Seminars

  • Founded
    1954
  • Seminar Number
    429

The concern of this seminar is the history, literature, and culture of the United States, focusing on the period from the nineteenth century to the present. Recent subjects have ranged from Margaret Fuller to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, from Asian American fashion designers to letters from former slaves who settled in Liberia. A number of presentations have positioned the United States in transnational or comparative contexts. The seminar’s strength is the variety of fields represented by its intellectually active participants. The very lively discussion periods are one of the most appealing aspects of this seminar.


Co-Chairs
Professor James Kim
bjakim@fordham.edu

Professor Matt Sandler
mfs2001@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Rebecca Stout
rjs2233@columbia.edu


All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/22/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Fugitive Historiography and the Gift of Black Folk: Towards a Consideration of Slave Narratives as African-American Intellectual History
Westenley Alcenet, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

This talk will present working ideas of an article in progress (Fugitive Historiography and the Gift of Black Folks) that explores the deeper intellectual significance of the slave narrative genre. I argue that, collectively, these texts were among the first to articulate a transnational, transcultural view of history, one that anticipated current trends in the modern historical profession. Written against an emerging genre of white nationalist histories, American slave narrative offered an alternative national history, one that highlighted the nation’s transnational ties, as well as its racial, ethnic, and religious diversity.





11/17/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
A Queer History of Latinx Challenges to U.S. Immigration Policy
Julio Capo Jr., Florida International University
Abstract

Abstract

This presentation focuses on how queer migrants from parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have challenged and helped shape U.S. immigration policy in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present.





12/08/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
The Racial Project of Academic Freedom
Diane Detournay, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

Feminist scholars such as Joan Scott and Judith Butler have argued for a strengthening of academic freedom in response to global attacks on critical scholarship that challenge state violence and hegemonic arrangements of power. This paper reads the cardinal texts on academic freedom to suggest that feminist theorizations of the concept displace and disavow the university’s foundational relation to black enslavement and settler logics. Academic freedom, I argue, draws from a liberal grammar that requires—following Saidiya Hartman—black bondage for its conception of freedom. Tracking the gendered racial order that undergirds the pretense of the academy as an exceptional site of knowledge, I connect the implications to the administering of Title IX policy on college campuses. In parallel ways, Title IX relies upon a model of the university and definition of sexual violence that disappears its racial conditions.





01/26/2021 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
The Land(ing): Flying Africans and Paule Marshall’s Black Analytics of Arrival
Sasha Ann Panaram, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

“The Land(ing): Flying Africans and Paule Marshall’s Black Analytics of Arrival” examines a crossing that occurred soon after Ibo Africans arrived at Dunbar Creek in St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia in 1803 as it is recounted in the “Ibo Landing” folklore and recreated in Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow (1983). Specifically, I argue that the protagonist Aunt Cuney’s repeated walks to the river coupled with her retelling of the myth of the "Flying African" reconfigures diasporic landing as a series of unfinished arrivals. Drawing on oral histories with Gullah people amassed by the Federal Writers' Project who recall the “Flying African” tale as well as scholarship by Foloshade Alao, Soyica Colbert, and Katherine McKittrick, among others, I explore how Marshall’s novel is not concerned with discussions of aerial ascent to Africa or the descent associated with drowning previously theorized in relation to the folklore, but rather how the literal steps taken by the Ibos towards the water alters notions of landing in the diaspora and the significance of the aquatic for Black people thereafter.





02/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
"Deep Black Mourning": Evidence, Performance, and the Matter of Black Living in the 1899 Baker Exhibition
Autumn Womack, Princeton University
Abstract

Abstract

How do you produce evidence of that which has yet to end? This talk pursues this question through excavating the 1899 Baker Exhibition, a three-month, multi-media, anti-lynching lecture performance featuring Lavinia Baker and her five children, survivors of an 1898 Lake City, South Carolina Lynching. Recovering a series of embodied and discursive performances that animate and disrupt the Exhibit, I argue that the Bakers unsettle and reassemble the putative relationship between blackness, racial violence, and turn of the century evidentiary technologies that social and political reform agendas depended upon, and which continue to structure our political horizons. Reading across trial transcripts, photographs, performance reviews, and journalistic reports, I maintain that the confrontation between black living and “modern” evidentiary technologies in the Baker Exhibit produced insurgent kinetic and aesthetic responses that double as rubrics for distinct theories of race and visuality.





03/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Black Writing in the Black Lives Matter Era
Howard Rambsy II, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Abstract

Abstract

The last nine years spurred unprecedented levels of activism, and just as important, this moment shaped and was shaped by tremendous output among Black writers. News articles, op-eds, poems, essays, memoirs, novels, comic books, social media posts, and more became part of what is now an extraordinary creative domain—a domain with its contours marked by prevalent texts and keywords such as Black Lives Matter, white supremacy, reparations, #SayHerName, Defund the Police, and antiracist reading lists, just to name some examples. This presentation will briefly address notable implications concerning Black writing during the Black Lives Matter era.





04/20/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Citizens of the Whole World: Race, Radicalism and the anti-Zionism of the Jewish New Left
Benjamin Balthasar, Indiana University South Bend
Abstract

Abstract

It is often assumed that the 1967 Arab-Israeli War engendered a split between the Jewish left and more radical organizations within the Black Power movement, especially as mainstream Jewish organizations coalesced around a Zionist consensus. Mobilizing around memories of the Holocaust, the argument goes, Jewish activists and Jewish institutions reach a communal common sense to support the Jewish state even if it cost previous allies aligned with Black Power and Third World liberation. While this may have been true for mainstream Jewish organizations such as the ACJ and ADL, the sizeable presence of Jewish activists in organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society, Socialist Workers Party, and the Communist Party often experienced the 1967 War in a very different way, as a final split between their lives as revolutionaries and the Israeli nationalism. Rather than reject their Jewish identity however, such Jewish radicals often deployed a counter-narrative of the Holocaust and anti-fascism against both Zionism and U.S. imperialism, posing that they refused to be "good Germans" in light of American atrocities in Southeast Asia and Israeli militarism in the 1960s. Relying on interviews with Jewish activists, movement literature, memoirs and art, this project hopes to reconstruct the cultures of the Jewish New Left, positing the centrality of a Jewish subjectivity in constructing a global revolutionary imaginary.