The Initiative on Race Gender and Globalization (IRGG) at Yale University was established at the beginning of the academic year 2004-2005 with the support of the Office of the Provost. For the past 8 years the IRGG’s mission has been to foster intellectual exchange across national, political, and demographic borders. The IRGG pursues this mission because as President Levin has noted in his Baccalaureate Address “Life on a Small Planet,” “this nation has suffered through much of its history from isolation and insularity.” “Too often,” he notes, “our leaders have been insufficiently mindful of how America is perceived throughout the world.” The IRGG also pursues this mission because we believe in supporting events and courses that challenge the Yale community to think about how, as President Levin notes in his “Taking Responsibility” address, “we might work effectively” with each other and “with other nations in the context of more widely shared power and responsibility.”
For the past 8 years the IRGG has committed itself to organizing and sponsoring colloquia, courses, conferences, events, and speakers that not only address issues of national “isolation and insularity,” but also challenge the Yale community to act ethically in a global context. As a way to cultivate President Levin’s internationalist and ethical missions at Yale, the IRGG continues to build on established relationships with the following departments, programs, and research centers on the Yale campus: African American Studies, American Studies, the British Art Center, the Center for Transnational Cultural Analysis, English, Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and History. These cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural relationships have created a spirit of interdisciplinarity able to nurture a global awareness necessary for understanding emergent political issues, transitions in economic markets, and identity formations in our globalized world.
During the 2011-2012 academic year the IRGG continued to build on its cosmopolitan mission by bringing scholars to Yale University and by sponsoring public lectures, courses, and conferences. The IRGG also continued to innovate on its modes of information distribution by continuing to work on its web presence and by publishing its yearly newsletter—IRGG SPOTLIGHT on its website. These modes of information distribution have enabled the IRGG to grow its Affiliate list and General email list; grow its event awareness and attendance; and, these efforts have also allowed the IRGG to draw attention to IRGG related courses and to the events of other initiatives at Yale University that share the IRGG’s academic mission.
CURRICULAR INNOVATION & SPONSORED PRESENTATIONS
To generate and intervene in conversations about global culture and ethics, the IRGG focuses its energies on the following areas: 1) Curricular Innovation and 2) Sponsoring Presentations, Colloquiums, and Symposiums. The IRGG develops these areas by organizing annual events in which national and international scholars are invited to attend roundtable discussions in graduate seminars about their work and to give public lectures at Yale. By engaging student and faculty communities with issues that affect our contemporary moment, and by encouraging graduate and undergraduate students to interact with visiting scholars, these events promote intellectual growth at Yale. For the roundtable discussions, visiting scholars submit a paper in advance of the seminar meeting and a senior undergraduate or graduate student is designated to prepare a formal response to the invited scholar’s work and to lead discussion. The IRGG also organizes lunches and dinners with the visiting scholar and individual members of the Yale faculty or small groups of faculty and students to further facilitate the exchange of ideas across scholarly and student communities.
IRGG events for the academic year 2011-2012 were organized to provide support for two graduate seminars taught by Professor Hazel Carby: “Theorizing Racial Formations” and “Caribbean Diasporic Intellectuals.”
“THEORIZING RACIAL FORMATIONS”
“Theorizing Racial Formations” is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar, which aims to achieve two goals. Firstly, the seminar aims to introduce students to the field of racial formations discourse. Racial formations discourse is a field of study that approaches race and racism not as static issues but rather as historical outcomes determined by the intersection of dominative regimes, geographies, migrations, peoples, institutions, and cultural practices. In approaching race and racism as outcomes of intersecting historical phenomena rather than origins, the course equips students with a set of flexible frameworks and vocabularies for researching the ways race and racism are not only formed but change across time. Secondly, the seminar aims to professionalize students by introducing them to faculty—from within and outside of Yale—researching racial formations in national and international contexts. Each week a faculty member is invited to partake in a session guided by an area, question, and/or social problem the respective scholar is currently interrogating. A student from the course is designated to introduce the class to the scholar’s work and to lead class discussion. This year’s faculty roster for the seminar included the following faculty:
- Elizabeth Alexander (African American Studies, Yale University, September 8, 2011): Professor Alexander, Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and Chair of the African American Studies Department, is a poet who writes about race and identity. In 2008, she was selected by President Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on January 20. She is the author of four books of poems: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and American Sublime (2005).
