The paraontological distinction between blackness and blacks allows us no longer to be enthralled by the notion that blackness is a property that belongs to blacks (thereby placing certain formulations regarding non/relationality and non/communicability on a different footing and under a certain pressure) but also because ultimately it allows us to detach blackness from the question of (the meaning of) being. The infinitesimal difference between pessimism and optimism lies not in the belief or disbelief in descriptions of power relations or emancipatory projects ; the difference is given in the space between an assertion of the relative nothingness of blackness and black people in the face, literally, of substantive (antiblack) subjectivity and an inhabitation of appositionality, its internal social relations, which remain unstructured by the protocols of subjectivity insofar as mu—which has been variously translated from the Japanese translation of the Chinese wu as no, not, nought, nonbeing, emptiness, nothingness, nothing, no thing but which also bears the semantic trace of dance, therefore of measure given in walking/falling, that sustenance of asymmetry, difference’s appositional mobility—also signifies an absolute nothingness whose antirelative and antithetical philosophical content is approached by way of Nishida Kitaro¯’s enactment of the affinities between structures and affects of mysticism that undergird and trouble metaphysics in the “East” and the “West.” Indeed, the content that is approached is approach, itself, and for the absolute beginner, who is at once pilgrim and penitent, mu signals that which is most emphatically and lyrically marked in Édouard Glissant’s phrase “consent not to be a single being” and indicated in Wilderson’s and Mackey’s gestures toward “fantasy in the hold,” the radical unsettlement that is where and what we are. Unsettlement is the displacement of sovereignty by initiation, so that what’s at stake—here, in displacement—is a certain black incapacity to desire sovereignty and ontological relationality whether they are recast in the terms and forms of a Lévinasian ethics or an Arendtian politics, a Fanonian resistance or a Pattersonian test of honor.
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South Atlantic Quarterly n° 112