Blackness Unmoored

February 20, 2018

By Angela Griffe

Dr. Daphne Lamothe
Dr. Daphne Lamothe Shares Her Research                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Dr. Daphne Lamothe to speak about “blackness unmoored” through an analysis of the lyrics and music video for the song,”Formidable” by Belgian musician, Stromae.

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Humanities Writ Large program co-hosted the event, which focused on the displacement of black bodies, and how this is represented in art. Lamothe explored the dialectic between the “interior” black being with exterior spatial and social relations, arguing that “Formidable” represents an “unmoored” and displaced black body set “adrift in the European Union’s capital.”

Using video angles that invoke a feeling of spying or staring, Stromae implicates the viewer in observing the unbelonging of his “disorderly black body” in a public space. Lamothe notes the white gaze is both practiced by and reflected back onto the viewers via a sense of unfamiliarity and disorientation. Lamothe argues that this interrogation of blackness in a public arena is a form of structural violence in displacing and erasing black being. By exploring the identity of the black migrant and critiquing the white gaze, Stromae is making visible black life. Stromae’s “Formidable” is an example of the new black aesthetic in a post

Stromae’s “Formidable” is an example of the new black aesthetic in a post-soul age. By challenging European hostility towards black migrant consciousness, Lamothe argues that Stromae is opposing the idea that “formidability is some property of whiteness.”