Center for Black Studies
for Thought Colloquium Series
“On the Down Low?: Gay Black Closet”
November 17, 2004 • Noon
This presentation utilizes the cultural phenomenon of “the
Down Low” to question the historical models of canonical
queer texts that locate the transition between homosexual
behavior to identity in late XIX Century Western societies.
The experience of African-American men who have sex with other
men and don’t consider themselves “gay”
serves as an important perspective to interrogate the underlying
racial assumptions of Foucault, Sedgwick and Butler. Even
as it establishes the existence of homosexual non-conformist
subjects, J.L King’s testimonial text, On the Down
Low, operates as an evangelical treatise that attempts
to impose an in/out model on “Down Low” men via
the trope of religious conversion. As such, it would appear
that theoretical and popular discourses are determined to
bring the possibly enabling transgression of “the Down
Low” into compliance within racialized and historical
models of what might need to be called “the homo-normative.”
Roberto Strongman, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the
UCSB Department of Black Studies.
Hard Road': Black Women Negotiating Discrimination and Exploitation
in Adult Entertainment"
Wednesday, November 3, 2004 • Noon
Mireille Miller-Young, Ph.D. is a University of California
President’s Postdoctoral Fellow hosted through the Center
for Black Studies. Dr. Miller-Young’s research interests
concern black feminist theory, black sexual politics, the
racialized political economy of sex work, and American film
and visual cultures.
"The Sexual Scene of Slavery:
Notes on Black (Male) Subjectivity and Toni Morrison's Beloved"
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 • Noon
This talk is a close reading of a scene from Toni Morrison’s
Beloved (1987), in which the character Paul D is
sexually humiliated as a chain-gang prisoner by white guards.
In the novel, Paul D's unsuccessful effort to suppress the
memory of his sexual exploitation occasions a productive reconsideration
of the trope of emasculation and suggests the insufficiency
of "manhood" as the symbol of black liberation.
Toni Morrison broaches a taboo subject — the sexual
subordination of black men as slaves. The effect of this inquiry
is that it takes two well-worn tropes in our general understanding
of the depredations of slavery —"emasculation of
black men" and "rape of black women" —
and combines them, suggesting that one method of emasculation
is the rape of black men by white men. In revealing this heretofore
unspeakable possibility (just as the novel as a whole attempts
to represent the unspeakable and elusive trauma of the Middle
Passage), the text points toward a refashioned vision of "blackness,"
tied neither to a particular concept of sexuality nor to phallocentric
ideologies of manhood and gender roles.
Scott is an assistant professor of English with an emphasis
in African-American literature, fiction writing, lesbian/gay
and queer studies.
"'To be or not to be American:'
African-American Boxing in Interwar France"
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
The celebration of African-American boxing figures in France
during the interwar period is starting point for this discussion
of how French perceptions of African-Americans were differentiated
from African performers. Dr. Bloom will discuss the intersecting
itineraries of Jack Johnson, Battling Siki, and Panama Al
Brown, and their integration into the boxing and music hall
culture. He will address the question of how African-American
figures were appropriated in France as a more creative kind
of American: Jack Johnson's boxing style was a source of inspiration
for the French Dadaist poet Arthur Cravan (1992), and Panama
Al Brown was an icon for the French Surrealists. Battling
Siki, a French colonial subject born in Senegal and brought
up in Marseilles, became persona non gratis in France after
defeating Georges Carpentier, the French middle-weight champion,
in a fixed match that he was supposed to lose. "To be
or not to be American," a Dadaist credo, suggests a French
interwar fascination with African-American style, movement,
and music in opposition to the colonial African subject.
in French and francophone cinema and society, Dr. Bloom's
interests range from the development of international film
technologies at the turn of the twentieth century to contemporary
film and media in Europe and Africa. His ongoing research
examines the relationship between French colonial cinema,
the history of ethnographic film, postcolonial francophone
visual culture, and historical practices of media production.
Bring a bag lunch. Light refreshments will be served. Noon-1:30.
