Memory and Performance in African-Atlantic Futures
31 Aug – 2 Sept 2018
University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Three-day International Conference
At a time when new dynamics are emerging around the issues of justice (transitional, reparative, etc.), mourning and commemoration in Africa and its diaspora, the conference “Memory and Performance in African-Atlantic Futures” seeks to consider the current historical conjuncture and the extent to which it reveals new questions about memory in the historical, temporal and social contexts of slavery and imperialism. For example, how do the growing calls for reparations and the urge to restructure or challenge the politics of commemoration within imperialist societies point to the emergence of new “conceptual-ideological problem-spaces” (Scott, Conscripts of Modernity) in how African-Atlantic postcolonial communities engage with historical memory? How will an analysis of these dynamics, of the gaps they point to, and of the urgencies they highlight, foster new understandings of the stakes that the particular memories of slavery and imperialism bear within the spaces marked by this history, including the imperialist societies themselves?
In tackling these questions, we wish to consider the valences of performance in the contemporary moment and the extent to which they are cross-fertilising and mediating the most urgent issues in Africa-Atlantic memory. We wish to reflect on how spaces and modes of performance – including, but not limited to, theatre, dance, literary texts, music, visual art and sports – are being used to energise both the particular and the entangled concerns of aesthetics, politics and epistemology within the memories linked to African-Atlantic colonialism and slavery. Are contemporary performances of memory, particularly those that point to African and Afro-diasporic alternatives to Euro-Western modes and models, reflecting historico-political and cognitive shifts in how the relationship between African-Atlantic pasts, presents and futures is conceived?
The three-day international conference “Memory and Performance in African-Atlantic Futures” seeks to approach these issues from a vigorously cross-/inter-disciplinary perspective. We invite scholars, artists, curators and other professionals within fields as varied as literature, theatre and the performing arts, visual art, history, law, anthropology, cultural studies, to engage in a conversation around the dynamics of memory within the historical framework of African-Atlantic slavery and colonialism and the political, aesthetic and epistemological specificities that they engage in the current moment. We hope to underscore how these dynamics, too often overlooked in the critical and theoretical sites of memory studies, are currently shaping, reshaping and (re)mediating the global flows of memory.
We propose two main axes of investigation:
Shapes and forms of memory
How do we think the forms and effects of the enfleshed, material memories of slavery, colonialism and their afterlives and the ways in which these are enlisted in the spaces of performance, be they physical (theatre, dance, ritual, oral performance, etc.) or textual (the different performative manifestations of the written word)?
This question necessarily involves a consideration of how African diaspora time-senses fashion modes of performance of memory and how oral and ritual performance forms impact, shape, record and encode memory in the context of colonial violence. Can African and diasporic forms of embodied memory become tools that combat imperialism? How can the performance of post-slavery/ post-Empire memory shed new light on Western theories of memory that emerge from Holocaust studies or on Western theories of haunting, trauma and mourning?
Epistemologies of memory
What challenges do African diasporic modes of memory bring to Euro-Western epistemologies of justice, History, and the human? How does postcolonial memory call into question the social deployment of memory within the nation and across nations? At a time when the movement for reparations for slavery in the African diaspora is achieving unprecedented momentum, we invite contributions that question settled understandings of the triad of time, history and justice and those that address postcolonial engagements with memory through “corrective” performance practices of justice, “truth-telling” and witnessing. Additionally, in considering institutional marginalization, suppression, and exclusion of postcolonial memories, we seek contributions about practices that challenge the order of remembrance in official commemorations, museums, schools, archives and discourses.
Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
institutions of memory
memory and the law
memory and reparations
memory and colonial enlightenment
memory and ‘the human’
new ‘problem-spaces’ of memory
memory and futures
Black Speculative Arts Movement and futures
ritual performance and futures
decolonising the museum
decolonising the curriculum
citation as a politics of memory
Each presentation should last no longer than 20 minutes in order to save time for questions and to ensure a smooth program.
Abstracts in English of no more than 300 words should be sent to by Friday, 2 March 2018. Please send abstracts in PDF or Word format, accompanied by the title of the paper and a short biography.
We also welcome proposals for complete panels, which should consist of 3 presenters. Panel proposals should not exceed 500 words and should be accompanied by short biographies of each of the presenters.
The organising committee will communicate acceptance decisions no later than 9 March 2018.
Dr. Jason Allen-Paisant (University of Leeds)
Prof. Maxim Silverman (University of Leeds)
Confirmed Keynote Speakers
Dr. Louise Bernard (Museum of the Obama Presidential Center)
Prof. Lubaina Himid (University of Central Lancashire)
Prof. Tavia Nyong’o (Yale University)
Prof. Adam Sitze (Amherst College)
Dr. Chokri Ben Chikha (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Ghent)
Please address enquiries to Dr. Jason Allen-Paisant.