- Kobena Mercer (Art History, Yale University, September 15, 2011): Professor Mercer Kobena writes and teaches on the visual arts of the black diaspora, examining African American, Caribbean, and Black British artists in modern and contemporary art. His courses and research address cross-cultural aesthetics in transnational contexts where issues of race, sexuality, and identity converge. His first book, Welcome to the Jungle (1994), introduced new lines of inquiry in art, photography, and film. His work features in several interdisciplinary anthologies including Art and Its Histories (1998), The Visual Culture Reader (2001) and Theorizing Diaspora (2003). Mercer is the author of monographic studies on Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien, Renee Green, and Keith Piper, as well as historical studies of James VanDer Zee, Romare Bearden, and Adrian Piper. He is the editor of the Annotating Art’s Histories series, published by MIT and INIVA, whose titles are Cosmopolitan Modernisms (2005), Discrepant Abstraction (2006), Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures (2007), and Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers (2008).
- Leigh Raiford (African American Studies, UC Berkeley, September 22, 2011): Leigh Raiford is Associate Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Her teaching and research interests include race, gender and visual culture with an emphasis on film and photography; race and racial formations of the United States; black feminism; memory studies; and black popular culture. Professor Raiford is author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle (Duke University Press).
- Crystal Feimster (African American Studies, Yale University, September 29, 2011): Professor Feimster writes and researches about racial and sexual violence. She is completing a project on rape during the American Civil War. Her book, Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching, focuses on two women journalists, Ida B. Wells, who campaigned against lynching, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who urged white men to prove their manhood by lynching black men accused of raping white women.
- Glenda Gilmore (African American Studies & History, Yale University, October 6, 2011): Professor Gilmore is Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History. She offers seminars in the history of the New South and race and gender. She is co–editor of Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights and author of Gender and Jim Crow: Women and Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920. Her latest book is Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919–1950 (2008).
- Mary Lui (History & American Studies, Yale University, October 13, 2011): Professor Lui’s primary research interests include: Asian American history, urban history, women and gender studies, and public history. She is the author of The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City (Princeton University Press, 2005).
- Jafari Allen (Anthropology & African American Studies, Yale University, October 20, 2011): Professor Allen researches at the intersections of queer sexuality, gender and blackness in Cuba, the US, and transnationally. He teaches courses on the cultural politics of race, sexuality and gender in Black diasporas; Black feminist and queer theory; critical cultural studies; ethnographic methodology and writing; subjectivity, consciousness and resistance; Cuba and the Caribbean. His recent book is entitled ¡Venceremos?: Sexuality, Gender and Black Self-Making in Cuba (Duke University Press).
- GerShun Avilez (African American Studies, Yale University, October 27, 2011): Professor Avilez teaches courses on African-American literature, visual art, and cultural criticism. He is particularly interested in the relationship between aesthetic strategies and legal and political discourses in contemporary African-American expressive culture. His current book project analyzes the role of gender and sexuality in the Black Arts Movement.
- Erica James (Art History, Yale University, November 3, 2011): Professor James’ research interests center on the arts of the African Diaspora, particularly in the Caribbean and the Americas. Her most recent publications include: “Communion,” an essay on the artist Rotimi Fani Kayode, which appeared in the British photography journal Next Level; “The Pleasure of Disorientation,” a catalogue essay for The Global Caribbean exhibition held at the Haitian Cultural Centre, Miami as a part of Art Basel 2009.
- Anthony Reed (English & African American Studies, Yale University, November 17, 2011): Professor Reed’s research and teaching focus on poetics and 20th/21st century global black writing. It investigates the intersections of aesthetics and politics in literature, film and other media. In his current project, The Other Side of Time: Temporality, Poetics and the Politics and African American Literature, he considers temporality (history, non-linearity, ellipses, repetitions, etc.) as a key thematic and formal locus of political and philosophical interrogation in so-called “post-Civil Rights” African American literature, especially poetry.
- Michael Veal (Department of Music, Yale University, December 1, 2011): Professor Veal’s scholarship addresses topics within the musical sphere of Africa and the African diaspora. His 2000 biography of the Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (Fela: The Life & Times of an African Musical Icon) uses the life and music of one of the most influential African musicians of the post-WWII era to explore themes of African post-coloniality, musical and cultural interchange between cultures of Africa and the African diaspora, and the political uses of music in Africa. His documentation of “Afrobeat” will continue with the forthcoming as-told-to autobiography Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat. His 2007 study of Jamaican dub music (Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae) examines the ways in which the studio-based innovations of Jamaican recording engineers during the 1970s transformed the structure and concept of the post-WWII popular song, as well as the theme of how sound technology can be used to articulate themes of spirituality, history and politics. His forthcoming book Technotopia 1969: Miles Davis at the Crossroads surveys an under-documented period in the life and career of Miles Davis.