"Cuba, Digital Culture, and the Special Period"
January 22, 2004• Noon
Cristina Venegas is Assistant Professor in Film Studies
at the University of California Santa Barbara where she
teaches film and media studies with a focus on Latin American,
U.S. Latino media and digital technologies. Her essays have
appeared in Film Quarterly, Spectator
and in Communicare. She is currently completing
a book manuscript titled Digital Dilemma: New Media
Relations in Contemporary Cuba. Bring a bag lunch.
Light refreshments will be served.
Thursday, January 22, Noon-1:30.
"New Racial Politics in the 21st Century"
November 20, 2003 • Noon
racial abyss that split the world at the origins of the modern
age produced the political systems that still shape our lives
and world. The discovery and divulgation of the race-concept
not only forged the chains of oppression, but also gave underlying
form and structure to the concept of freedom.
of course remains a utopian goal, yet all its varieties—the
freedom of labor, of the body, of sex and gender, and most
centrally for my present purposes, the freedom of political
activity, of democracy—have their modern origins in
the struggle against racial domination. The limited but real
democracy of the present is thus a product of a vast labor:
the achievement of labor rights, of the franchise, of popular
sovereignty and freedom of expression, of national liberation
from imperial rule, of reproductive rights and women's emancipation
more generally, and of popular democracy in all its forms,
can be traced back to conflict over and about the racial divide,
conflict fundamental to the modern world's gestation and development.
post-WWII racial justice and anticolonial movements may have
been incorporated by the national and global hegemonic systems
they themselves helped create. The racial reforms they generated
may have fallen short of producing the social justice and
democracy they sought. But these movements have certainly
not failed either. They have created a new "common sense"
that clashes with white supremacy, that deeply undermines
the imperial logic of "the West against the rest,"
and that calls into question the division of the world along
North-South or West-East lines. So now what? Is democracy
still possible? Have race-consciousness and racial injustice
been driven off the political stage? Is the world regressing
to a situation like that of a century ago, when white supremacy
was taken for granted by those in power? Is the US enacting
a simulacrum of those times, living in a kind of racial Disneyland
where race is a thing of the past, where the happy pirates
can at last frolic again, undisturbed, on the Caribbean beach?
the bombs rain down once again on impoverished countries of
the global South (and global East). A quarter-century after
we thought that the age of imperialism was finally over, dreams
of empire have been revived. Meanwhile the opposite dream,
Dr. King's dream, of an inclusive and peaceful US society
(and world society) seems to have gone up in smoke. In the
US, state policy is being made by corporate predators, religious
fanatics, and militarists. Society's vulnerable groups—the
chief inheritors of the legacies of conquest, slavery, and
imperialism—are being left to their own devices.
Much of that power, and a great deal of that greed, are framed
in racial terms. This is the problem of the 21st century racial
rule: not the problem of the color line, but the problem of
how the color-line can be both affirmed and denied, simultaneously
reinforced and undermined. This is also the problem of 21st
century movements for racial democracy: how to affirm racial
identity/difference without reifying it; how to oppose racism
without restricting racial autonomy.
prominent commentator on the role of race in society, Prof.
Winant's books include The World is a Ghetto: Race and
Democracy Since WWII, Racial Formation in the United
States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, and Racial
Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons.
for Thought lectures are hosted in the Center for Black Studies,
4603 South Hall. Bring a lunch; drinks and light snacks provided.
Nourish your body and mind!
Herbert M. Cole
"The Politics of Maternity:
Mother & Child Imagery in African Arts"
Wednesday, October 22, 2003 • Noon
talk samples the forms and meanings of 3000 years of compelling
African Mother and Child imagery. Spiritually or politically
significant in nearly all cases, the maternity icon has diverse
roles in such realms as education, divination, social protest,
and cosmology. The talk will contrast earlier traditional
patriarchal images, such as the Queen Mother from Cameroon
(left) with contemporary art, by mothers, that explores "maternal
subjectivity"—what it means to bear and raise children
in a male-dominated culture.
for Thought lectures are hosted in the Center for Black Studies,
4603 South Hall.
Albert Jordy Raboteau
Politics of Religion and Social Justice"
Thursday, October 2, 2003 • Noon
Albert Jordy Raboteau is Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion,
Princeton University. He is the author of Slave
Religion, A Fire in the Bones,
Canaan Land, and A