Counting it out differently: back music aesthetics in the era of financialization & biopolitics

I’m speaking as part of Connecticut College’s Afrofuturism & Social Justice symposium on Nov. 4, 2016. Here’s the full text of my talk. It’s mostly chunks of the current manuscript I’m writing, so it’s a nice preview of some of the more musically-grounded parts of the project. Below is the (very brief) introduction.


Today I want to think about a the postmillennial rhythm science that responds to white supremacist patriarchy’s articulations as and through biopolitical statistics and neoliberal financialization.

First, I’ll explain what I mean by biopolitics and neoliberal financialization. Then, via W.E.B. Du Bois’s discussion of statistics in “Sociology Hesitant” and Lauren Berlant’s concept of slow death, I’ll show how a particular element of lean aesthetics in hip hop–the serial repetition of a lyric–re-patterns and “slows” the hyperintense speed of the hustle–which, as Lester Spence has shown, is black culture’s “parallel” to neoliberalism’s ideal subject and his cost:benefit calculus. Finally, I read Beyonce’s 2016 album Lemonade through Katherine McKittrick’s concept of demonic calculus, which is her term for the practice of “counting it out differently”–”it” being the statistical and economic rationalities that neoliberal biopolitics uses to establish black death and precarity as fact–so that black women’s truth-claims and practices of survival register as such. So, this talk really is about rhythms and counting–patterns in music, patterns in statistical measurements, patterns of choices measured by homo economicus’s economic rationality.