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.
Jorge L. Giovannetti is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Puerto Rico, where he is also affiliated with the Institute of Caribbean Studies, serving as Book Review Editor of the journal Caribbean Studies. A former British Academy Scholar, he has held visiting appointments at London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom and Princeton 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. More recently he has made research incursions into the sociology of slavery, the public representation of the slave past, and the intellectual history of anthropology during and after the Second World War. He is also interested in the sociology of fear and racial and ethnic violence. In recent years, he has made consistent efforts to intervene publicly on issues of social, cultural, and political significance through newspaper columns in Puerto Rico Daily Sun, El Nuevo Día, Claridad, and Diálogo.
Giovannetti is currently revising a book manuscript tentatively entitled “Black British Subjects in Cuba” for its publication and working on a new collaborative project on the anthropology of the Caribbean after the Second World War.
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The seminars are only available to the Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. To register, please contact Shelby Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org.