RCHA 2017-2019 Project: Black Bodies
The Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis will begin a new project this coming academic year on “Black Bodies,” directed by Professors Marisa Fuentes and Bayo Holsey, Rutgers Department of History.
With vital urgency and new technologies of story-telling, we daily witness black bodies in peril. From histories of slavery and discrimination to more present modes of state violence, black bodies have been figured as disposable and resistive, silenced and demanding. This RCHA Seminar, “Black Bodies,” seeks to pull together several interdisciplinary frames of inquiry about ‘black bodies’ in various times, spaces, and geographies. Attentive to the intersections/assemblages of race, gender and sexuality this seminar asks and invites questions concerning the many ways in which black bodies are subject to epistemic, historical, archival, state/non-state, biopolitical, and praxes of violence and erasure in global configurations. We will also consider how we remember, grieve, represent, signify, and reclaim black bodies and lives in a variety of contexts.
Our project pursues several questions to attend to and address black embodiment from interdisciplinary perspectives. These questions include but are not limited to: How do ‘black bodies’ come into our frames of view? In what historical and geographic contexts are black bodies legible? How does “blackness” travel globally? How do we account for systems of racialization that mark a range of non-white bodies? What are the structures, ideologies, systems, and forms of power that subject black bodies around the world to different practices and forces of violence? How can we assess the negative health outcomes, psychological traumas, and increased mortality rates that accompany racism?
This RCHA project explores how various communities of color have reckoned with the trauma of/on black bodies. It also asks: what alternative visions of black selfhood have they constructed? How do empowering experiences of embodiment involving sexuality, procreation, and physicality challenge the widespread devaluation of black bodies? What strategies, methods, and paradigms are adequate to understanding how conditions of precarity continue to threaten black bodies in public and private—in material, structural, and theoretical ways? We recognize the urgency of these questions given the increased visibility of state and other forms of violence against black bodies around the world, represented in images of gunshot-riddled African American bodies left dying on U.S. streets, victims of police violence, and African migrant bodies that wash up on European shores, the casualties of political crises and neo-liberal economic policies. We also recognize the powerful responses to this violence by activists, artists, and scholars who have reimagined black bodies in creative and meaningful ways.