This essay examines the links between aesthetics and race through the lenses of accepted distinctions between Western and non-Western, colonial and postcolonial, national and transnational aesthetics, and questions the validity of the claim that there is an inherent and incommensurable difficulty in translating non-Western aesthetic thought into Western aesthetic thought. First, I argue that Manichean models are insufficient to understand the dynamics of the encounter between Western and non-Western aesthetics. Second, I illustrate the complexity of non-Western and Western aesthetics relations through the example of the encounter between Aimé Césaire’s Negritude and André Breton’s surrealism. I argue that this encounter exemplifies non-ideal translation, the temporary rendering from one framework into the other, and instantiates relationality. Third, I argue that it is possible to understand and accommodate various aesthetic experiences and different aesthetic frameworks by exploring modes of discerning between different kinds of others and different kinds of selves, and that cosmopolitanism could, but does not, provide the necessary conditions for such reversal.

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Aesthetics Commons



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