chapter  5
14 Pages

The Black Atlantic I

A counterculture of modernity
WithPaul Williams

This chapter discusses the idea raised by The Black Atlantic's subtitle, that the experiences of the African diaspora fashioned a unique 'double' perspective on the modern world, creating a counterculture of modernity. Paul Gilroy extends double consciousness to include all of the African diaspora, which has to negotiate the predicament of being simultaneously outside and inside the modern Western world. The Black Atlantic puts the institution of slavery at the centre of accounts of modernity, and not only because of the insights provided by double consciousness. 'Modernism' refers to a series of experiments in the arts that began in the late nineteenth century and continued until the Second World War. During the 1980s the term 'postmodernism' won out against 'poststructuralism' as the label given to a popular method of studying literature and film. While the terms are not interchangeable both approaches demonstrate the lack of stable meaning in cultural texts and the role ambiguity plays in disrupting the reading experience.