Art Equals Politics: Vignettes of Culture, Decolonization, and Black and Brown Liberation

Time:  Monday July 20th, 2020. 9PM-11PM China Time, 9AM-11AM US Time

Zoom ID: 344-318-9585

DESCRIPTION

The recent nationwide protests against the police killing of African American man George Floyd has brought again to the fore the urgent political question of America’s long history of racism. Such racism effects African Americans in Particular, but also Indigenous Nations, Latinos, and Asians and hinders the path to a peaceful, egalitarian, and decolonized world.

Helping us to explore such issues and others on a global scale through a series of musical performances, discussions, and reflections, are the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an award-winning group of artists, who are also scholars and participants in movements for social justice.

THE AFRO YAQUI MUSIC COLLECTIVE

is an award-winning group of Pittsburgh-based Jazz musicians. Their style is rooted in an expansive vision of Jazz, mixing musical styles, languages, and instrumentation from American Jazz and Hip-Hop, as well as Chinese, Indigenous, Caribbean, and African traditions. Their music explicitly communicates themes of decolonization, and band members, young and old, have been active participants in movements, from the Black Power Movement (1960s) to the contemporary Movement for Black Lives. The Afro Yaqui Music Collective has won multiple awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). They have performed globally at social movement spaces, such as at the US-Mexican border and the Mesopotamian Water Forum in Iraq, and have also performed at significant US venues as the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center, as well as the venerable Red Rooster in Harlem. The Collective is committed to education and innovative pedagogies, mixing musical and visual art along with history.

Meet the artists

This event is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division, the Freedom Lab, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Race and Racism in America: A Reading List

Compiled by Selina Lai Henderson, Denise Simpson, and Jesse Olsavsky

The current protests against police violence in the US have brought to the forefront questions about the history of race and racism in America.  But these protests are not new, nor are the questions they pose. From the days of slavery, to those of segregation, to the current era of highly racialized policing, militarization, and mass-incarceration, scholars, activists, and ordinary citizens, largely people of color, have long been protesting racism and writing about it. This “syllabus” is a list of essential works of literature and history, both classic and new, that will inform you of the long, dark histories of racism in America, the struggles to overturn it, and the causes of the current conflagrations over racism and policing shaking American society and politics. 

TOP RECOMMENDATIONS

Keanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation (2016).

The Black Lives Matter Movement did not begin in 2020, but in fact began 5 years earlier after police murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, near St. Louis, Missouri. Nationwide protests erupted in 2015. The protests occurred, paradoxically, at a time when Americans had reelected an African American (Barack Obama) to the presidency and lauded themselves as a society that had moved beyond racial prejudice. This book is the most important piece on the history and significance of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It reflects on the politics of the moment and unmasks the hidden forms of racism that persisted in US history. The book critiques the idea that America is a “color blind” society that does not see race. It critiques the inequalities, violent policing, and forms of racial segregation prevailing in America and argues, hopefully, that the Black Lives Matter could inspire a wider movement against racial injustice and class inequality in America.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010).

The USA contains 3% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s imprisoned. America has the largest imprisoned population on earth alongside the most heavily armed police forces. People of color, particularly African Americans, are incarcerated in disproportionately high numbers. Prison conditions can be rough and upon release many ex-prisoners will have extreme difficulty finding work. Thus, instead of deterring crime and reinforcing rehabilitation, whole communities in America are subject to conditions in which poverty, discrimination, and incarceration are nearly impossible to escape.  In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander unveils the history and mechanisms behind this horrifying situation. It had roots in efforts to re-enslave African Americans, by imprisoning them, after the Civil War (1861-1863); it had roots in CIA support for drug traders, in Asia and Latin America, in the fight against Communism, which brought drugs and thus crime to American cities; it had roots in the “war on crime” in the 1980s, and the structural and conscious racism that kept minorities both poor and continually suspected of criminal activities. Alexander argues that this process of incarceration and marginalization is self-perpetuating and can only end with the abolition policing and prisons in their current forms.

Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2016).

The history of racism in America begins with the mass transportation of 12 million Africans to work as slaves on the plantations of the Americas, producing sugar, tobacco, and by the 19th century, cotton. Few historians doubt this. However, there has been a longstanding debate on the significance of the enslavement of Africans to the development of capitalism in America and the West. Traditionally, most historians have seen slavery as a barrier to economic development. This book turns that view upside down. Capitalism matured with the “industrial revolution” in England, based largely upon the manufacturing of textiles made from cotton. Industrial capitalism was thus dependent upon the cheap production of cotton. The vast majority of that cotton was mass-produced by African slaves in America, who faced brutal conditions and were paid nothing. Besides underpinning England’s industrialization, slavery, the author argues, was the bedrock of the American economy. From 1820-1861, cotton was America’s largest export by far, and slavery accounted for more economically than all the factories, railroads, and other industries in America combined. Slavery had not been a barrier to American economic development; its barbarity and cruelty, according to the author, made America’s rise as the largest economy on earth possible.

 Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (Novel, 1970) is a powerful literary depiction of what it means be black and female growing up in a culture defined not only by systemic racism and sexism, but also by the pervasive engine of consumerism of whiteness. The novel tells the tragic tale of a young black girl, Pecola Breedlove, who is obsessed with blond hair and blue eyes; in fact, she wants to have the “bluest eye” so she could see the world anew which would in return see her as beautiful instead of black, and therefore, “ugly.” Set in 1941, Morrison’s work reminds us how the pressing issues of racial and gender oppression remain hauntingly familiar not only in 1970 (just after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and during the Civil Rights Movement when the novel was published), but also at the present time with the cumulation of events tied to Black Lives Matter.

In The Big Sea (Autobiography, 1940), Langston Hughes weaves together fascinating episodes of his life at home and abroad as he explores the question of US race and racism in a global context. The heartbreaking tales that he tells of his father’s hate for his own people because of the color of their skin, his shock at being called a “white man” in the coast of West Africa, and the adventures he experienced as a cook and a waiter in Paris, are among the many touching stories he depicts that give voice to the longstanding African American struggles for civil rights. The fateful decision that he made to quit his undergraduate studies at Columbia University would ultimately open a world of discoveries on a racial consciousness that defies national, geographical, and political boundaries of the color line.

FURTHER READINGS

Edmund S. Morgan, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox,” The Journal of American History, 59, No. 1, (1972), 5-29.

Manning Marable, “A Brief History of Structural Racism,” in Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life (2002).

W.E.B. Dubois, Black Reconstruction (1935).

Angela Davis, Are Prison’s Obsolete? (2003).

George Frederickson, White Supremacy: A Comparative Study of American and South African History (1981).

George Jackson, Soledad Brother (1970).

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964).

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (2010).

 Beverly Daniel Tatum, Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

Ibram Kendi, How to be an Antiracist

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Robin Deangelo, White Fragility and Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism

Andrea Richie, Invisible No More

Tanehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Michael Eric Dyson. Tears We Cannot Stop

Michael Eric Dyson, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

Toni Morrison

  • Beloved (1987, novel)
  • The Bluest Eye (1970, novel)

Maya Angelou

  • And Still I Rise (1978, poetry)
  • All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986, autobiography essays)

Alice Walker

  • The Color Purple (1982, novel)
  • In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women(1973, short stories)

James Baldwin

  • Notes of a Native Son (1955, novel)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (1974, novel)

Ralph Ellison

  • Invisible Man (1952, novel)

Richard Wright

  • Native Son (1940, novel)

Langston Hughes

  • The Weary Blues (1926, poetry)
  • The Big Sea (1940, autobiography)

Zora Neale Hurston

  • “Sweat” (1926, short story)
  • “How Does It Feel To Be Colored Me” (1928, short essay)

DKU Health Humanities Laboratory Request for Proposals: Health Humanities Projects

Health Humanities Lab Information Session

On July 8th at 10am (China Time) the Health Humanities Lab will host an information session via Zoom to give an overview of health humanities, the types of projects students and faculty might consider proposing, and guidance on the proposal development process.

Date and Time: July 8, 2020 at 10am (China Time)

Zoom Meeting Link: https://duke.zoom.us/j/97454113970

Click [Here] to watch the recording

The Health Humanities Laboratory seeks to support DKU’s mission to provide project opportunities for its highly diverse community to evaluate contemporary global issues by fostering a space for studying the interdisciplinary areas of Health Humanities. Especially in our era of rapid globalization and interdependence, the sociocultural aspects of daily life create an important context for how we view and manage health among people and societies. A clear example: The recent COVID-19 outbreak has raised many questions that cannot be addressed with science alone. To these ends, the Health Humanities Laboratory invites students and faculty of DKU to submit project proposals to address an important health question that incorporates a humanities perspective. Proposals may examine this humanities-oriented question using methodologies from different disciplines.

Potential topics for proposals should concern aspects of individual or population health. Students who would like to submit proposals are required to find at least one DKU faculty member to mentor the project or the research. Having more than one faculty member from different disciplines is encouraged but not required. Faculty who submit a proposal must incorporate at least one student role as part of the project team and teams featuring multiple student roles are encouraged. Proposals related to the COVID-19 outbreak are welcome, but project proposals covering other topics within the health humanities are also encouraged.

Funding Amount

Max funding per project is 10,000 RMB. The project budget should adequately fit the scope of work being proposed and be well justified. The proposal review committee may request a budget revision or additional justification if deemed necessary. Continue reading “DKU Health Humanities Laboratory Request for Proposals: Health Humanities Projects”

Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore”

By Yue Qiu

Class of 2022

On June 11, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Sandeep Banerjee from McGill University to lead a discussion on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore“. The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the lecture. Professor Titas Chakraborty and around 20 students attended the conference.

Professor Chakraborty introduced the guest speaker. Professor Banerjee is a literary theorist, cultural critic, and historian who studies the literatures and histories of decolonization, particularly in India. Besides writing on colonialism and liberation, he also writes on a wide range of topics such as travel narrative and photography. He published the book Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony last year. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore””

Report on Kunshan Digital City of Arts and Culture

By Anisha Joshi

Class of 2022

In the rush and uncertainty with which many of us vacated campus as COVID-19 was taking shape as an epidemic in China, few of us had anticipated how much we would miss Kunshan and beloved DKU. Some of us left, afraid but also hopeful that we could return to campus, or China, safely, hopeful that we would be able to resume at least part of the semester on campus.

And yet, here we are, most of us, five months later still pining for Kunshan, our shining campus with its pristine waters, the trees and lakes most of us have come to recognize as a home away from home. Luckily, students collaborating with the Humanities Research Center under the Kunshan Digital Humanities have been hard at work over last year, carefully archiving unique ways of experiencing this beautiful city.

While initially the student artworks were meant to be displayed in a curated exhibition on campus in spring semester, given the circumstances the projects were presented in an even more innovative way—students who worked on the projects gave Dean James Miller a virtual guide around Kunshan’s many attractions over the course of a day through the ArcGIS StoryMap interface, taking Dean Miller (and the audience) through each of the locations and what was special about them. The student artists’ exploration of Kunshan took place through a variety of mediums, ranging from photography and documentary film making to even performance art. Continue reading “Report on Kunshan Digital City of Arts and Culture”

Freedom in Quarantine

Message from Co-Directors of the Freedom Lab:

Would you like to learn more about the dramatic implications of the COVID-19 crisis for freedom? 

Incoming Arts and Humanities faculty member, Professor Zairong Xiang, has just published a short essay “Freedom in Quarantine” in the journal Critical Times, which explores this theme as well as many others, including xenophobia against Chinese nationals and people of Chinese origin, solidarity in our world, and environmental crisis. This illuminating essay can be read here:

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. Continue reading “Freedom in Quarantine”

Arts and Humanities Division and Freedom Lab Presents | The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore

Thursday June 11, 9am EST / 9pm China Time

Zoom Meeting ID: 2613304845

Speaker: Sandeep Banerjee, Associate Professor, Department of English, McGill University

Click [HERE] to watch the recording

Abstract:

In this talk I aim to situate decolonization as a kind of the utopianism. I contend that decolonization is not, as is typically understood, simply a set of political events from the twentieth century; not only a utopian desire that was actualized through the dismantling of European political regimes through the course of the twentieth century. Rather, the utopianism called decolonization is more processual in nature. It seeks to transcend the rule of capital that forms the condition of possibility of colonialism while also seeking to decolonize the minds of the colonized.

In this talk, I draw on the creative as well as critical corpus of colonial India’s pre-eminent literary figure and public intellectual, Rabindranath Tagore, to think about the imbrication of decolonization and utopianism. These works show not only the relentless attempt to imagine the lineaments of the postcolony freed from the depredations of capital and nationalism but also stress the cultural labor undergirding the process of decolonization. Tagore’s writings, then, gesture towards a materialist theorization of decolonization that aligns him with theorists of culture and colonialism such as Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Bio-note:

Sandeep Banerjee

Sandeep Banerjee is a literary critic, theorist, and translator and Associate Professor of English at McGill University, Canada. He is the author of Space, Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony (Routledge, 2019). His articles have appeared (or will appear) in Modern Fiction Studies, Utopian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Mediations, in addition to several anthologies. A General Editor of the Routledge Series in the Cultures of the Global Cold War, he is currently working on his book project that examines the question of aesthetics in an uneven world.

*This talk is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division and the Freedom Lab

Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism”

By Ruihan Wan

Class of 2022

On April 13, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Nico Slate from Carnegie Mellon University to lead a discussion on the topic of “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism.” The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the discussion. Humanities Research Center co-director Professor James Miller, Lab Manager Tim Smith, Professor Titas Chakraborty, and around 25 students attended the discussion. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism””