Faculty Convener: Joshua Guild
The revolution in digital technologies marking the opening of the twenty-first century has fundamentally transformed processes of knowledge production and everyday communications, presenting remarkable new possibilities for accessing and disseminating information; sharing and collaborating across space and borders; re-imagining identities and affiliations; rendering opinions and engaging in protest. Yet while digital technologies have lowered or eradicated various kinds of information barriers and made possible exciting new knowledge platforms, the social utopian potential imagined by some early theorists of the Internet age has not come to fruition. On the contrary, rather than a flattening of inequalities, the digital era has seen the transfiguration and re-inscription of ideologies of racial difference. It has also given rise to new modes of surveillance and policing, which disproportionately affect minority subjects. In addition, this period has been characterized by market-driven attempts to remake higher education through technology in ways that, among other things, threaten to undermine academic labor and call into question the fundamental value of humanistic inquiry — including the critical study of race, class, gender and sexuality.
How might scholars, artists, and others working in, and inspired by, the black studies tradition respond to the interlocking opportunities and challenges presented by the digital revolution?
“Black Studies in the Digital Age” aims to be a space to think critically and creatively about the study of race generally — and African American and African diaspora studies specifically — in this era of momentous technological transformation. The seminar will be equally concerned with theory and practice. Invited presenters will include scholars theorizing race in the context of an array of digital technologies and media. They will be joined by academics and other practitioners developing innovative digital projects that are redefining traditional modes of scholarship, archival practice, and modes of public engagement.
Among the themes we hope to consider over the course of the year:
- Black studies and the digital humanities
- Digital cartographies of race
- Race and social media
- Technologies of the archive and the preservation of the black past
- Race, surveillance, privacy, and “big data”
- Black counter-publics and alternative public spheres
- Technology and black creativity
The Center for African American Studies (CAAS) Faculty-Graduate seminar is an intimate intellectual community. Our goal is to establish a small but intellectually diverse and committed group of scholars who will attend all meetings and engage in sustained discourse during the year. Given these goals and the limited meeting space, we will be accepting only ten (10) graduate students into each semester’s seminar. We encourage graduate students to commit to both semesters and preference for spring registration will be given to students engaged in the fall seminar; participants will be paid a small stipend.