Annual Alchemy Lecture to propose a more beautiful world


The Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities and the York University Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will host the second annual Alchemy Lecture – titled “Five Manifestos for the Beautiful World” – on Nov. 2.

Christina Sharpe close-up portrait
Christina Sharpe

The Alchemy Lecture, which launched in 2022, aims to bring together thinkers and practitioners from different disciplines and geographies to consider pressing societal issues.

For the second time, the event will be moderated by Christina Sharpe, professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University, who was recently nominated as a U.S. National Book Award finalist for her acclaimed work Ordinary Notes.

The lecture is a hybrid event and registration is now open to all.

The five lecturers, and their manifesto titles, are:

Joseph M. Pierce, “A Manifesto for Speculative Relations”

A Cherokee Nation citizen, Pierce is an associate professor at Stony Brook University, author of Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 (SUNY Press, 2019) and co-editor of Políticas del amor: Derechos sexuales y escrituras disidentes en el Cono Sur (Cuarto Propio, 2018).

His Alchemy Lecture will propose a method of restoring Indigenous forms of relation in pursuit of a possible future in which life (all life) becomes possible, in spite of the ongoing brutality of colonial infrastructure, economic extraction and historical erasure. Pierce aims for the lecture to be a prayer offered with humility and gratitude to the ancestral relations that open up speculative possibilities for bodies reverberating in good relation. It is a manifesto for landing, grounding and relating; for opening the body, in all its forms and transitions, towards an imperative mutuality.

Phoebe Boswell, “Manifesto of the As Yet Unlived Thing”

From Kenya and the United Kingdom, Boswell is an artist whose work is anchored to what she describes as a “a restless state of diasporic consciousness.”

Centred around drawing – but encompassing moving image, animation, painting, photography, sound, writing and immersive site-sensitive installation – her work explores notions of freedom, protest, grief, intimacy, migration, love, the body and its world-making, using auto/biographical stories as catalysts to contest histories and imagine futures.

Her manifesto will recount her experience in 2020 receiving an invitation to be the first artist-in-residence of a virtual museum being imagined, designed and built amidst the anxious haze of a global pandemic. It will recount the experience of considering how to make and create an imagined space where logistical restrictions would not matter and explore questions like, “What could be made in this space and in this moment, sitting at home alone, world outside collapsing, and our reliance on technology edging us towards relation to the virtual as a tangible, lived and intimate thing? What could be dreamt there? What could be realized? Where could we go and what could we do?”

Cristina Rivera Garza, “Subjunctive: A Manifesto about Language, Territory, and the Yet to Come”

From Mexico and the United States, Rivera Garza is an award-winning author of six novels, four collections of short stories, five collections of poetry and four non-fiction books. She is a Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies and director of the PhD program in creative writing in Spanish at the University of Houston. Rivera Garza is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship and a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Criticism.

Rivera Garza’s manifesto will explore the subjunctive, a grammatical tool that allows for the expression of the hypothetical, and how it can question the relationship between territory, human and non-human beings, and the worlds to come. She will discuss how, widely used in the Spanish-speaking world, the subjunctive breaks from the tyranny of the future and its many apocalyptic dead-ends by harnessing the potency of imaginings and desires half-disclosed to affect the yet to come.

Saidiya Hartman, “Crow Jane Makes a Modest Proposal to Improve Race Relations”

From the U.S., Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social UpheavalLose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route and Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. A MacArthur Genius Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow and Fulbright Scholar. She is a University Professor at Columbia University, in the Department of English & Comparative Literature. In addition to her books, she has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker and The Paris Review

Her manifesto will be what he describes as a rant in prose, a “wild impassioned shout, unwise remarks and untimely suggestions about exacerbating the current crisis and cultivating recalcitrance. It is a fabulation, a tirade about the ruins of political speech and the exhaustion of standard and habitual methods of approaching the problem.”

Janaína Oliveira, “Manifesto for Curation”

From Brazil, Janaína Oliveira is a film scholar and independent curator and professor at the Federal Institute of Rio de Janeiro and consultant for JustFilms/Ford Foundation. Oliveira has a PhD in history and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Center for African Studies at Howard University, and has focused on Black and African cinemas. She has also worked as a consultant, juror and panellist in several film festivals and institutions in Brazil and abroad.

She is the founder of the Black Cinema Itinerant Forum and was the Flaherty Film Seminar (New York) programmer in 2021 and for the Zózimo Bulbul Black Film Festival (Rio de Janeiro) from 2017 to 2021. Besides participating in other curatorial initiatives, she is part of the BlackStar Film Festival curatorial team as the documentary feature film section Chair and board of the William Greaves Fund from Firelight Media.

Her talk will consider film curatorship and its link to care, notably not only what is shown but the many layers of care involved in how it is shown and in the relationship with whom one wants to show it. It points, therefore, to the urgency of broadening the understanding and reflections of what is the film curator’s work and the possibilities of transforming the world with moving images.

The event will have a reception from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by the lecture, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre in the CIBC Lobby.

This lecture, like last year’s, will culminate in the publication of a book bearing the title of Five Manifestos for the Beautiful World in the imprint, Alchemy by Knopf.