Kathryn Sophia Belle @ Goldsmiths CPCT

1949: A Debate Between Claudia Jones and Simone de Beauvoir – a lecture by Kathryn Sophia Belle

5-7pm

Thursday 4 October 2018

Room RHB 256

Goldsmiths, University of London

New Cross SE14 6NW

I am very excited that Kathryn Sophia Belle is speaking at the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go due to teaching commitments (which involve using her work), but I hope that some of you can go!

Here is some info from the CPCT website (as Belle has pointed out on Twitter, the cover image does make for a poignant/disturbing juxtaposition):


Kathryn Sophia Belle (formerly known as Kathryn T. Gines), is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question (Indiana UP, 2014) and the co-editor (with Donna-Dale L. Marcano and Maria del Guadalupe Davidson) of Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (SUNY, 2010) and a founder of the journal Critical Philosophy of Race. She is the founding director of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers.

“This paper puts Claudia Jones (“An End to the Neglect of the Problems of Negro Women!”) in conversation with Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex). It pays particular attention to Jones’ intersectional analysis (of Black women’s experiences as simultaneously raced, classed, and gendered), juxtaposing it to de Beauvoir’s analogical approach (analysing gender oppression as analogous with racial oppression).”

This event is co-sponsored by the Centre for Feminist Research.

All welcome!

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RGS-IBG RACE 2018 Workshop & Performing Welsh Identities

This year, I’m involved in 2 sessions at the RGS-IBG 2018, both of which are affiliated with the RACE Working Group. The first one is the group’s annual workshop, this time organised by Dr Margaret Byron (Leicester). The workshop’s first half will focus on the amazing multicultural community of Butetown in Cardiff, and the second part will focus on racism in the academy through discussions of students’ and staff’s experience during dissertation/thesis research. The workshop will be run on Tuesday 28 August 2018 from 12-5pm (free entry, free lunch, open to public). More information can be found here.


Image: Adeola Dewis

The second set of sessions, ‘Performing Welsh Identities’ (Thursday 30 August 2018, 2:40 – 6:30pm) is organised with Dr Patricia Noxolo (Birmingham). My participation in this performance and discussion session came about through my work as a musician and record label owner: I had noticed a lot of interesting artistic work on Wales and coming out of Wales, and felt like a workshop might be a good opportunity to connect people, as well as performers and geographers. Patricia Noxolo has been leading a project on Caribbean In/Securities that is looking at “the negotiation of risk in cultural production and creativity”. She will be focusing on Caribbean migration and performativities. Participants include: Adeola Devis, Rosie Okae and Ffion Aynsley (Off Chance), Roshi Nasehi (Roshi & Pars Radio), Geraint Rhys Whittaker. Others TBC. Details on the session can be found here.


Images: Roshi & Pars Radio (left); Off Chance Theatre Company (middle); Geraint Rhys (right)

Open Call for ROYAL TRASH

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DEADLINE: SATURDAY 18 MARCH 2017
OPEN CALL FOR DEEP TRASH: ROYAL TRASH

More information here.

“We are now accepting proposals for a new episode of Deep Trash, the unique multi-disciplinary exhibition and performance club night in London.

Calling for performances, videos and artworks to be shown on Saturday 29 April 2017 at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London. We accept proposals by artists of any artistic background and nationality. We are also keen to hear from writers and academics responding to the call either in written form (theory and cross-genre) or through a performative lecture.

For the next 3 episodes of Deep Trash, we are delighted to have the support of the Department of Drama at Queen Mary University (London) – one of the leading research centres for performance and drama across the UK – who will host our symposium on Thursday 27 April 2017 entitled ‘Power, Subcultures & Queer Stages’ with a keynote talk by Dr. Shaun Cole, fashion historian, curator and writer. Our headline artist for the live art night will be the one and only “Un-Royal Variety” Star Jonny Woo.

This call mainly looks at the relations & tensions between subcultures & high society, state & monarchy, class & sexual expressions, empires and colonialism. We welcome proposals at the intersections of queer, feminist, postcolonial discourses or artistic frameworks.

