'Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance' conference to be held

Susan Burlingame
September 23, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Department of African American Studies will host a conference titled “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance,” to be held Oct. 10-12 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on the University Park campus.

The conference is the culminating event of the department’s Sawyer Seminar Series, made possible by a $225,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2017. Over the past two years, several Sawyer Seminar-related events have been held, including workshops, public lectures, poetry readings, film screenings, and public conversations. The grant even supported a collaboration with the State College Area High School. 

The Mellon Foundation established the Sawyer Seminars in 1994 to support comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. Named in honor of John E. Sawyer, the foundation's long-serving third president, the Sawyer seminars intend to bring together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.

According to Cynthia Young, head of the Department of African American Studies, “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” seeks to identify and examine the ways that marginalized racial subjects in the Americas creatively, politically and intellectually disrupt the logic of disposability using practices of organized resistance and an everyday politics of refusal. 

The conference includes four keynote speakers:

— Lisa Marie Cacho is associate professor of Asian American studies, English, Latinx Studies, and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois. Cacho’s work considers racial disposability as it manifests in rhetorics of value and law. She is the author of “Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected.”

— Fred Moten is a poet and professor of English at New York University. His work resides at the intersections of black studies, performance studies, and critical theory. His recent critical trilogy features “The Universal Machine,” “Stolen Life” and “Black and Blur,” and recent poetry collections include “The Service Porch,” “The Little Edges” and “The Feel Trio.”

— Roopali Mukherjee is associate professor of media studies at Queens College. A scholar of race and public culture, Mukherjee is the author of “The Racial Order of Things: Cultural Imaginaries of the Post-Soul Era” and the co-editor of “Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times” and “Racism Postrace.”

— Eric King Watts is associate professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He researches African American rhetoric, representations of the black body, and the meanings of blackness. He is the author of “Hearing the Hurt: Rhetoric, Aesthetics, and Ethics of the New Negro Movement. 

“Just as the Sawyer seminars have, this conference will enable our department to bring leading thinkers and activists in Africana Studies right here to Penn State,” said Young. “Given the recent growth in our faculty, it’s an exciting time to think collectively about the precarious position in which blacks find themselves and forge a liberation project for the 21st century.”  

Anyone may attend the conference. To register, please visit: http://www.cvent.com/d/pyqzkr.

As part of the conference, a screening of the film “Out in the Night” will be held at the State Theatre in State College at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11. The event is free and open to the public. To attend, please register at http://thestatetheatre.org/penn-state-african-american-studies-department-presents-out-in-the-night/.



(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020