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I’ve forgotten now who phoned, but I do remember where I was sitting when the stunning news reached me one summer day that Lindon Barrett was dead. A victim of foul play that [End Page 251] apparently combined homicide with the motive of theft, Lindon Barrett was one of the most brilliant scholars—perhaps “personality” would be more definitive—of that generation of African Americanists who surfaces near the turn of the century as if in vivid response to the steely ambitions of the Black Studies movement as my generation of culture critics had dared to imagine it three decades before; in short, Lindon, if one thought about it, was not only going to outlive his teachers (as we presume the coincidence of birth and death order) but would also outdo them (as Blackness and Value: Seeing Double1 had already attested). I felt personally robbed—violated would not be too strong a descriptor—as I sat for a long time that afternoon, recalling his marvelous smile and sense of openness to others, and how pleased I was to have had the occasion to dedicate an essay to him in the mid-nineties.2 At the time of his death, he was teaching at the University of California, Riverside after having worked a number of years at the Irvine campus of the University of California system, at which venue I’d last seen him shortly after the turn of the century. An indefatigable scholar and writer with a penchant for argumentative complexity, amply demonstrated in Racial Blackness and the (Dis)continuity of Western Modernity, Lindon was on the verge of the next iteration of a critical inquiry that examines the black situation of culture in the dynamic context of power and its massive sublimations of violence that sum up the dominative modes of modernity’s thought- and life-worlds; no mean endeavor, for sure, this unfolding articulation was tragically cut short in his hands. We regard it, then, as an act of supreme love and respect that three of Lindon Barrett’s closest friends and colleagues, John Carlos Rowe, Dwight McBride, and Justin Joyce, have brought to posthumous fruition a plausible version of the project that he was apparently embarked on at his death: Racial Blackness and the (Dis)continuity of Western Modernity. This review is based on the work that this trio of editors set out to accomplish.
John Carlos Rowe, who was Barrett’s colleague at Irvine and currently serves as the USC Associates’ Professor of the Humanities and professor of English, American studies, and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, explains in the introduction to Racial Blackness how the editing mission fell to him: Relayed to Rowe by Winston James, professor of history at Irvine and good friend of Lindon’s, the manuscript that became the 2014 publication was culled from the printed files of several versions of four chapters, discovered by Lindon’s friends and family in his Long Beach apartment; Rowe believes that the most current chapters of the manuscript had been stored on Lindon’s laptop, but the latter was a casualty of the theft; the initial spade work of sorting the related essays from other projects earmarked for publication elsewhere had already been carried out by James when Rowe received the sheaf of papers in June 2009. He began work on the material in December of that year. Finding no introduction to the work in progress, Rowe is convinced that Lindon was waiting to draft it after he had completed the whole. As it stands, the published manuscript consists of five chapters, the last of which, “Modernism and the Affects of Racial Blackness” (157–91), was not a feature of the table of contents of the project, but in Rowe’s estimation the essay nonetheless dovetails with the conceptual trajectory of the work, insofar as it pursues Barrett’s investigation of the career of black bodies beyond...