This event’s applications may include, respond to, be affected by, but not restricted to:

– (Un)making the Empire: examining the social construction of Whiteness.
– A cabinet of curiosities: colonialist and patriarchal spectacles re-imagined.
– Contemporary takes on Victorian literature & class discourses.
– Kings and Queens: royalty and drag culture.
– Royal Scandals: revival and re-appropriation of Royal chronicles.
– Dancefloors, podiums & other queer stages: sub- and counter-cultures at the club.
– ‘Jubilee’: Punk & Anarchy as a resistance to monarchy.
– Aristocrazy: middle/upper class Bohemia and extravagance.
– Camp: style, subcultures and sexual politics.
– ‘I want a Dyke for President’: counter-actions, anti-heroes and alternative role models
– Rulers & Responsibility: eco-feminist critiques of Earth Crimes.
– The Golden Cage: female domesticity and oppression in the house, the castle or the Harem.
– Vajazzles, Golden Showers, Royal Albert and Pearl Necklaces: Royal Slang & Sexual PracticesOrientalism and Occidentalism: Art as social distortion.
– ‘Let them eat cake’: inequalities between the people and the monarchy.
– Waacking and Voguing: the relation of dance and dance spaces to the queer community.
– Oligarchy, kleptocracy and plutocracy: critiques of wealth and state corruption.
– Non-noble entities of wealth and power, such as mafia, “nouveau riches”, yuppies, socialites and media personalities.
– Sex and power in Dynasty and contemporary soap operas.
– An Un-Royal Variety: subverting the canon of mainstream culture.

To apply please follow the link: http://www.cuntemporary.org/open-call-deep-trash-royal-trash

The programme is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.”

For further information:
CUNTemporary
Arts | Feminism | Queer
email: info@cuntemporary.org
web: http://www.cuntemporary.org

“Hidden Figures” and the pursuit of excellence through diversity

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A couple of weeks ago, I watched the film Hidden Figures, after a friend (thanks, Donnamarie!) recommended it to me. As a black British woman, she was blown away by this piece of history – three African American women who contributed, as NASA employees, to putting an American into the Earth’s orbit. What we both liked about the film was not just the uncovering of the phenomenal achievements of these women against the obstacle of white supremacy and misogyny, but how much the story still relates to current times, both in terms of issues and the kind of rhetoric that is used.

For example, in the film, there is a scene at a barbecue where NASA employee Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monaé) talks to her husband about going to court for taking classes to become an engineer. Jackson is generally encouraged by her friends and the Jewish scientist she is working with, because her potential success might open up paths for future generations. Her husband, however, initially cautions her against entering a system that is effectively designed to take its fuel from her while burning her in the process. This tension is still very much present in contemporary debates, for instance, the one surrounding ‘why is my curriculum white?’: should we, as non-white students and academics, join the academy and attempt to make it less racist, or should we try and create something outside of a system that is racist in its foundation? This conflict has, for instance, been sharply dissected in the work of Kehinde Andrews.

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A key moment in the film, for me, was the scene where the white boss of Katherine Goble (later Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson), an incredibly talented black mathematician, asks: “why are we not as good as the Russians?”. While asking this question he is surrounded by all the talent that could help them achieve the same or better results, but is completely oblivious to it. Neither Goble nor the brilliant supervisor and programmer Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer), nor Mary Jackson – or any of the other African American “computers” – are even recognised as humans. They are even denied access to the very means – programming books, computers, classes, scholarships and even toilets and coffee – that would enable them to contribute. Everything about that moments feels totally nonsensical: the space race feels like an idiotic alpha male competition that somehow made it to the international scale, the absurd extent of racism and the resources put behind it adds another layer of incomprehension, and, overall, the way the project is managed seems utterly in opposition to what is desired to be achieved. As another friend cynically put it: exploitation works best if everyone is exploited equally and made to want to be exploited.

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Having recently done some work in relation to the Race Equality Charter Mark, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the current rhetoric of “excellence” in diversity committees. There, the argument that is often made is that diversity is needed to achieve excellence. At the same time, it is plainly obvious that while this rhetoric is rolled out at every opportunity, the most brilliant people are still being systematically pushed out, often by the same dynamics as shown in Hidden Figures (all-male panels and decision-making boards, moving the ‘finish line”, lack of support, ignorance towards other embodiments of excellence). What Hidden Figures highlights against this background is that real excellence is not actually desired, because it would mean disturbing the way things work and disturbing the narrow logic of competition to which we have become accultured. To me, it is no coincidence that nearly all of my living intellectual heroes are working outside of the academy, in sports stores, FE colleges, manual jobs, where they have no institutional support. The few who manage to remain in academia, often as tokens of ‘diversity’, often have to make do with insecure contracts, are pressured into leaving or are simply not promoted. Many are moving abroad, through the added injustices of Brexit and other destructive immigration regulations.

