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In Development Drowned and Reborn, Clyde Woods proposes the imagining of new worlds—worlds “more egalitarian and democratic,” and more committed to “sustainability” and “social, cultural, and economic justice”—by way of an epistemology of the blues. The blues are that musical form born in the freedom found in the wake of American slavery. They are characterized by the expressive deviations of the blue note and the transformation of memories of the sounds of the plantation (field hollers, wailings, and so on) into something more mellifluous. Woods contends that, with a bit of synesthesia, the modes of listening and sounding out afforded by the blues might help us make better sense of the world and give us a sense of how a better world might be.
This talk is interested in the formation of what we might call an epistemology of the violets, or that way of seeing and being in the world at the intersection of the blues and the reds, with “red” here serving as a chromatic stand in for the epistemological and sensorial insights embedded in Japanese creative works. To date, Afro-Japanese scholarship has been framed primarily by concepts such as representation and reception. While informative in their own way, such frameworks prime us to think about transferences from one culture (“blues”) to another (“reds”). Addressing collaborations such as the artwork produced by Pharrell Williams and Murakami Takashi, this talk provides general heuristics for those interested in the study of the epistemological possibilities of purple, or a way of seeing and creating possible worlds that is neither red nor blue—neither African American nor Japanese—but both red and blue, the emergence upon their coalescence.
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About the speaker:
Will Bridges is the Arthur Satz Professor of the Humanities, Associate Professor of Japanese, and Core Faculty member of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester. His latest publication is a co-edited volume, Who Is the Asianist? The Politics of Representation in Asian Studies (Columbia University Press, 2022). He is currently working on two manuscripts. The first is The Ethics of Reparations in Six Deaths. The second is The Black Pacific: A Poetic History. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Social and Cultural Possibilities. Named a notable essayist by the Best American Essays series, he is also an author of creative nonfiction.