Déchets. If, as Baudelaire tells us, the form of a city changes more quickly than a mortal’s heart, then one’s first experience of Paris should be a scaffolding or a construction site. From the start, the permanence of metamorphosis, the immodesty of the city’s entrails, exposed. If you’re lucky, arriving at your first apartment on a bright June midmorning, Paris greets you not just with a chantier, but with a crisis. Just as you turn the corner onto your block, a truck driver, negotiating the one-way street towards the Place des Vosges, collides with a five-story scaffolding set up on the north side of the rue des Francs Bourgeois, nudging the metal frame. Nudging it, but enough that it falls back over the truck. It crumples in a leisurely arc into the third floor of the building opposite, leaving an awkward jungle gym curled across the street, a flimsy flying-buttress for your arrival. Almost immediately, firemen arrive from the station on the rue de Sévigné, but they are stumped by the stubborn jumble. They can do no more than redirect traffic, and confer helplessly around the trapped camion in their navy blue jumpsuits, arguing with the driver—who argues back defensively, his hands estimating the breadth of his negligence in millimeters. As heads peer out of windows along the street, the firemen try to look industrious amidst the broken glass and rubble. One passes close by, and you see your face reflected in his shiny silver helmet: it is the first time since you’ve arrived that you place yourself in the scene, here, living here now in this bustling, shocked streetscape.
Such an introduction is indispensable if it unburdens you of at least one of your suitcases: the romance of the Paris you’ve read, the Paris you’ve dreamed, the Paris you imagined so clearly before you got here, which didn’t resemble this at all. James Baldwin claims in No Name in the Street that he had “never, thank God—and certainly not once I found myself living there—been even remotely romantic about Paris . . . My journey, or my flight, had not been to Paris, but simply away from America.” I too had not been particularly romantic about the city itself. I did arrive in Paris romantic, though: romantic about James Baldwin, about the idea of a black American experience of the city, especially as expressed in his eloquent, probing essays. Even if that experience no longer existed, even if the community of African Americans and African students on the Left Bank (and the conditions that made that community possible) had largely dissipated after the 1960s. I was romantic, hopelessly naive even, about what Baldwin called the “allowed irresponsibility” of expatriation in Europe, about the needful, almost desperate quest for voice. Baldwin’s writings were the romance I carried with me, along with those of James Joyce, Walter Benjamin, Julio [End Page 775] Cortázar, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, and Langston Hughes, and in their words I learned by heart a city that no longer existed.
The first and most brutal lesson to comprehend in Paris, if one is going to live there for any amount of time, is how to make one’s way out from under such a romance, out from under the reams of paper that swaddle the city, that overlay and blur one’s vision. Baldwin himself offers this insight in essays like “The New Lost Generation,” where he cautions that, even in travel, we cannot escape the hardships of constructing a life. Life is difficult in part because our suffering is so banal; it cannot be ameliorated by the solace of distance, the idea of a “new existence.” In poverty, in solitude, the seeming allure of those layers of words drop away. Eating baguettes for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Paris, in other words, is no more nourishing for the fact that George Orwell did the same seventy years before. Seriously considering strangling a pigeon in the Jardin de Luxembourg for a meal is no more glamorous because Hemingway had the idea first. But as Baldwin also warns, “it is impossible to be warned”; this lesson has to be lived. Paris was “easily recognizable as Paris from across the ocean: that was what the letter on the map spelled out. This was not the same thing as finding oneself in a large, inconvenient, indifferent city. Paris, from across the ocean, looked like a refuge from the American madness; now it was a city four thousand miles from home.” One begins to inhabit Paris, rather than just visit it, when this realization kicks in. Then, the myths of a timeless City of Light are extinguished. But, strangely, it is precisely at this moment that the city begins to speak, from the depths of its layers. One begins to see the way the city changes, to read not its myths but its déchets—its detritus, its pulp, overused, outdated, left behind. Indigestible discards, useless residue, but the vibrant living record of the city’s pocked-marked face, hurrying into the future.
