Toward a Radical Democratic Groove: Receptivity and the Arts of Political Musicality

Stream: Panel 34 - Political Theory: Arts of Political Receptivity and Radical Democratic Power 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


Neoliberal economistic rationality deploys linguistic practices (e.g., Wendy Brown’s analysis of “benchmarks”, “best practices”, “outcome-based metrics”, “assessments”, “messaging”, “branding”) that undermine a “political musicality” that is indispensable to radical democratic politics. Such rationality governs our voices, ears, senses, bodies, and imaginations in ways that proscribe many kinds of questioning and radicalization (concerning power, justice, creative alternatives and normative horizons) and render political “groove” nearly impossible. Based on a larger research project co-conducted with Lia Haro, this presentation examines elements of political musicality necessary for re-learning and advancing arts of radical democratic groove that are an often neglected wellspring of power. While others (most notably, Cornel West) have explored the jazz-like improvisational characteristics of radical democratic voicing, we focus on the prominence of full-bodied receptivity and listening in the not-coincidently-simultaneous emergence of new expressions in jazz and the U.S. civil rights movement in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, when both musical and political groove were in one of their most inventive and powerful phases. We pay careful attention to the theory and practices of receptivity in both the movement called “free jazz” and the “freedom movement” in order to investigate not only our receptive powers, but the political powers of receptive relationality. We develop this work in conversation with a host of contemporary theorists investigating receptivity, responsiveness and listening. These themes are developed further in theoretical, political action research, and ethnographic aspects of our collaborative work discussed in Lia Haro’s presentation.


Romand Coles (Presenter), Australian Catholic University
Romand Coles is a Research Professor, Institute for Social Justice, Australian Catholic University. His books include Visionary Pragmatism: Radical Ecological Democracy; Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian; Beyond Gated Politics: Reflections for the Possibility of Democracy; Rethinking Generosity: Critical Theory and the Politics of Caritas; and Self/Power/Other: Political Theory and Dialogical Ethics, and as co-editor (with Mark Reinhardt and George Shulman), Radical Future Pasts: Untimely Political Theory. He is writing on receptive agency and climate justice, and action research. He is completing a book on aesthetics, politics, and receptivity with Lia Haro.