A Poetics of the Undercommons by Fred Moten


A Poetics of the Undercommons by Fred Moten


Trade Paperback
Perfect-bound, 56 pp. 4.7 x 7.5 in.
ISBN 978-0-9976209-0-0
Library of Congress 2016943052
Publication Year: 2016

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Fred Moten first delivered this remarkable lecture at Threewalls in Chicago, prompted by Harold Mendez’s show “but I sound better since you cut my throat.” Sputnik & Fizzle’s annotated and expanded transcription of A Poetics of the Undercommons includes an original preface by Stefano Harney and a reprint of Moten’s reflections on Mendez’s exhibition. Moten deftly explores various avenues of thought, explaining how he and Harney first developed a notion of the “undercommons” in their influential book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Autonomedia, 2013). His is a lively and fascinating discussion of the disparate connections between Object-Oriented Ontology, Martin Heidegger’s phenomenology, Franz Fanon, and Frank Wilderson, as well as the Buddhist philosophy of Nishida Kitarō—and how all these various intellectual threads shaped his ideas about blackness, sociality, and the “undercommons.”

Excerpt from A Poetics of the Undercommons:

“Part of a rough outline of the trajectory I want to trace starts with a little exegetical commentary on the poem that Abby just read [Rock the Party, Fuck the Smackdown], and in particular to think about things—why I was concerned with things—and to see if I can figure out a way to move from concern about things to concern with nothing, or with nothingness; and, moreover, to see what nothingness and thingliness have to do with what Stefano and I have been calling the undercommons; and then to think about how nothingness, which is to say no-thingness manifests itself as a kind of practice, a practice that Denise Ferreira da Silva might describe as differentiation without separation, which is necessarily social and aesthetic, and which one can begin thinking about as a kind of poetics.”


Fred Moten is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical TraditionHughson’s TavernB. JenkinsThe Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (with Stefano Harney), The Feel TrioThe Little Edges and The Service Porch. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of California, Riverside.