International Summer Graduate Seminar
Imagining the African Diaspora: Genealogy and Social Constructions
The first of three yearly seminars will historicize the African diaspora within the framework of conjunctural analysis. From this perspective the African diaspora is understood to be historically produced out of conjunctural conditions from which possibilities for new forms of subjectivities emerged. These conditions were framed by new technologies of navigation and naval architecture that created possibilities and imaginings out of which the African diaspora was socially constructed. The capabilities for massive movement of peoples and for displacement, dislocation and disruption (accompanied by physical elimination) were transformed into new enterprises framed by the colonial project and enslavement. These were all organized through new technologies of violence. The African diaspora emerged out of new ideologies of belonging and contested discourses deployed against technologies of discipline, control and regulation. It was and is instantiated by theoretics, poetics, aesthetics, politics and manifestoes that are in constant flux as they participate in the conjunctures of time, space, positionality, worldview and ideology. African diasporic representation, practice and imagination are polysemous, polyvalent, ambivalent and contradictory across space and time. The seminar will interrogate the genealogy of the African diaspora and the conjunctural circumstances that led to possibilities for its imaginings and practices. It will do so through four week-long modules.
Week 1: "African Diaspora Studies: Epistemologies and Methodologies"
This module examines the practices of African Diaspora Studies from the perspectives of the specific approaches of this multi-disciplinary field of inquiry to the construction and contestation of knowledge. It will be framed by critical engagement with the production of knowledge through the epistemologies of the traditional disciplines and the methodologies they produce. The module will interrogate the relationship between these epistemologies and the production of knowledge, particularly "scientific" and popular, "common-sensical" knowledge, out of which discourses of difference are produced and practices of difference are normalized and universalized. African Diaspora Studies will be examined as a contested and destabilizing discourse, ideology, practice, and manifesto deployed against traditional disciplinary orthodoxy. The possibilities and practices of new methodologies will be explored.
Week 2: "Modernity, Nation, and Citizenship"
This module examines the historicized relationships between racialized notions of belonging and nationalist discourse. It examines the social construction and practices of the state as an instrument of power, regulation, discipline, and control, on the one hand, and notions of belonging rooted in a racialized peoplehood on the other. In other words, it examines the historical production of the racial state with its inevitably racialized practices of exclusion. The module will interrogate the validity of the claim that posits the relationship between modernity and the racial state as inevitable. Black subjectivity, performativity, aesthetics, etc., will be critically examined for the possibilities they offer for a postmodernist rejection of the racial state and of modernity itself.
"Photograph by Ernest C. Withers, Sanitation workers' strike, Memphis, Tennessee, 1968"
Week 3: "The Culture of Politics and the Politics of Culture"
This module will focus on the political deployment of cultures of the African diaspora, dislodging the idea of politics as being exclusive to the arena of statist contestation. The term "cultural politics" also locates the political in the broader arena where contestation, challenge, and defense of naturalized and normalized beliefs and practices are elaborated and their strategies and practices are organized and deployed. In this broader arena may occur formulations, practices, and performances constitutive of dress rehearsals, manifestoes, and "below the surface" activity that have implications for transformations, reversals, revisions, rebellions, opposition, and reinforcements in the arena of statist practices. The focus, therefore, will be on the relations between the state and popular practices.
"American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Olympics
"At the World's Fair in 1893,
Aunt Jemima Was a Sensation,"
Ladies' Home Journal, March 1921, 86."
"No More!, 1967. Painting by Jon Onye Lockard"
"Uncle Tom and Eva"
Week 4: "African Diaspora: Philosophies and Ideologies"
This module will discuss the African diasporic imaginary from the point of view of the producers of ideas about African subjectivity and visions of transformation. These ideas refer to the broad panoply of theoretical and philosophical reflection and transformative visions that may be ontology, ideology, agenda, manifesto, etc., singularly or in combination. The latter are produced by the different and contradictory conditions of black subjectivity across time and space. They will be examined comparatively and conjuncturally.
Booker T. Washington
This seminar is made possible thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation.