2020-2021 Faculty-Graduate Seminar: “Writing the Impossible” ft. Jorge L. Giovannetti-Torres, University of Puerto Rico

Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 4:30 pm
via ZOOM | To register, contact Shelby Sinclair at shelbys@princeton.edu.

“Writing the Impossible”: African American Studies and Critical Archival Praxis

This seminar explores approaches to archival research in the field of African American studies. Archives, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot reminds us, are not passive repositories of historical materials. Rather, the archive as an institution authorizes particular narratives about the past, while simultaneously rendering other narratives as illegitimate or even “unthinkable”. Working at the intersection of African American studies and critical archival studies, we will interrogate the archive as a site of racialized knowledge production and consider how archival sources inform historical and contemporary understandings of Black life. We will wrestle with the limitations of the archive—the silences, excesses, and (mis)representations—while also engaging with recent scholarship that addresses the methodological, theoretical, and ethical challenges of archival research in innovative ways. In doing so, we will reckon with what Saidiya Hartman characterizes as the “task of writing the impossible,” the effort to reconstruct the stories of Black people from fragmentary traces in the official record. Invited presenters for this yearlong seminar include scholars and archivists working in the fields of literary and cultural studies, anthropology, history, political science, African American studies, and digital humanities.

Learn more about 2020-2021 Faculty-Graduate Seminar 


Jorge L. Giovannetti-Torres is Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico. A former British Academy Scholar, he has held visiting appointments at London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom and Princeton University and New York University in the United States.

His field of interest is the historical sociology of the Caribbean and he has written on popular music in Jamaica and Puerto Rico and intra-Caribbean migration to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, with focus on issues of race, ethnicity, identity, and nationalism. He has also written about slavery and the public representation of the slave past and is currently researching the intellectual history of anthropology in the Caribbean after the Second World War. This last project has received grants from the American Philosophical Society and the American Council for Learned Societies. He often intervenes publicly on issues of social and political significance and on higher education in local Puerto Rican newspapers.

Giovannetti-Torres is the author of “Sonidos de condena: Sociabilidad, historia y política en la música reggae de Jamaica” (2001) and “Black British Migrants in Cuba: Race, Labor, and Empire in the Twentieth-Century Caribbean, 1898-1948” (2018, recipient of the Sterling Stuckey Prize from the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora). He also co-edited a special issue on Garveyism in the Hispanic Caribbean in the journal “Caribbean Studies” (2003) and a digital book about fieldnotes entitled “Antropologías del Caribe Hispano” (2015).

** Registration Is Required **

The seminars are only available to the Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. To register, please contact Shelby Sinclair at shelbys@princeton.edu.


Event Recording Notice: All in-person, video, and audio-based events may be recorded. By engaging in the above event, you consent to be photographed, filmed, and otherwise recorded for future department use. Participants waive all rights and any claims for payment or royalties connected with any exhibition, social media, or other publication of the materials. Please note you can hide your camera and/or mute your microphone at any time during a video and audio-based events.


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2020-2021 Faculty-Graduate Seminar: “Writing the Impossible” ft. Jorge L. Giovannetti-Torres, University of Puerto Rico

Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 4:30 pm
Location: via ZOOM | To register, contact Shelby Sinclair at shelbys@princeton.edu.

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