Look at that construction site on rue de la Roquette across from rue Keller: above the gaping abscess in the ground, you can still read the ghosts of the razed buildings on the walls of the adjacent structures. Buildings in Paris share a single wall between them, so a part of the vanished edifice’s interior remains visible on its neighbor. On the adjoining building, you can track the outline of the former roof, the ashy ascent of what was once the chimney, the jagged etch of the stairwells. There are even the old layers of paint and wallpaper in neat rectangles left where rooms had been. Garish floral patterns, jejune color schemes, suddenly thrown into concert with modest tile bathrooms and faded beige in a patchwork quilt that seems almost obscene. Decades of isolated decorating suddenly shameless, they hang on the exposed wall like billboards of defunct intimacy.
Contrôle de Visage. One of the best-known statements on exile was written by Hugo of St. Victor, the 12th-century monk from Saxony: “The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.” This is not at all the perspective of James Baldwin, who thought that being abroad, if anything, clarified and even honed his relationship to the United States, his complex “birthright” as an American Negro. For Baldwin, you don’t know home until you leave it. This may be the difference between exile and what is perhaps too easily called [End Page 776] “expatriation.” But it is also rooted in Baldwin’s experience as an American writer living abroad who only spoke French passably, who even after many years kept his closest ties in France with a foreign, English-speaking community. He cared deeply for Belleville, in the northeastern section of the city, which a century ago was the proletarian district of Paris, riddled with stone quarries and mills, and which after the second World War became the Arab quarter. But although Baldwin haunted the cheap cafés of Ménilmontant and Belleville in the early 1950s, he was ultimately never intimate with that world. He lived in Paris during the first stirrings of the Algerian war of independence, and recognized the hypocrisy of France, which liked to consider itself a haven from American racism for U.S. blacks at the exact moment when anti-Arab repression was at its apex. But he never quite made the link between his existential quest and their seething anger at colonialism. “The Arabs were together in Paris,” he wrote, “but the American blacks were alone.”
Forty years later, I was living in Paris when the Gulf War broke out. The situation may seem similar, but in fact it was quite different: for now the U.S. was the aggressor in the Middle East. This made me automatically the “native informant” at dinner parties, asked by French friends to explain and defend American policy in the region—a role which (because I considered the war indefensible) made me all the more circumspect about my own putative “birthright.” Sometimes the questions come more pointedly from North Africans, making me face our discrepant similarities: on one side, a French citizen nonetheless exiled from “home” in Algeria, waiting out the cruel vagaries of an undeclared civil war; on the other, an American in Paris eking out an existence without proper work papers, exploring the ways he doesn’t fit, looking for his voice in the crannies. Baldwin wrote famously that the American Negro and the African face each other “over a gulf of three hundred years—an alienation too vast to be conquered in an evening’s good-will, too heavy and too double-edged ever to be trapped in speech.” For Baldwin, these fault-lines in international racial solidarity ultimately make the Negro come to terms with his Americanness—and specifically with his immutable ties to white Americans. But my own eyes were never deft enough to see the Africans I met in France at a remove of three centuries. And the war made it impossible for me to take North Africans out of my own “encounters on the Seine”; for my Americanness was there, too, carving out new realms of influence where France and Britain had been, etching itself across another continent.
Because I spoke French, and was living amongst the French, decades from the heyday of black expatriate gatherings at the Café Tournon, the war even succeeded in making me “Arab,” for brief, threatening moments. I remember one late night, in particular, in the Gare du Nord. I was passing time, reading the Herald Tribune of all things, when the usual configuration of three soldiers approached. There is an indelible fascination to the drama of interpellation at the hands of the security forces in France, the odd insularity and unvarying order of its public stage. The officer in his rounded casquette, doing all the talking: “Papiers, monsieur, s’il vous plaît.” A young soldier in fatigues, no older than twenty, standing at the officer’s left shoulder, holding a machine gun at his side. And another, about ten feet away on the other side, pointing his weapon directly at me. The quickly suppressed surprise when I handed [End Page 777] the officer an American passport, and even a flash of what I wanted to believe was chagrin as he checked my student visa. “Merci, monsieur,” polite but severe, tight-jawed, unapologetic. I followed them around the station at a distance, and understood the mystery of their method in ten minutes: they were simply and systematically approaching every man who looked “North African” in the station.
