Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 21, 2017

Black Mysticism: Fred Moten’s Phenomenology of (Black) Spirit

  • Calvin L. Warren EMAIL logo


Fred Moten offers a unique philosophical perspective on the deadlock between black optimism and Afro-Pessimism. This essay presents Moten’s “black mysticism” as a philosophy that imagines blackness without Being, thus shifting emphasis from a phenomenology of anti-Blackness (political ontology) to a phenomenology of black spirit (black mysticism). By shifting emphasis, Moten opens up an alternative grammar for understanding black existence and black endurance in a hostile world.

Corresponding author: Prof. Calvin L.Warren, Ph.D., Department of American Studies, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University, 2108 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052, USA

Works Cited

Anderson, Victor (1995). Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay on African American Religious and Cultural Criticism. New York, NY: Continuum.Search in Google Scholar

Anker, Elizabeth (2014). Orgies of Felling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Connolly, William (2002). Identity Difference: Democratic Negotiations of Difference. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Heidegger, Martin (2008). Being and Time. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Search in Google Scholar

Heidegger, Martin (2014). The Introduction to Metaphysics. Trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Lacan, Jacques (2015). Transference: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan 1960–1961, Book VIII. Malden, MA: Polity.Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2003). In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2004). “Knowledge of Freedom.” CR: The New Centennial Review 4.2, 269–310.10.1353/ncr.2005.0009Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2007). “Black Optimism/Black Operation.” Anxiety, Urgency, Outrage, Hope… A Conference on Political Feeling. October 19–20. <> (April 11, 2017).Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2008a). “Black Op.” PLMA 123.5, 1743–1747.10.1632/pmla.2008.123.5.1743Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2008b). “The Case of Blackness.” Criticism 50.2, 177–218.10.1353/crt.0.0062Search in Google Scholar

Moten, Fred (2013). “Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh).” South Atlantic Quarterly 112.4, 737–780.10.1215/00382876-2345261Search in Google Scholar

Rubenstein, Mary Jane (2010). Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Sexton, Jared (2011). “The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism.” InTensions 5, 1–47. <> (January 11, 2017).10.25071/1913-5874/37359Search in Google Scholar

Spillers, Hortense (2003). Black, White, and in Color. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Wagner, Bryan (2009). Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.10.4159/9780674054769Search in Google Scholar

Wilderson, Frank B. III (2010). Red, White and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.10.2307/j.ctv11cw61kSearch in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-6-21
Published in Print: 2017-6-27

©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 8.6.2023 from
Scroll to top button