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About this conference

Keynote Speakers: Michelle M. Wright, (Emory University), and Rafael Walker, (Baruch College, CUNY).

Join us for “Black Lives,” the annual English Student Association Graduate Student Conference. “Black Lives” has emerged in recent years as a conceptual touchstone following the wake of Black Lives Matter, a galvanizing social movement of public protest against the persistence of institutionalized forms of anti-black violence that besiege Black individuals and communities on a daily basis, both within the United States and across a range of geopolitical contexts. The phrase implicitly challenges nationalist and global concepts of humanity that do not include blackness as a viable sign of life and citizenship. As critics such as Paul Gilroy, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Robert Reid-Pharr and Henry Louis Gates Jr. have noted, “universal humanism” has been historically built upon a constitutive rejection of black being. To push back against such entrenched conceptual repudiations of black particularity, we take a cue from Jamaican philosopher and novelist Sylvia Wynter, who argues that black particularity paradoxically retains a utopian impulse for recognizing “our collective agency and authorship of our genres of being human” (2006). We intend for the conference to respond to the urgent need to think about the impact and meaning of “Black Lives” both as a touchstone for contemporary activism as well as a scholarly heuristic for research across a range of fields and disciplines. By doing so, we hope to make resonant the potentiality of blackness to signify as a radical node of meaning and being across a range of identitarian and relational articulations.


Friday, April 12 | 2019

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Coffee, Pastries, and Registration: 8:00am-9:00am (4406)

Panel Session 1: 9:00am-10:20am

Afrofuturisms (Room 8304)

“Bodyminds and Bloodchildren across Octavia Butler’s Parables” Tatiana Ades, CUNY Graduate Center

“Re-telling from the Archives: Name as History, Fantasy, and Witness in Zong!” Sara Deniz Akant, CUNY Graduate Center

“Wormholes of Retreat: Blackness and Time Travel” Oliver Sage, CUNY Graduate Center

Black Sounds (Room 8301)

“A Cultural History of The Queer Black Blueswoman” Kwame K. Ocran

“‘An orator, a rabble-rouser’: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and the “War on Noise”” Nora Shaalan, McGill University

“(That’s why) / I won’t be back for a long time: Ishmael Butler’s Deep Disappearance of Self (Or, A Treatise Dedicated to the Vibe that is the Map: Shabazz Palaces’ Futurial Instincts)” Jeff Voss, CUNY Graduate Center

The Black 19th Century (Room 8400)

“Depictions of Enslaved Industrial Workers in Lunsford Lane’s 1842 Autobiography” Michael Druffel, CUNY Graduate Center

“Imagining the Archive: Speculation as a Tool of Archival Reconstruction” MarieClaire Graham, CUNY Graduate Center

“Neo-Slave Narrative and the Historical Turn: Negotiating Past, Present and Future” Eugene Pae, SUNY Albany

“Blackspotting: Passing the Buck in Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Black Cat’” Janell Poe, City College

Panel Session 2: 10:30am-11:50am

Embodied Blackness (Room 8301)

“The Homemaking Careerist: African American Media Representations of Working Mothers, 1945-1955” Amanda Westbrook Brennan, CUNY Graduate Center

“Hair Apparent: An Examination of the Motivations behind Natural Hair Movements, Past and Present” Mikaila Brown, Cornell University

“Matters of the Stomach: How Enslaved Black Women, the Kitchen and Food Became American Cuisine” Endia Hayes, Rutgers University

Blackness & the Law (Room 8304)

“On Black Political Representation as Instrument of Racial Justice” Philippe-Edner Apostol-Marius

“Citizenship, Public Space, and Policies of Exclusion“ Saille C. Murray, Fordham University

“Black Archives Matter: Counterinsurgency and recording Black lives at CUNY” Conor Tomás Reed, Brooklyn College, CUNY Graduate Center, Free University-NYC

“Of Contagion and Containment: A Transnational Analysis of Black and Dalit Women’s Bodies in the United States and India” Nimisha Thakur, Syracuse University

Roundtable: Black Rock Coalition (Room 8400)

“Hijacking the Genre: The Black Rock Coalition—34 Years of Aesthetics as Affect”

Moderator: LaRonda Davis, Black Rock Coalition President

Greg Tate, Musician, author, journalist, and Black Rock Coalition Founder

M. Lamar, Composer, musician, and artist

Honeychild Coleman, Vocalist, guitarist, and DJ

Lunch Break: 11:50am-12:30pm

Panel Session 3: 12:30pm-1:50pm

Eco-Blackness (Room 8301)

“Reimagining What It Means To Be Black In the U.S.: Family Cultural Socialization Practices That Shape Racial Identities Among Diverse Young Adults” Tia Fletcher, CUNY Graduate Center

“The Eye Watching Self: Black Identity and the Storm in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God” Ra’Niqua Lee, Emory University

“Was the Ozone Crisis a ‘White’ Crisis?: Race as Key to Understanding Environmental Narratives” Eric Dean Wilson, CUNY Graduate Center

Reading & Writing Blackness (Room 8304)

“Life as It Really Is: Intersectional Aesthetics and Color Consciousness in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.” Jonathan Albrite, James Madison University

“Narratives from the Vestibule: Occult Epistemologies in John Keene’s Counternarratives” Luke Church, CUNY Graduate Center

“Is the East African Asian Diaspora an African Diaspora?” Michael Rumore, CUNY Graduate Center

Special Workshop (Room 8400)

“A Black Girlx Survival Guide: Journaling from the Future” Alexis Nichole Haynie, Rutgers University

Plenary Session: 2:00pm-3:20pm (Room 5414)

CUNY Alumni Panel: “Critical Race Futures in Higher Education”

Akissi Britton, Rutgers University Jonathan Gray, John Jay College/CUNY Graduate Center Tsedale Melaku, IRADAC Post-Doctoral Fellow Lavelle Porter, New York City College of Technology Jill Toliver Richardson, Borough of Manhattan Community College Tyler T. Schmidt, Lehman College/CUNY Graduate Center

Keynote 1: 3:30pm-4:50pm (The Martin E. Segal Theater, first floor)

Michelle M. Wright, Emory University “All Black Lives Matter: The Souls of Black Queer Female Folk”

Keynote 2: 5:00pm-6:30pm (Room 4406)

Rafael Walker, Baruch College “Ernest Gaines’s The Tragedy of Brady Sims, a Challenge to Black Feminism in the Age of BLM”

Closing Reception: 6:30pm-8:00pm (Room 4406)

For more information about this conference, visit the official conference website here.

Presented by The English Student Association and the PhD Program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Co-sponsored by the Doctoral Students’ Council, the Center for the Humanities, the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora In The Americas & The Caribbean (IRADAC), the Postcolonial Studies Group (PSG), the Twentieth Century Area Studies Group, and the American Studies Area Group.