Fumi Okiji joins Rhetoric

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Jun 19, 2020

The Rhetoric Department welcomes Fumi Okiji to the faculty. Prof. Okiji received her Ph.D. in critical theory from Royal Holloway College, University of London. Prof. Okiji was a performing jazz vocalist based in London, a Black Arts Postdoctoral Fellow in Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and formerly assistant professor in the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prof. Okiji’s research engages the fields of critical theory, sound studies, performance studies, black study and theory, as well as American politics of race. She is the author of Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited (Stanford University Press, 2018). The book engages Adorno’s thinking about the critical potential of art coupled with his dismissiveness of jazz, and offers jazz as contributing to a model of ethical praxis. Jazz, in Okiji’s argument, offers alternative sociality that points to possibilities of gathering against the world’s tendency to reduce and to shatter. Registering that blackness is structurally incapable of world-making, Okiji approaches black expression as never innocuous but both complicit in its own subjugation and a critical weapon deployed against this subjugation. In this sense, black expressive work cannot but shed light on black life’s (im)possibilities. Or as she puts it, “Blackness is a mode of existence in which the disjuncture between the reality of one’s everyday living and the ways one is understood by society at large is so pronounced that the former must be considered an impossibility or a lie in order to preserve the latter.”