Blackness Unmoored: Relational Ethics and Aesthetics in Stromae’s “Formidable”

Friday, January 26, 2018
Humanities Writ Large

Visiting Faculty Fellow Daphne Lamothe explores one of the most fundamental lessons of black life, and Black Studies, in a talk at the John Hope Franklin Center's Wednesdays at the Center series—the fact that, sometimes, no bridging is possible and all you can do is hold what is incommensurate.

"Relational Ethics and Aesthetics in Stromae’s 'Formidable'"
John Hope Franklin Center, Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall
Wednesday, February 7, 2018, noon-1:00pm
A light lunch will be served and parking is available in nearby parking decks. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

In this presentation, Dr. Lamothe will advance a theory of “blackness unmoored” through an analysis of the lyrics and music video for the song, “Formidable” by Stromae. Lamothe will invoke the metaphor of unmooring to convey the disorientation, and reorientation, of the subject who navigates contending social spaces, racial formations, and orientations to history. The musical and visual registers of Stromae’s text captures both the melancholy and potentiality of the subject who is racially othered and unhomed. Its portrayal of the African “stranger” set adrift in the European Union’s capital bears witness to the subject’s profound humanity, as well as to the material and psychic violence inflicted by structures founded on ideas of black nonbeing. 

“Formidable” depicts, without attempting to resolve, these irreconcilable aspects of the self. The thematic and conceptual insights within Stromae’s music and performances illustrate some of the ways the global post-soul aesthetic approaches the challenges of representing blackness and black subjects. Post-soul art wrestles with the gaps and linkages between collective histories of racial subjection, and black life in the present era, characterized by heterogeneity, hybridity, and dispersal. This is the context in which Stromae’s figuration of migratory subject and an urban contact zone appears and functions as an occasion for exploring the shifting meanings of blackness at the turn of a new millennium.

Lastly, Lamothe will place critical discussions of the ethics and aesthetics of “post-soul” in conversation with theories of relational aesthetics to the formal and conceptual ingenuity of artists and authors who mediate on the relation of socially-scripted narratives of blackness to individual experiences of capacious being and becoming.

Referenced People

Associate Professor of Africana Studies