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.
Shana L. Redmond is an interdisciplinary scholar of music, race, and politics. Prior to receiving her combined Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University, Redmond studied Music and African American Studies at Macalester College where she trained as a vocalist. Throughout her education and career, music has been at the center of her thinking—as subject, agent, and method—and activates her research and teaching interests in racial formation, political cultures, nationalism, labor, and decolonization. Her focus has been to understand the ways in which music is used as a strategy within the liberation politics and social movements of the African world.
She is the the author of Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora (New York University Press, 2014), which is an interdisciplinary cultural history that tracks the songs that organized the modern Black world. Her most recent book, Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson (Duke University Press, January 2020), develops the theory of “antiphonal life” in order to track Robeson’s sonic travels, form, and animation throughout the twentieth century. Redmond is currently at work on two books: the first, The Song that Saved the World, interrogates aid music and racial benevolence, while the second, The Next Jubilee, tracks the possible impossible in Black music. She is the series co-editor for “Phono: Black Music and the Global Imagination” with the University of California Press and an editorial board member for the “Music and Social Justice” series with the University of Michigan Press. She is also a contributor to and co-editor of Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2016).is external)
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