Inaugural Del & Wanita Smyth lecture considers possibilities and limits of Black freedom

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) will host the Inaugural Del & Wanita Smyth Lecture on Peace, Justice and Human Security on Feb. 5 from 12 to 2 p.m. EST. “Diaspora, Humanism and the Global Project of Black Freedom” brings together Keguro Macharia, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson and Rinaldo Walcott in conversation with York University Professor Christina Sharpe to consider the possibilities and limits of Black freedom.

These influential scholars and thinkers from Canada, the United States and Kenya will discuss the ideas in their recent books: Frottage: Frictions of Intimacy across the Black Diaspora (NYU Press, 2019), Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (NYU Press, 2020), and The Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom (Duke University Press, 2021).

Frottage book cover

In Frottage, Kenyan-born author Macharia weaves together histories and theories of blackness and sexuality to generate a fundamentally new understanding of both the black diaspora and queer studies. Macharia maintains that to reach this understanding, we must start from the Black diaspora, which requires re-thinking not only the historical and theoretical utility of identity categories such as gay, lesbian and bisexual, but also more foundational categories such as normative and non-normative, human and non-human.

Becoming Human book cover

Jackson is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern California. In her book, Becoming Human, she argues that Blackness disrupts our essential ideas of race, gender, and, ultimately, the human. Through the cultural terrain of literature by Toni Morrison, Nalo Hopkinson, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Butler, the art of Wangechi Mutu and Ezrom Legae, and the oratory of Frederick Douglass, she both critiques and displaces the racial logic that has dominated scientific thought since the Enlightenment.

The Long Emancipation book coverUsing examples from around the globe, Walcott, professor in the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, argues in The Long Emancipation that wherever Black people have been emancipated from slavery and colonization, a potential freedom has been thwarted. Stating that Black people have yet to experience freedom, Walcott shows that being Black in the world is to exist in the time of emancipation in which Black people must constantly fashion alternate conceptions of freedom and reality through expressive culture.

“Diaspora, Humanism and the Global Project of Black Freedom” will be moderated by Sharpe, professor in the Department of Humanities at York University and author of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press, 2016) and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Duke University Press, 2009).

Register for the event online.