One doesn’t feel vindication, clinging to a U.S. passport, in such a situation—which happened to me, and to most of the black men I knew, many times in Paris. One doesn’t marvel at French standards of politesse. One senses the lightness of that little book, its arbitrary blue; one recalls other scenes, repeated hundreds of times a day, when the soldiers finally stumbled upon the North African they thought they recognized in so many faces, and unleashed their patient violence. What interests me was the peculiar lesson of that misrecognition: what those soldiers saw in my face transformed the way I saw myself thereafter, slightly, but irrevocably. It propelled me further away from the forces that police colored bodies, and towards that elusive capacity for estrangement in my visage, which might be the same thing that made a Martiniquan métis in the library approach me, saying, “Tiens, je me demandais si tu n’étais pas un compatriote”—or that made one of my classmates in second grade proclaim that I was a Navajo (as we were studying Native Americans that week). One doesn’t flaunt this capacity. One can’t trade on it, and one learns quickly that it represents a special kind of threat to those who would enforce the caprices of naturalized identities. Still, it opens narrow doorways onto what is not “me,” but what is recognizable in my face. These others are more ephemeral than what is stamped in my passport, and much more difficult of access: language, dress, custom, circumstance quickly impede the progress of any willful chameleon. But these cracks of estrangement offer brief obstructed views out of the windowless rooms of identity. There is much to learn in these moments, when the world goes foreign, when the face reflected in the other’s eyes flickers out of focus.
Nationality Doubtful. One of the “Spleen” poems in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal describes a “black day” of “atrocious, despotic” anguish, signaled by the empty clamor of bells:
Des cloches tout à coup sautent avec furie Et lancent vers le ciel un affreux hurlement, Ainsi que des esprits errants et sans patrie Qui se mettent à geindre opiniâtrement.
Bells suddenly leap forth in fury, and hurl a terrible howling to the sky like wandering spirits without a homeland, breaking into unrelenting wails. Even today one might hear church bells the same way in Paris, but think less of the mournful man who has lost the capacity to feel, and more of the Malian families who took refuge in a church on the Right Bank for weeks in 1996, refusing to be deported under the new draconian French immigration laws. This is the resilient music I heard, superimposed on the déchet of Baudelaire’s image, every day in the bells of St. Ambroise, a few blocks below where I was living on the rue du Général Guilhem. Many evenings, I would [End Page 778] walk east away from the bells with my ears still ringing, up Chemin Vert or cutting across the avenue de la République to the boulevard de Ménilmontant, to a friend’s apartment. Stopping by the grocery next to the rue de Tlemcen for crème fraîche or a bottle of Corbières, exchanging shy smiles with the young pregnant Algerian shopkeeper and greetings with her husband (“Salut cousin, ça va?”), still I heard the moans that marked time in the city.
“Sans patrie”: there is an indirect translation in Claude McKay’s 1929 novel Banjo, set among the community of black dock workers, sailors, and vagabonds in Marseilles after World War One. Towards the end of the novel, the colonial authorities begin to crack down on undocumented “native” travelers among the European ports, deporting men back to West Africa or India, North Africa or Indochina, refusing them even temporary entry. British immigration authorities stamp their papers: “Nationality Doubtful.” Civilization, says McKay’s alter-ego in the novel, Ray, “had despoiled them of their primitive soil, had uprooted, enchained, transported, and transformed them to labor under its laws, and yet lacked the spirit to tolerate them within its walls.” His group of friends, the black vagabonds who play jazz in informal jam sessions in the Vieux Port and work just enough to survive, are like a matador’s well-worn cape, the “red rag to the mighty-bellowing, all-trampling civilized bull.” The brutality that calls itself civilization would crush them if it could. But if the bull wins that rag, he “horns it, tramples it, sniffs it, paws it—baffled.” The bull of civilization cannot catch their elusive spirit; it cannot overwhelm their resistance to the forces that would dominate them. Elusive, resistant, yes, but vulnerable nonetheless, when their nationality is stamped doubtful. This wandering is far beyond my own momentary sorties, for I was always secured by my papers, which attest to the “truth” of one’s provenance like a store label. With papers, the other’s eyes do flicker back into focus. This is not necessarily so when one’s documents are doubtful, when one is universally estranged. Such exile is a costly perfection.