- Jacqueline Golsby (English Department, Yale University, December 8, 2011): Professor Goldby’s research and teaching focus on African American and American literatures. She is especially interested in the ways that authors and texts articulate un-archived, “secret” and so, unspeakable developments that shaped American life during the long century of Jim Crow segregation’s reign, from 1865 to 1965. For instance, in her first book, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (2006), she examines how literary depictions of anti-Black mob murders at the turn of the 20th century figure the violence as a trope of American modernity.
“CARIBBEAN DIASPORIC INTELLECTUALS”
Caribbean Diasporic Intellectuals is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar that examines literature produced by writers of Caribbean descent from different regions of the transatlantic world. In response to contemporary interest in issues about globalization, the seminar was created to accomplish the following: firstly, it was meant to expose students to various movements in Caribbean social and literary thought to further the understanding that what we have come to understand and represent as “Caribbeanness” is a condition of debate and movement.
Secondly, it was meant to anchor conversations about globalization. Too often, much is said about globalization without a frame of reference for understanding the nature of the linkages.
In this course, the notion of globalization is anchored to the world-maps that black intellectuals create through their sojourns to the Americas, Europe, and Africa and through the ways they represent the relations among nations in their fictions. Thirdly, because globalization is often thought about as a recent experience, the course sought to challenge this perception by furthering the idea that thinking globally is not a new experience for black peoples.
Finally, the course also sought to challenge the ways in which literature is taught within the boundaries of a particular nation. By focusing on writers whose novels shape Caribbean identities as outcomes of transnational movement, the course practices a global type of cognitive mapping which questioned the meanings of terms such as black trans-nationalism, migrancy, globalization, and empire.
SPONSORED EVENTS, COURSES, SPEAKERS, AND RESEARCH
For the academic year 2011-2012, the IRGG sponsored speakers and events, engaged in pushing at the boundaries of identity, politics, and diaspora. Professor Carby was on sabbatical during the Spring 2012.
The IRGG began the academic year by sponsoring Professor Rinaldo Walcott’s (University of Toronto) visit to Professor Hazel Carby’s “Caribbean Diasporic Intellectuals” seminar.
Professor Walcott is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. His research and teaching focus on Black Diaspora Cultural Studies, with an emphasis on queer sexualities, masculinity and cultural politics. Secondary research areas of research for him are multicultural and transnational debates about nation, citizenship and coloniality. He the author of Black Like Who: Writing Black Canada (Insonmiac Press); Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism (Insomniac); and the Co-editor with Roy Moodley of Counseling Across and Beyond Cultures: Exploring the Work of Clemment Vontress in Clinical Practice (University of Toronto Press). Professor Rinaldo Walcott visited Professor Carby’s course on October 4, 2011 to discuss his latest work on Caribbeaness, diasporicity, identity, and movement. He engaged in a roundtable discussion about his work. A student from the course introduced Professor Walcott’s scholarly contributions and led discussion. The IRGG sponsored a tea and dinner with Professor Walcott, which included Yale students and faculty.
After Professor Walcott’s visit to Yale, the IRGG sponsored Professor Leigh Raiford’s visit to Professor Hazel Carby’s “Theorizing Racial Formations” seminar and a public lecture by Professor Raiford delivered for the African American Studies’ Endeavors Initiative and 3) a dinner with Professor Raiford, which included Yale students and faculty. Professor Raiford is Associate Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Her teaching and research interests include race, gender and visual culture with an emphasis on film and photography; race and racial formations of the United States; black feminism; memory studies; and black popular culture.
Professor Raiford is author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle (Duke University Press). She is co-editor with Renee Romano of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory. Her work has also appeared in American Quarterly, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, English Language Notes and in the Coco Fusco/Brian Wallis edited collection Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self. On September 22, she visited Professor Hazel Carby’s seminar for a roundtable discussion of her work. A student presented on Professor Raiford’s academic work and led the discussion. On September 22, 2011, Professor Raiford also delivered a public lecture at Yale entitled “Marcus Garvey in Stereograph: Photographic Practices of Diaspora.” Professor Raiford’s lecture shed new insight into how scholars ought to imagine Marcus Garvey, photography and activism, and the visual culture of diasporicity.
