Tobi Haslett received a PhD in English from Yale University in 2024. His dissertation examined how a few writers in the mid-1960s, prompted by the outbreak of black rebellion and the stasis and supersession of the US struggle for civil rights, attempted to reformulate the very concept of totality. Many of them were lapsed Marxists; others saw themselves as supplying Marxism with a vital update or correction. His project at ICI Berlin will expand upon this research.

He has also written about art, film, literature, and politics for n+1, Harper’s, and other publications. He penned the introductions to Horse Crazy (1989), a novel by Gary Indiana that was reissued in 2018 by Seven Stories Press, and to Thulani Davis’s Nothing but the Music (2020), a collection of poems published by Blank Forms Editions. He has also contributed essays to several exhibition catalogues and was the screenwriter for the documentary Riotsville, USA (2022), directed by Sierra Pettengill.

The Flames Consumed Consumption: Thinking Black Rebellion
ICI Project 2024-26

This project will examine black urban rebellion. Central to this investigation is the claim that the ‘long hot summers’ of the 1960s United States produced more than outraged official rhetoric and masses of smashed property. The riots also gave rise to fresh programmes and social theories: inventive, defiant ripostes to vilification by the news media and repression by the state.

Three thinkers will orient this project: James Boggs, Guy Debord, and June Jordan. Each of them authored or published bracing texts in 1965. The Watts Rebellion compelled Boggs to co-author a manifesto with his wife Grace Lee Boggs; Watts also drove Debord to write a pamphlet that heralded the black rebels as the social force pitted most fiercely against what he termed ‘the spectacle’. Jordan was so deeply affected by the Harlem Riot of 1964 that she collaborated with the architect and systems theorist Buckminster Fuller to propose the complete demolition and reconstruction of the neighbourhood. These three texts will be read as starting points for further inquiry: insurgent ‘cognitive maps’ (to quote Fredric Jameson) that take black revolt at the scale of the city as an opportunity to rethink the social whole.