Scar (1). Sometime during the first autumn in the city, one realizes that most months are not April in Paris, “chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables under the trees.” Mostly, it rains. It’s then that one starts to appreciate cafés, bookstores, anything to get out of one’s drafty, overpriced cubbyhole for a few hours. And it’s then that the gray shroud of the city slowly envelops one’s existence. Separated by an ocean and later, by death from those I cared for in the States, I transcribed more Baldwin into my journal: “And I think that when we began to be frightened in Paris, to feel baffled and betrayed, it was because we had failed, after all, somehow, and once again, to make the longed-for, magical human contact.”
One lives that excruciating distance, stalking the wet streets. Treading the silences, or wallowing in the sound of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice: “Who can I run to? What have you done to my heart?” And watching, almost detached, as the missed contact leaves its scratches and burns. Suddenly one is obsessed with the imperfect texture of the world, which seems to echo this bruising. In every bit of crumbling masonry, in every torn poster, one sees scars.
Besieged by this idea, one begins to look in the mirror for traces on one’s body. Scars, skin on the skin of: these embers are the skin imagining itself flowers. The [End Page 779] lingering of what is distant. The body leaves its own marked path, to allure, to demand: touch me—and sometimes leaves that once-used path to record the touch that came and went. Accidents bespeak many motives, surely; and the body has many designs of which we will never be aware, unless we know how to read wrinkled foreheads and moles half-concealed at the hairline; unless we learn to decipher the eloquence of crinkled ear-tops and raw furrowed skin-scrapes. Unless we can decode the faded script of years-old chicken pox, birthmarks like ideograms, and places where mosquitoes once put their long thin lips to leave a quick-fading trace . . .
These tell a tale, an age, like rings inside a tree’s trunk, or the wind rivulets carved into its bark. But perhaps only a kiss can read what lips have written, perhaps only a fingertip can sense the slight reverberation of what a hand once scratched and, scratching, wrote. It is for this reason that scars fascinate: one touches them like braille, recognizing that one is encountering a language, a means of communication—but knowing that, unlike braille, this is a language impossible to know. One can encounter its tactile system of signs, but we remain forever denied its mastery. Dumb, one’s body plays at it, one’s body strains at it, one’s body lovingly gropes towards an inaccessible speech.
In November in Paris, it’s more that one wants desperately to explore that speech, one waits for a body to deign to grant that magic. Maybe that desperation shows too much, in glances exchanged in café mirrors, in jostling on crowded subway trains. But through the winter, the language in my head and in my dreams was the language of scars.
This may be no more than the way we record the rushing changes of the city, the way we lag behind it and look for its echoes in us. We seek out its signature. Walter Benjamin writes that we love the faults of the beloved. We are drawn above all to the imperfections of that other body. For him, it is a kind of modesty: our “dazzled” feelings seek refuge, seek to conceal their ardent excess, escaping in darts of adoration “into the shaded wrinkles, the awkward movements and inconspicuous blemishes of the body we love, where they can lie low in safety.” But this is all too timid, all too pudent. Instead, we are drawn to what is written on that other form. We are fascinated with inscription, not necessarily in the interest of any comprehension, but beckoned by the hint of legibility we find in jagged cliffs, in the pattern of red ceramic chimneys on the roofs of the city, or in the shifting forms of the clouds. The intoxication of script. And the thought that we are written: our bodies the breathing parchment of time.
Lieux de non-mémoire. How can we read the scars of the city, the wounds and transformations of its sprawling body? In the mid-1980s, the historian Pierre Nora directed a project organized around lieux de mémoire in France, sites invested with significance in the collective sense of the nation’s past. Nora claims that in the 20th century, “real memory”—the lived and spontaneous connection to the past through rituals and the customs of everyday life—has been increasingly replaced by the techniques of “history,” modern strategies to organize and interpret the past. Lieux de mémoire are the markers of this passing. They originate, he writes, “with the sense that there is no spontaneous memory, that we must deliberately create archives, maintain anniversaries, organize celebrations, pronounce eulogies, and notarize bills because [End Page 780] such activities no longer occur naturally.” It is thus the task of critical history to undertake this meticulous reconstitution. The history of lieux de mémoire “rests upon what it mobilizes: an impalpable, barely expressible, self-imposed bond; what remains of our ineradicable, carnal attachment to those faded symbols.”
