A sustained engagement with Theodor Adorno, Jazz As Critique looks to jazz for ways of understanding the inadequacies of contemporary life. Adorno’s writings on jazz are notoriously dismissive. Nevertheless, Adorno does have faith in the critical potential of some musical traditions. Music, he suggests, can provide insight into the controlling, destructive nature of modern society while offering a glimpse of more empathetic and less violent ways of being together in the world. Taking Adorno down a path he did not go, this book calls attention to an alternative sociality made manifest in jazz. 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 “gathering in difference.”Noting that this mode of subjectivity emerged in response to the distinctive history of black America, she reveals that the music cannot but call the integrity of the world into question.
“A lucidly argued, historically grounded, theoretically sophisticated, and timely book, Jazz as Critique redraws our maps of the relationship between black cultures, jazz music, and critical theory.” (Alexander G. Weheliye Northwestern University)
“This important and engagingly written study offers new angles of vision on Adorno’s notorious ‘jazz critique,’ on the nature of the jazz work, and on jazz’s utopian promise. Informed both by a judicious reading of Adorno and by considerable jazz literacy, it illuminates the intersections of critical theory, jazz studies, and African American studies.” (Lorenzo C. Simpson Stony Brook University)
“Fumi Okiji combines a serious understanding of Adorno with a powerful portrayal of the black experience in the United States and melds it all with an encyclopedic knowledge of and respect for the jazz tradition. The world needs a book like this, as much as it needs jazz.” (Martin Shuster Goucher College)
About the Author
Fumi Okiji is Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.