Sunday! “Assembling a Black Counter Culture” by DeForrest Brown Jr.

Rufus F.

Rufus is a likeable curmudgeon. He has a PhD in History, sang for a decade in a punk band, and recently moved to NYC after nearly two decades in Canada. He wrote the book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (2021).

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12 Responses

  1. Saul Degraw says:

    I recently purchased Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East by Amanda H. Podany from Oxford University Press. In general, this kind of history book hits the sweet spot for me because it is not written in academic jargon.* It is also written at a sophisticated enough level to be for the reasonably educated amateur or hobby historian, something very hard to find in history. I imagine the market for this kind of book is nill.

    *Which is a very real thing especially in arts scholarship it seems. Someone I know from undergrad is getting her Ph.D. and she is sincerely into what she studies but her writing on it has that kind of academic jargon which can be alienating to all but other academics “exploring the intersections between X and Y to extrapolate the paradigms…” That was a quote invented by me but academics in the arts often talk and write like this as if it were second nature. Maybe this is why I was not cut out for a Ph.D. program in dramatic literature. They also seem quite defensive if you criticize this kind of academic jargon.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I have this on Kindle. Histories like Weavers, Scribes, and Kings are basically the academic equivalent of popular history. They aren’t meant for academics but for the educated reader who might at some time aspire to read about the Ancient Near East or something similar.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yeah, I think the industry term is “trade press” histories. I’ve always kind of loved these books too because they talk to you like you’re smart enough to learn from them, but don’t expect you went to grad school in the subject.

        On a related note, I’ve recently found the New York Public Library system has my book in the research section because it’s from an academic press and ended up in a series that has to do with an academic subject. But, nonetheless, I wrote it so that readers could take it on vacation and enjoy it. All academic jargon was gone by the second draft. So, I have to send them an email.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

          This seems to be pretty much their purpose. The university presses or publishers like Penguin, Basic Books, and Hurst know that there is a large number of people way to smart and educated for popular history but are earning their living out of academia and aren’t coming from a position of in-depth knowledge. Books like Weavers, Scribes, and Kings and I guess the previous equivalent would be the works of Will and Ariel Durant are meant to cater towards this group. They are basically middle-brow histories.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    I’m wondering if techno took on more in Europe because it was easier for European teens and twenty-somethings to go to clubs and dance than American teens or twenty-somethings. Clubs might have been thicker on the town and fact that Europe tends to be a less sprawling place but also seemingly more tolerant of teenage wildness and occasionally doing things like go to clubs or drinking just made techno more accessible. There could be factors beyond the cluelessness of the American music industry.

    On SlateStarCodex, yes I know, there was an old post on why no science of nerds. That is since so many nerds have an academic bent than why aren’t there more academic studies into nerdrom. In the thread, there was a sub-thread on whether the concept of a nerd exists in Europe. Teens from continental Europe tend to come across as less nerdy than their North American and developed democracy Asian counterparts for some reason. I’m not sure if it is true but my brief experiences hanging around with European teens when I was an American certainly gave me the impression that the European teens were somehow more worldly and sophisticated than their American counterparts.Report

  3. LeeEs says:

    Somewhat related, I’m reading Nelson Algren’s stories of urban low-life in the mid-20th century. Urban low-life novels seems to be a sort of genre that basically disappeared even in literary fiction.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEs says:

      I’ve always heard that Algren’s one of the best and can’t recall ever reading one of his books. Since I’ve made myself book poor this month, it might be a case for Archive dot org.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        He wrote the Man with the Golden Arm, later turned into a major motion picture. He is pretty good. It is sort of the literary equivalent of an Edward Hopper painting. It depicts an urban world that really doesn’t exist anymore but is kind of fascinating towards people.* I guess Grand Theft Auto is the most modern equivalent of the urban low life media.

        *A lot of ink has been spilled over whether the decline of vibrant urban culture was caused by the car or something else. I used to lean heavily on the car but now I think that the increase of activities you can do at home, starting with watching television, played a bigger part. The vibrant urban culture that existed between the late 19th and mid-20th century was basically because of an increase in leisure time and spending money but not a lot of activities to do at home. It is debatable whether people playing video games at home is better than going to a pub and sitting around drinking playing cards, darts. dominos, and pool all day.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    It’s worth remembering that Gibson’s original idea for cyberpunk’s aesthetic was far closer to the ganja-reggae tradition than to techno/speed/LSD.Report

  5. dhex says:

    Nice piece – will definitely check the book out.

    the electro v. techno distinction is pretty simple, I think – techno requires a 4 on the floor orientation (even if it’s not always a kick on the ones) and electro is clearly hip hop oriented in its roots and its presentation.

    And of course kraftwerk sits at the intersection between the two, like a grandpa whose post-disco children are rambunctious and rapidly reproducing.

    For more on this general topic and well into the rabbit hole, you can check out Simon Reynold’s “Energy Flash” for a UK-oriented view of the 80s-2000s.

    The music industry noping out on this until the mid 90s (remember “electronica?”) can be very easily summed up as “what do you sell if your audience is fully on board with personalities and singers and bands and not some guy staring at equipment”? it’s not like they were wrong, after all.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to dhex says:

      Thanks, this is useful. My problem is really that I haven’t ever caught the taste for what gets called techno, while generally quite enjoying electro. I think the book also helped me because, well, it’s pretty hard not to love Kraftwerk and Parliament, so if that’s what they were listening to, I get that.

      This is a good point about the presentation- some of the Youtube clips of UK raves are 2,000 people going nuts over a handful of guys on a stage fiddling with knobs on a table of gear. But, again, ya know, Kraftwerk did the same thing and people went nuts years before. I’d still probably choose Labelle or Iggy for the show.Report

  6. Damon says:

    “Not to mention Black people were treated as a commodity in Atlantic/global trade starting four centuries ago ”

    Yeah, in the WEST. Slavery’s been around for a lot longer than that. At least as early as 300 BC. I find it curious that the West views slavery as starting when “white folk” started doing it.