In his essay "The Case of Blackness," what does Fred Moten mean by "the fugitive movement"?

In Fred Moten’s "The Case of Blackness," "the fugitive movement” refers to the fluctuating position of Black people in relation to the dominant social structure. Racism in attitudes, practices, and policies combines to push Black people out of society. Because the default racial identity is white, Blackness becomes determined as a negative. To assert their positive identity, Black people have represented themselves as distinct from the mainstream, either through physical separation or cultural difference.

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Fred Moten’s concept of a “fugitive movement” refers to Blackness as necessarily distinct from white identity in racial and cultural terms. The movement may include physical movement, and in a given white-majority society, Black people may literally be fugitives who flee from oppression. In the larger, figurative sense, the idea of a fugitive moment encompasses the range of ways that Black people assert their distinct identity in positive terms. A key element of such assertion is the formulation of a positive mental attitude toward Blackness.

Because of the historically based, continuing power of racism, the relationship between Black people and white people continues to be defined through opposition. Black people resist the adoption of mainstream cultural features associated with whiteness, which Moten presents as a kind of symbolic work; he states that Black people often feel duty-bound "to refrain from the performance of a certain labor of the negative."

As Moten delves into ongoing efforts to re-define Blackness, he pays special attention to reassessments of the contributions of Frantz Fanon. Such efforts aim to assert Blackness in positive terms, rather than as oppositional identity. They necessarily include a paradox, however, when they try to avoid comparison to whiteness. Fugitivity is necessarily implied in such efforts because they cannot escape engagement with the historical realities of racism that underlie the formulation of oppositional identities.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 25, 2021
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