After Professor Raiford’s visit to Yale, the IRGG sponsored Professor Stephan Palmie’s visit to Professor Hazel Carby’s Caribbean Diasporic Intellectuals seminar, a public lecture by Professor Palmie delivered for the African American Studies’ Endeavors Initiative, and a dinner with Professor Palmie, which included Yale students and faculty.
Professor Palmie is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He conducts ethnographic and historical research on Afro-Caribbean cultures, with an emphasis on Afro-Cuban religious formations and their relations to the history and cultures of a wider Atlantic world. His other interests include practices of historical representation and knowledge production, systems of slavery and unfree labor, constructions of race and ethnicity, conceptions of embodiment and moral personhood, medical anthropology, and the anthropology of food and cuisine. Among his many academic contributions, Professor Palmie is widely regarded for his book Wizards and Scientists: Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition (Duke University Press). He is also co-author of The Caribbean: a History of the Region and its Peoples (University of Chicago Press) and editor of Africas of the Americas: Beyond the Search for Origins in the Study of Afro-atlantic Religions (Brill Academic Publishing).
On November 1, 2011, Professor Palmie visited Professor Hazel Carby’s seminar on the Caribbean for a roundtable discussion of his work. A student presented on Professor Palmie’s academic work and led the roundtable discussion. Subsequent to his visit to Professor Carby’s course, Professor Palmie delivered a public lecture at Yale entitled “The Enjamba on North Fairmount Avenue, the Wizard of Menlo Park and the Dialectics of Ensoniment: As Episode in the History of an Acoustic Mask.” His lecture stimulated thinking on questions concerning naming and the limits of anthropological knowledge, as these practices relate to the semiology of Afro-Caribbean cultural practices.
Yale Professors Kamari Clarke and Jafari Allen responded to Professor Palmie’s lecture. Professor Clarke is a Professor of Anthropology and International and Area Studies at Yale University. She is the Chair of the Yale Council on African Studies (with a courtesy appointment in (African American Studies) and is a collaborative partner of the distinguished Leadership Enterprise for African Development (LEAD) – a collaborative project between Harvard and Yale Universities and the Institute for Research on African Women, Children and Culture (IRAWCC) that seeks to deepen the process of reform and revitalization in African countries by strengthening leadership and governance capacity in the public, business, and civil society sectors.
She is author of Fictions of Justice: International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press), Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities (Duke University Press), among other notable books.
Professor Allen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies. He researches at the intersections of queer sexuality, gender and blackness in Cuba, the US, and transnationally. He teaches courses on the cultural politics of race, sexuality and gender in Black diasporas; Black feminist and queer theory; critical cultural studies; ethnographic methodology and writing; subjectivity, consciousness and resistance; Cuba and the Caribbean. His recent book is entitled ¡Venceremos?: Sexuality, Gender and Black Self-Making in Cuba (Duke University Press).
“SHOCK AND AWE: 100 YEARS OF BOMBING FROM ABOVE”
During the academic year 2011-2012, the IRGG’s Director Hazel Carby was asked by the British Academy to review the London School of Economics’ application to hold a conference to mark 100 years since the first bomb was dropped in the colonial context of Tagiura, outside of Tripoli. The conference was entitled “Shock and Awe: A Hundred Years of Bombing from Above.” The conference not only marked the anniversary of the bombing, however. It also brought together internationally renowned critics, sociologists, geographers, philosophers and historians to reflect on all aspects of a hundred years of aerial bombing. The conference’s goals were to develop a conversation between very different historical experiences and cases of bombing in order to generate an interdisciplinary discussion about warfare, statecraft, technology, and violence.
The conference was held at the London School of Economics and Political Science (November 10, 2011) and Goldsmiths, University of London (November 11, 2011). The IRGG sponsored Professor Carby’s attendance to the conference in her capacity as Director of the IRGG. It also sponsored the attendance of Yale graduate student Eli Jelly-Shapiro (American Studies), who contributed to the conference proceedings and who is currently at work on a dissertation that analyzes many of the themes explored at the conference. Jelly-Shapiro received his B.S.F.S. in Culture and Politics from Georgetown University (2004), and his M.Sc. in Political Sociology from the London School of Economics (2006). Working at the interface of postcolonial studies and cultural studies, he is especially interested in settler colonialism, race, labor, and soccer. His dissertation-in-progress explores the long history of the War on Terror and Homeland Security state, through readings of contemporary fiction, film, and theory. His dissertation is entitled “Forever War: Culture, Coloniality, and the Long History of the War on Terror.”