The hefty volumes of Les Lieux de Mémoire recruit famous scholars to tackle the subjects at the “core” of what is French: the tricolor, the Republican calendar, the Marseillaise, the Pantheon, the Mairie, public monuments, Larousse’s Grand Dictionnaire, the quatorze juillet, the Louvre, wars and patriotism, the French language itself. There is one article devoted to the Exposition Coloniale of 1931, perhaps the most extravagant international fair of the age of European colonialism, when the French imported “native” labor to build full-size replicas of Angkor Wat and African villages in the Bois de Vincennes. But in general, one searches in vain for the record of those “esprits errants,” the misérables howling throughout the history of the nation. Nora only makes an oblique concession to something like this sound in his introduction, where he argues: “The defense, by certain minorities, of a privileged memory that has retreated to jealously protected enclaves in this sense intensely illuminates the truth of lieux de mémoire—that without commemorative vigilance, history would soon sweep them away.” In this sentence, the assumed “we” of collective memory vanishes, as though it’s not precisely the centripetal history-making of the majority that would “soon sweep away” the stories that don’t fit, the dust in the corners of the Hexagon.
One of the contributors to the project, Gérard Noiriel, later titled the first chapter of his own Le Creuset Français, a history of immigration in France, with the phrase “Non-lieu de mémoire,” precisely to make the point that if there are lieux de mémoire, there are also gaps in that collective work, sites and questions that aren’t allowed to take on historical memory. I think of these sites as more actively effaced, as lieux de non-mémoire, the places and voices that are deliberately swept from the national inventory. The process is visible in the rapid gentrification of neighborhoods like Bastille and Oberkampf. Or in the deportation raids and habitual harassment of the C.R.S. (Compagnie Républicaine de Sécurité) police forces in African and Arab neighborhoods like the Goutte d’Or and Jaurès. These are the descendants of Haussmann’s “art of demolition” in the late 1850s, the embellissement stratégique that built schools, train stations and hospitals, the extraordinary vistas of the great avenues in Paris, but at the expense of most of the old popular neighborhoods in the city center. Haussmann’s uncamouflaged disgust for the “rootless population” of the working class drove him to displace entire communities (mainly to the suburbs of the city), eradicating blocks of old buildings with the simplest tools: spades, pickaxes, crowbars. In contrast to that century-old urban trauma, the C.R.S. has the advantage of leaving the city’s structures and usable past intact, simply and neatly excising the offending inhabitants.
In the notes for his never-completed Passagen-Werk, Benjamin writes: “As a social formation, Paris is a counterimage to that which Vesuvius is as a geographic one: A threatening, dangerous mass, an ever-active June of the Revolution. But just as the slopes of Vesuvius, thanks to the layers of lava covering them, have become a paradisiacal orchard, so here, out of the lava of the Revolution, there bloom art, fashion, and festive existence as nowhere else.” How does one read the city for that [End Page 781] buried lava, then, looking for the traces of its flow? In Paris at the end of the 20th century, it is mere nostalgia to read the city through the lenses of the past, as Hugo’s oceanic multitudes, as Baudelaire’s splenetic pedestrians and prostitutes, as Aragon’s magical dreamscape, the “fauna of imagination”—or even as Benjamin’s dialectical images, the arcades as both living room and street, the figures of the collector, the ragpicker, the detective, the flâneur. One has to look instead at the idle men who loiter on the sidewalks of Belleville, chatting in Arabic and Wolof. Africans in bright robes and sandals, older Arab men in thin cheap suits and sneakers, Vietnamese families picking through the pungent markets on the boulevard. Some beckoning the passers-by with pitiful selections of items for sale spread before them on sheets on the sidewalk, sometimes literally the shirts off their backs or out of their armoires. Or the lords of the déchets: men in nauseating lime-green jumpsuits, almost always African (whereas firemen in Paris are almost never African), the balayeurs who clean the central streets of the city, sweeping dog leavings, broken glass, cigarette butts, bits of paper and plastic wrappers away into the sewers. With cheap green brooms, the balayeurs solemnly sweep the city’s waste into small streams of water from the gutters, ironic echoes in miniature of the forces that would sweep them out of history.
