The “Blackness Unbound” working group aims to generate a vibrant and sustainable intellectual space at UCR for those engaged in the scholarly study and analysis of the complexities and multiplicities of Black Diasporas. In response to this historic moment – the Covid-19 global pandemic and international uprisings supporting the liberation work for Black Lives – the group is reframing its efforts this year to activate the politics of this exceptional present. This multidisciplinary workgroup will facilitate a year of interdisciplinary programming that will co-create conditions of possibility for a sustained, fearless community of Black Studies practitioners, in service to a thriving Black presence. In addition to facilitating activities that amplify the excellence of Black Diaspora Studies practitioners at UCR, the group will tap into the vast intellectual, creative, organizing, and professional resources on campus and our surrounding communities to galvanize institutional change that tangibly reflects and intentionally supports a liberatory Black futurity.
The title, “Blackness Unbound – Critical Black Diaspora Studies,” is meant to be a thematic container, one which provokes the unbound and multiple possibilities for engagement and discourse that exist across the UCR campus. The theme also invokes the various and diverse communities of scholars whose work addresses contemporary Black experiences via an array of analytical, artistic, and critically engaged angles. We unapologetically centralize diasporic, queer, trans, Black radical, and feminist approaches to a global-historical framing of the Black experience. We recognize the potential for collaboration with similarly aligned organizations across UC campuses and with several departments at UCR, including, but not limited to, Theater, Performance Studies, Critical Dance Studies, History, Anthropology, Media and Cultural Studies, Education, Art, Gender and Sexuality, and Sociology.
Overarching questions include but are not limited to:
- How might Black insurgent and revolutionary queer perspectives enable critiques of institutionalized discourses of diversity, and construct viable spaces for relevant interventions and creative exchanges?
- How can we cultivate Black Studies programming that critically engages social phenomena that profoundly impact experiences of Black people in the diaspora (e.g. anti-Trans violence, antiblackness and racism, death by preventable disease, disproportionate impact of Covid-19, police brutality and abolition, AIDS/HIV infection, exposure to environmental toxins, punitive schooling, and intergenerational impoverishment)?
- How can we pragmatically engage and challenge the assumed genealogies of Black radical traditions that inform contemporary Black Studies?
- How can the pedagogy and practices of Black Studies align with or be informed by the organizing labors of Black student leaders and national and international activists across the Movements for All Black Lives?
The group’s multi-pronged approach to programming includes peer-to-peer review of research and creative inquiry, faculty-led seminars, talks and workshops, mentorship and support of junior faculty with children, collaboration and mentorship with Black student leaders, and collaboration with UC groups oriented toward Diasporic Black Studies and activism. Peer-to-peer reviews will support the tenure pursuit of junior faculty and will include article and book development workshops, in addition to research presentations and studio visits. Faculty-led seminars, talks and workshops will be open to all UCR students and the larger public in order to cultivate substantive exchanges with local and regional communities. Mentorship and support of junior faculty with young children specifically, will include food drop-offs and meal prep, recognizing the additional labor Covid-19 stay-at-home orders have put upon parents. Seminars bring together members of the campus community invested in Black Studies around shared readings, participatory workshops, and small group dialogues using video conference platforms. Additionally, the invitation for participation in seminars extends to graduate students and interested UCR staff. Seminar/workshop topics include a constitutive discourse on abolition, one that is distinct from administratively-led campus initiatives, gardening and nourishing Black wellness, the positionality of blackness in multiracial or diverse spaces, the relevance and impact of performance studies and the arts in the Black diaspora, and the effects (and affects) of gendered and queer critiques of Black radicalism. Work this year will also answer some of the demands formulated in campus protests and throughout the U.S. by developing, and pressuring the administration to establish, an independent center for multidisciplinary Diasporic Black Studies on campus, preferably a department.
Convener: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson (Dance)
Anthony Jerry (Anthropology)
Imani Kai Johnson (Dance)
Natasha L. McPherson (History)
Vorris Nunley (English)
Dylan Rodriguez (Media & Cultural Studies)
João Vargas (Anthropology)
Ni’Ja Whitson (Dance)
For questions or more information, contact convener Ni’Ja Whitson at email@example.com