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© 2003
Center for Black Studies
Food for Thought Colloquium Series

Dr. Roberto Strongman
“On the Down Low?: Gay Black Closet”
Wednesday, 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.

Dr. Mireille Miller-Young
"'The 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.

Dr. Darieck Scott
"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.

Dr. Scott is an assistant professor of English with an emphasis in African-American literature, fiction writing, lesbian/gay and queer studies.



Dr. Peter Bloom
"'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.

Specializing 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. FREE.



Dr. Cristina Venegas
"Cuba, Digital Culture, and the Special Period"
Thursday, 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. FREE.


Professor Howard Winant
"New Racial Politics in the 21st Century"

Thursday, November 20, 2003 • Noon

The 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.


"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.

The 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?

Today 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.

A 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.

Food 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!


Dr. Herbert M. Cole
"The Politics of Maternity:
Mother & Child Imagery in African Arts"

Wednesday, October 22, 2003 • Noon

This 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.

Food for Thought lectures are hosted in the Center for Black Studies, 4603 South Hall.


Prof. Albert Jordy Raboteau
"The Politics of Religion and Social Justice"
Thursday, October 2, 2003 • Noon

Professor 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 Sorrowful Joy.


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