Ashtray. Once they are swept away, it is nearly impossible to find even traces of their presence. Paris prefers to wear only parts of its past, like the “Boulangerie” signs that remain above shopfront vitrines decades after anyone’s baked bread inside, adding a certain aura to a well-placed boutique or restaurant. Or the advertisements for a garage and “chaudronnerie” on the rue de Panoyaux in Ménilmontant, whispering to the fashionable young café dwellers drinking démis at the Lou Pascalou next door of the neighborhood’s long-lost past life of industry and car repair. Other pasts linger only in trinkets for sale at the marchés aux puces, or packed in boxes next to dusty books at the bouquinistes along the quais. Or in ephemera, letters, identity cards, immigration records buried in the national archives.
I had to leave Paris to find my own déchets. In Aix-en-Provence, reading through the archives of a surveillance unit established to watch over the “native” Africans and Indochinese who had remained in the metropole after World War One, I came across an erased history of the Paris I knew. I already was aware of Dr. Léo Sajous, the dentist born in 1892 in Gonaïves, Haiti, who in the early 1930s was active in black intellectual circles in Paris, co-founding the legendary La Revue du Monde Noir, speaking out against the U.S. occupation of his country, and participating in some of the more radical groups as well, like the Union des Travailleurs Nègres, which was affiliated with the French Communist Party. But only the surveillance reports in the archives told me that Sajous had lived for years in Paris at 96 boulevard de Ménilmontant, only two doors away from where I had been living that fall, at no. 100, across the street from the Lycée Voltaire. He offered free dental check-ups to African and Antillean laborers in the city at his clinic around the corner, at 16 rue des Cendriers.
The rue des Cendriers, little ashtray street, where late many nights I’d watched fights between drunk Senegalese and Algerians outside Le Buffalo Café, an unappealing hole-in-the-wall with incongruous Egyptian hieroglyph motif curtains and a pool table. A few pieces of a blasted facade further up the street might have been number [End Page 782] 16, but whatever structures had been there had long ago given way to a nursing home, a pedestrian passage leading over to the rue de Panoyaux, and an imposing, characterless paved soccer field and tennis court. Invisible ashes dirtied my hands far away in Aix, as I read the petty spy reports on Sajous’s clinic, his writing, his failed attempts to found an Institut Nègre, a kind of foyer to assist recently arrived West African students, a proposal the authorities rejected as “suspect.”
Sajous’s main concern during his years in France was not Haiti, but instead Liberia, the independent African republic founded by freed U.S. slaves in the 19th century. In La Revue du Monde Noir, he called for American Negroes in particular to turn their attention to the state of Liberia, then run by a corrupt oligarchy wedded to foreign-owned rubber plantations, fed by forced labor and exploitation. The American Negro, Sajous wrote, is égocentriste, like his “country of adoption,” too obsessed with achieving freedom and equality in the U.S. to recognize the necessity of black solidarity worldwide. He argued that the American Negro is “so absorbed by the task of consolidating his status there that it is only with the greatest difficulty that he has been brought to understand that the problem of Negro emancipation is universal.” Many years later, I read this call, trying to come to terms with the fact that in Paris I had been living almost right where these words had been written, inside this invisible past, near its hardened lava, not even sensing its former heat. An American reads the words of a Haitian about Liberia, preaching black internationalism, and the tangent of their work, the only point of contact, is an unremarkable street in Paris named for ashtrays. The contact is so slight that it is only sensed in hindsight, from the other end of the country, like a rash that appears long after the fact. That history doesn’t hold in its lieu; it only irritates, slightly, from afar. Those memories of the city, swept out of their environment long ago, now only ashes in the archives of that sweeping.
Scar (2). There is another meaning to the word “scar”: not a scab formed in the healing of a wound, but a “rock or crag,” a skerry, a low or sunken tract at the bottom of a body of water, from the Old Norse sker, a “low reef in the sea.” Thus in Halyburton’s Memoirs in 1824, the example given in the O.E.D.: “We were in immanent danger of shipwreck on the scars of England.” Perhaps we read the city’s changes in the alteration of those meanings, scars in both senses. We roam the scars of Paris. We read between the scabs and burns of the streetscape and the sunken reefs of difference, then; between the visible effects of destruction and the submerged remnants of other pasts.
Brent Hayes Edwards, who received the PhD degree in English at Columbia University, is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He has published in Transition, Hambone, and The Jazz Cadence of American Culture and is co-editing a collection entitled Rethinking Black Marxism (forthcoming from Duke University Press).