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The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness Paperback – January 25, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0674076068 ISBN-10: 0674076060 Edition: Reissue

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Building on W. E. B. Du Bois's early 20th-century theories of race and double-consciousness and taking Du Bois's own transatlantic career as a paradigmatic instance of the modernism of black experiences of diaspora, Gilroy accomplishes an exciting recharting of the complexities of black thought in the West...[The] book has the additional merit of providing remarkable rereadings of Du Bois, Richard Wright, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass and others. (Aldon L. Nielsen Washington Post Book World)

The Black Atlantic uses the transnational concept of the diaspora to explore the migrations, discontinuities, fractal patterns of exchange and hybrid glory that join the black cultures of America, Britain, and the Caribbean to one another and to Africa. Gilroy isn't the first to chart The Black Atlantic, but he is the first to situate it...It is a bold and brilliant rethinking of the political geography of race. (Eric Lott The Nation)

This is a splendid book...Gilroy's main contribution to scholarship is that by inserting black people as central participants in the creation of the modern world he thereby rewrites the history of modernity and modernism. (Hazel Carby Yale University)

This book's many virtues of style combine with elegant local readings of Douglass, Wright, Du Bois, Morrison; of Adorno and Baumann; and a whole range of popular culture from jazz to Hip Hop...It is a mark of the ambition and the achievement of this book that so many readers will find it rewarding. (Anthony Appiah, Harvard University)

A thoughtful evaluation of Western black identity, and a scathing critique of the nationalist, 'ethical absolutist' position that posits that such identities are mutually exclusive...There is much to recommend about [it]: many thought-provoking questions and compelling arguments. (Carrie B. Robinson Quarterly Black Review of Books)

Against the grain of much contemporary thought that embraces ethnocentrism, Paul Gilroy has issued a stirring challenge to recognize the modern world as a cultural hybrid. The Black Atlantic is a wonderful chapter in the global intellectual history of the next century...Drawing on work in many disciplines, Gilroy provides a vivid alternative to competing positions in the current culture wars. He briefly outlines an intellectual rapprochement between Zionism and black nationalism, for example, and some of his most polemical remarks are reserved for those Afrocentrists who proclaim a linear inheritance from Africa but wish to ignore the intervening cultural hybridization produced by slavery...Present anxiety about the supposed disuniting and fraying of America's national culture, or about its forced concentration into an assimilating mold, might be significantly allayed if readers would pay serious attention to the invigorating claims of The Black Atlantic. (Eric J. Sundquist Newsday)

Spike Lee and Jazzie B., Walter Benjamin and the Jubilee Singers, Sonia Boyce and Keith Piper, Richard Wright, Theodor Adorno, J.M.W. Turner and W.E.B. Du Bois, Hegel, Hendrix, and 2 Live Crew: Very few writers could find things to say about every character on so dazzlingly eclectic a cast-list. Perhaps only Paul Gilroy could offer not merely striking insights about all of them, but present a compelling case for their belonging in the same narrative…Gilroy's lucidity is exemplary. (Stephen Howe New Statesman & Society)

Review

This book's many virtues of style combine with elegant local readings of Douglass, Wright, Du Bois, Morrison; of Adorno and Baumann; and a whole range of popular culture from jazz to Hip Hop...It is a mark of the ambition and the achievement of this book that so many readers will find it rewarding.
--Anthony Appiah (Harvard University) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reissue edition (January 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674076060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674076068
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By martin de leon on September 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
In "The Black Atlantic" Paul Gilroy constructs an excellent text based on the black diasporic experience. His views of black culture as being a dynamic networked construct based on the idea of the diaspora derived from Jewish culture, is an illuminating concept that contains great substance. Gilroy's underlying transnational humanism (that can be read in his latest pseudo-utopian work "Against Race") and vital rethinking about the perils of cultural nationalism and the urgent benefits of a unique hybrid culture is a thoroughly needed breath in the stasis of linear monocultural thinking. The book functions in an excellent manner in addressing the complex dynamics of slavery, colonization, and their inherent residual effects on black political culture. In addition the method in which Gilroy weaves Adorno, Hendrix, hip-hop culture, Du Bois, Wright, Hegel and a host of others in a clear and eloquent manner is cause for reading in itself. In a nutshell, this is a valuable sociological and philosophical work that creates a rupture in linear, absolutist views of history, sexuality, identity and other various elements in relation to black particularity. In this book Gilroy composes the dynamics of intercultural exchange (whether artistic, political, social, moral etc.) as well as attributing to socialized historical memory through its brilliant text.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A.B. on October 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness begins with a clear problematic. Prevailing historical authority subscribes to racial, ethnic, or national essentialism in analyzing "blackness." This reduces the cultural and political history of "black" people to a physics of isolated particles. Instead of unrelated national histories, Gilroy seeks a postnational account of the black Diaspora. Gilroy's effort involves searching for common modes of reason across hybrid black Atlantic cultures. He believes that the academic endeavor of African studies, when framed by the nation state as a mode of inquiry (e.g. "African-American studies") can not engage the African Diaspora as a liquid phenomenon that is in constant dialogue with itself. For Gilroy, this Diaspora does not "fit" in the compartments of national boundaries. These boundaries impair present-day political resistance because they deny an alternative to European cultural hegemony in articulating the black relationship to modernity. Moreover, these boundaries obscure the hybrid legacy of prevailing "western" civilization.

Importantly, Gilroy diverges from a number of other thinkers (in fields as diverse as Communications, Anthropology, and History) as to the origins of "black" artistic expression. Scholars like Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, and Lawrence Levine would contend that black culture maintains an essential orality in the midst of modernity. Each has a way to avoid the tendency of this contention to exoticize blackness. (McLuhan concludes that modernity is oral and that technology is an extension of sensation in his "Gutenberg Galaxy" and "Understanding Media." Ong systematizes the cognitive aptitudes of oral and literate worldviews in his aptly titled "Orality and Literacy.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Paul Gilroy brings a fresh eye and mind to the challenging task of examining black cultural and political manifestations as they affect the transglobal community. Gilroy, unlike some cultural theorists, sees the interconnectedness between those discourses around race, class, gender, and sexuality and its impact on the black and world communities. It is his articulation of how these entities are intertwined that makes for a fresh and insightful examination of contemporary black diasporic experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Case Quarter VINE VOICE on January 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
gilroy writes of forms of transmission, historically describing communication of experience and culture by blacks from periods of history when direct communication was regimented, curtailed and silenced up to the post-literate musical culture of the twentieth century.

during slavery, ways of communication were found in song and dance, in utterance and gesture. in the case of margaret garner, an escaped slave on trail for killing her child, the violence of slavery and its effects were made known in several forms: the act of infancide, the publication of the act through the media, personal published accounts such as in a memoir by an abolitionist, levi coffin, the championing of the case by a noted suffragist of the day, lucy stoner, and, a century later, continued by the fictionalization of margaret garner's story by toni morrison in her novel, Beloved.

gilroy looks at two forms of transmission, sea travel and the artifact: books, records, and choirs. situating his book in the countries on the continents connected by the atlantic ocean, africa, europe and the north and south americas, he touches on communication on slave ships from africa, with deeper probing into communication by 19th century free black intellectuals, those fortunate to travel to other countries, and communication by blacks during the slave trade, free and enslaved, who worked on ships. for gilroy, the travels resulted in interaction, and the exchange and transmission of ideas.
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