A recent article in the Timed Higher Education touched on this issue, sadly without getting to the bottom of it. The author lamented that “young academics’ research is elegant but not interesting”, because they are afraid to speak out and end up self-censoring. Instead, according to the author, it was the senior academics who seemed to present more daring arguments. What is missing from this analysis, again, are the ‘hidden figures’: the people whose work is too challenging for hiring panels, for funding bodies, or whose work is being appropriated by professors without credit. ‘Excellence’ is rarely found at academic conferences, but in the growing para-academic spaces that frequently overlap with activist and artist circles. As Jack Stilgoe put it in a related rant in The Guardian: ‘excellence tells us nothing about how important the science is and everything about who decides’ (for a more elaborate analysis, see this article by Moore et al).

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The film also nicely showed how efforts to progress are being undermined by supposedly natural allies, in this case, white women. Not only did Kirsten Dunst’s supervisor character “Mrs Mitchell” participate in the oppression of her black co-workers, but she effectively sabotaged herself. Another layer of failed alliances was added through the reviews of the film where at least one woman performed the same move as the white female supervisor by devaluing the race dimension. And, like her, she would probably have to reacted to the criticism in a similar manner:

Mitchell: “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against y’all.”
Vaughan: “I know you probably believe that.”

This line is brilliant, because it so poignantly summaries the kind of rationalising that people perform to justify violence. The allies who supported the women in the end were men – the women’s husbands, the Jewish scientist and the boss who desperately needed the black women’s skills (partly also in order not to lose his own job, or, as one reviewer put it, he is ‘too busy to hate‘).

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What makes this film so successful (quite a few people I have spoken to since have reported standing ovations from black audiences), Donnamarie suggested, is the fact that is provides so many different angles on the subject. Everyone can find a way into discussing it, whether through race, gender, family and workplace dynamics, science etc. This certainly worked at the café where we talked, and there have, of course, been many articles in the media, from the NASA website to black community newspapers. While progress might not proceed in linear ways, a film like Hidden Figures illustrates that the lucky constellations that bring progress do not just depend on co-incidence, but also determination. The film’s clear parallels with today give a prompt to all possible audiences of this film to not repeat history, but continue the work of creating a better one. As “Mary Jackson” put it at the start of the film, when the three black women manage to turn a potentially dangerous traffic control by a white male police officer into a police escort to take them faster to work: “I’ll tell you where to begin”.

CFPs: I/Mages of Tomorrow & Techno Resistance and Black Futures

Just received these calls (thanks, Anja and Holly), which may be of interest to readers. More info on I/Mages of Tomorrow here and on Techno Resistance and Black Futures here.

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“I/Mages of tomorrow invites activists, artists, academics, film-makers, community organisers, scientists and tech-creators to consider what can be achieved when we come together as people of colour, as black and brown bodies, as queer, trans and non-binary voices and do not only talk about whiteness, patriarchy, islamaphobia, racism, or homophobia. Blackness will be explored not only in the diasporic context in which it operates almost always in the position of minority, but from the perspective of majority narratives from geopolitical and geographical locations in which whiteness is not the normalised, de-politicised default.

We welcome submissions addressing critical whiteness by white and white-migrant bodies speaking out on privilege, solidarity, silence, giving space and calling out. This anti-conference conference will be an immersion in the impossible materialised, a beautiful and empowering attempt at community, healing, creation, a challenging and unsettling exploration of our capacity to invoke dreams and to enact them into reality.

I/Mages of tomorrow prioritises black and brown, queer and trans, people of colour voices and we especially encourage those submissions. “

Techno Resistance and black futures conference

#blacktechfutures

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“We’re delighted to announce Techno Resistance and Black Futures conference taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on 27th May, 2017.

In his 1994 essay ‘Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel Delaney, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose,’ Mark Dery describes the black body as inhabiting a perverse space of cultural intolerance. In a very real sense, Dery describes the black body as occupying a place in history where the Diaspora is more reminiscent of the strangeness of alien abduction, rather than that of a self-determinant peoples.

Still, according to Dery, subjugation of the black body is situated in the techno-scientific, where the subject is articulated as real only in as much as it is made visible in contact with the most (dis)functional modes of technological progress: today in terms of the tip of a police bullet, the subject of the body cam or racial profiling, the efficiency of redlined pricing and other technologies that disproportionately reduce the free mobility of black people. For technology has been, and remains today, an insufficient means of liberation for the black body.

