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Philosophy Today

Volume 63, Issue 4, Fall 2019

New Concepts for Materialism

Li Chi-she
Pages 859-872


This essay explicates Édouard Glissant’s aesthetics of opacity in terms of its formation and significance. This theory comes into form in the historical condition of colonial alterity. In The Poetics of Relation (originally published in French in 1990), Glissant extrapolates opacity as the fundamental of aesthetics from such linguistic activities as creole languages and improvised stories found in the Caribbean islands. More than a postcolonial defense of identity alterity, opacity denotes the linguistic expression of material alterity. It means an involuntary flourishing of linguistically enhanced dynamic of exchange, connection, and making in the landscapes of compelling affordances. Such languages cannot be reduced to texts because they are derived from the inevitably alien ground called "the other of Thought,” or a recognition and practice of radical difference. The significance of the aesthetics of opacity lies in that, Glissant asserts, humans can linguistically express the engagement with material ecologies while avoiding the authoritative domination of reason.

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