what can be summarized in this review, Moten's writing here also provides an urgent reminder: black radical practices flourish in spite of the demands of professionalized scholarship and not because of them." — Christine Okoth, European Journal of American Studies

"Fred Moten's panpipe critical practice is nowhere more luxuriantly available than in Stolen Life. Diagnostic, ministerial, rhapsodic, it pulls out all stops to chase the farthest, fullest reaches of thought and language, criticality's gambit. Moten returns the essay to its etymon, a radical trial, a radical attempt, what John Coltrane called pursuance, in flight for and toward something, which is as much what fugitivity (a prized word and concept between these covers) is as getting away, an unremitting search prone to unexpected turns at any point. Study is a word of choice in Moten's work and he does indeed school us, take us to school. We've been tardy at times, we learn, and we've even, on occasion, played hooky. No matter. He pulls right up outside our door, driving the bus." — Nathaniel Mackey, author of Late Arcade

"Our friend Fred Moten, the prodigious philosopher, poet, collaborator, conspirator, critic, and fearless planner, extends to us a riveting, beautiful, and turbulent collection of essays. A massive and mobile series of meditations on the intramural and the undercommons, Stolen Life cuts a fugitive path toward the place where blackness and black study collude and collide with one another, offering us the blueprints to better hear the poetry of our ontology, and the ontology of our poetry. As precious contraband for this scholarly moment of emergency, this field-altering masterpiece is set to be played again and again." — Daphne A. Brooks, author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850–1910


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Fred Moten is Professor of Performance Studies at New York University and the author of Black and Blur and The Universal Machine, both also published by Duke University Press, and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Preface  ix
1. Knowledge of Freedom  1
2. Gestural Critique of Judgment  96
3. Uplift and Criminality  115
4. The New International of Decent Feelings  140
5. Rilya Wilson, Precious Doe, Buried Angel  152
6. Black Op  155
7. The Touring Machine (Flesh Thought Inside Out)  161
8. Seeing Things  183
9. Air Shaft, Rent Party  188
10. Notes on Passage  191
11. Here, There, and Everywhere  213
12. Anassignment Letters  227
13. The Animaternalizing Call  237
14. Erotics of Fugitivity  241
Notes  269
Works Cited  297
Index  309
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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