Histories, Aesthetics and Cultures of Dissent
Edited By Ben Dorfman
Dissent as Race War: The Strange Case of Amiri Baraka (Bent Sørensen)
Bent Sørensen Dissent as Race War: The Strange Case of Amiri Baraka Abstract This paper analyzes the rhetorical, textual, and performance strategies of black U.S. poet Amiri Baraka (1934–2014), categorizing him as an Africanist, (Inter)Nationalist, Marxist, and masculinist dissident, critiquing both majority/hegemonic discourses and most liberal-humanist leftwing positions producing counter-discourses in the USA over the last fifty years. On January 9, 2014, the African-American dissident poet Amiri Baraka died in New York City, aged 79, from complications following an operation. He was, to the last, an unincorporated, angry voice on the poetical and political scene in the U.S. From his earliest days as a poet under the name of Leroi Jones, treading a road of independent magazine editing and publishing (Yugen and Floating Bear, among others [which he shared as a fellow traveler with the Beats]), through his time as a Black Arts Movement activist and his black nationalist incarnation as Amiri Baraka, Baraka always courted controversy by occupying dissident posi- tions vis-à-vis the establishment as well as other liberal-humanist activists of the day. Baraka was something of the archetype of the ever-dissenting dissenter. To frame Baraka’s expressions of dissent, one might turn to definitions of dis- sent found in legal studies, where the concept has special resonance.1 Nan D. Hunter, while writing about the legal implications of practicing dissent as ex- pressive identity, operates with a wider concept of dissent in relation to identity formation. Hunter (2000, 1–2) writes: Social movements founded on identity...
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