Fumi Okiji

Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS

Fumi Okiji


Fumi Okiji (b. 1976) is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at University of California, Berkeley. She arrived at the academy by way of the London jazz scene in which she took an active part as a vocalist and improvisor. After an BA in Human Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, and an MA in Communication, Culture and Society at Goldsmiths, she studied for her PhD with philosopher Andrew Bowie at Royal Holloway, University of London. She previously held a
position in Women, Gender, Sexuality at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Okiji works across black study, critical theory, and sound and music studies. Her research and teaching looks to black expression for ways to understand modern and contemporary life, which is to say, she explores works and practices for what they can provide by way of social theory. Her book Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited (Stanford University Press, 2018) is a sustained engagement with Theodor Adorno’s and the critical potential of art. She proposes that the socio-musical play of jazz is not representative of the individualistic and democratic values, the music is most readily associated with. The book centers blackness as a more appropriate analytic through which to understand its social significance.

Deepening the engagement established in her first book, Okiji’s current project, Billie’s Bent Elbow: The Standard as Revolutionary Intoxication, explores the features of a genre of socio- political gathering that does not rely on (non)identity nor on an insistence on a universalist project.

In augmentation of conversations taking place in black theory, and drawing from Adorno and Walter Benjamin on aesthetics, music, dialectics, mimesis, the work also explores the modal anomaly of black life, its subjunctive comportment, and relative ease with contradiction. Music from Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Nina Simone, among others, not so much provide example as a further area of theoretical resource.

She has forthcoming essays in the Journal of Adorno Studies, boundary 2, the Oxford Handbook on Adorno, and the anthology, Black Art and Aesthetics: Relationalities, Interiorities, Reckonings. As an ongoing part of her research and teaching, she experiments with approaches to study and writing, drawn from sound practices. She is a member of Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective, a group of friends who, whenever possible, study, listen to music and eat good food together.