Paradoxically, since the projects of the Enlightenment and the technological dystopia called modernity, the technical has also functioned as the black body’s precise mode of individual and collective departure. Technological speculation, as a technique of relation borrowing from Brian Massumi (2008) or what Alanna Thain (2008) describes as ‘a lived reality of relation too often obscured by a retroactive distancing between mind/ body, self/ other, subject/ object, artist/ artwork, discovery/ invention,’ offers the black body a method by which the alienness of terrestrial belonging can be re-scripted, re-coded and re-organised into alternative modes of being and becoming. Here we reference Denise da Silva’s adoption of mathematical reasoning to devise procedures that unleash ‘blackness’ to confront life or Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s proposed methodology of the undercommon which prompts black people to adopt a right of indifference to representation in the break of artistic production.

One goal is to understand how the black body operates at the intersections of history, speculation and technique. Another is to move beyond a methodological immediacy that reflects historical and present modes of sufferings and displacements. The overall aim, however, is to imagine new relational frameworks that seek to understand how the imposition of circumstance can emerge as a politics of self-determinate belonging.

It is here, at the junction of encounter and context, that Félix Guattari views the racialised group as assigning meaning. This meaning is a force that ‘constitutes the seeds of the production of subjectivity’, as ‘we are not in the presence of a passively representative image, but a vector of subjectivation’ (Guattari, et. al., 1995: 29−30). It is through the meaning of backness that the black, brown and racialised individual creates a cohesion of (mis)representation, expounded by aesthetic markers, dynamic vibrations and cultural kineticisms often expressed as a sense of belonging.

Techno Resistance and Black Futures takes this point of departure as method of intervention and critique (in literature, philosophy, sonic resonances, short film, science fiction, social platforms, gaming, cosplay, graphic arts and other digital and geek ecologies) that put forward the potential for alternative modes of living for the racialised body. In other words, it asks how the black, brown and ‘othered’ body can move beyond the study of symbolic, transcendental or physiological human attributes, or critique that exposes the violences of power (in their colonial, imperial and capitalist articulations) toward conditions of relation that activate new modes of being and becoming, and ultimately the liberation of black potential?”

Organised by: Ramon Amaro, Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies

‘Blow up my town’ @ Market Gallery, Glasgow

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Image: Bhanu Kapil, Performance for Ban at Pratt Institute, New York, April, 2013

An interesting discussion is taking place in Glasgow on Sunday 22 January 2017. Entitled “Blow up my town: Perspectives on self-abolition, the body, and transgression”, it is a one-off “reading/group/discussion” that takes inspiration from artists and writers such as Chantal Akerman, Bhanu Kapil, Jack Halberstam, Nathaniel Mackey, Pipilotti Rist and Marina Vishmidt. They seem to be fully booked, but the website already has some interesting materials that may be interesting to readers. I’ve been told that the website will continue as a resource – and hopefully as a platform for future events!

RGS-IBG 2017 RACE Working Group Call for Sessions

The Race, Culture and Equality (RACE) Working Group would like to invite proposals for sessions to be sponsored by RACE at the RGS-IBG annual conference 2017 titled ‘Decolonizing geographical knowledges: opening up geography to the world’. A key objective of the RACE Working Group of the RGS-IBG is to promote scholarship on topics of racial inequality, colonization, decolonization and whiteness, and to encourage dialogue on race that advances academic knowledge and progressive practices. The RACE Working Group therefore welcomes proposals on these topics more generally, but we strongly encourage proposals that critically and creatively engage with these topics in relation to the conference theme specifically, for example; by exploring the limitations, contradictions and injustices of organising a conference on the topic of decolonization in western neoliberal academic settings; and/or by examining the contemporary co-option of decolonial thinking in a range of settings. We are also interested in sponsoring sessions and activities by activists and scholar-activists, as well as artists and scholar-artists, that propose and explore practical initiatives for dismantling colonial processes within the discipline, within the university system, and within the RGS-IBG.

Please email proposals to raceworkinggroup@gmail.com by 22 January 2017. Submissions should include a title, an abstract (max 250 words), the format of the session or activity, the number of timeslots requested (if applicable), and name(s) and affiliation(s) of the organizers. The guidelines for organising sessions can be found here http://tinyurl.com/pdrjfek. We will endeavor to respond to organizers by the end of January 2017.

  1. For more on decolonization, please see Tuck, E. and Yang, K. W. (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), p. 1-40.