Faculty-Graduate Seminar

The Faculty-Graduate seminar is an intimate intellectual community that comes together to discuss work in progress around a common theme across a wide range of disciplines. 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. Each meeting lasts one hour and twenty minutes followed by dinner. Given these goals and the limited meeting space, we will be accepting only twelve (12) 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. Participation in the African American Studies’ Faculty-Graduate Seminar for one academic year or the equivalent (two semesters) will fulfill one of the requirements for the AAS Graduate Certificate

Enrollment for this seminar is now closed. If you have any questions, please contact Dionne Worthy.


Upcoming Sessions

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Interior of the First Baptist Church, where passengers on the Freedom Ride have taken refuge from the violence that met them at the Greyhound Bus Station, in Montgomery, Alabama, 21st May 1961. The church had been besieged by a crowd who had threatened to set fire to the building. (Photo by Express/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)


Black Movement:: Black Stillness

This year-long seminar explores quiet, rest, imagination, and play as essential for Black aliveness. What does it mean to imagine Black culture beyond resistance, Black labor buoyed by leisure, Black thought marked by hesitance, Black movements rooted in stillness? We take up these questions in light of Kevin Quashie’s contention in The Sovereignty of Quiet: “Blackness is always supposed to tell us something about race and racism, or about America, or violence and struggle and triumph or poverty and hopefulness. The determination to see blackness only through a social public lens, as if there were no inner life, is racist… and it practically thwarts other ways of reading.” So let us read otherwise.

In reflecting on the relationship between Black movement and stillness, we will consider how labor struggles are, at once, rest struggles. Here, we will take up Tricia Hershey’s critique of grind culture as we question the idea that the purpose of rest is to “recharge” and “refuel” to produce more "output to capitalism.” Engaging Black childhood studies, we will reckon with how play and games are no less important than education and study, and we will reflect on how celebrations of “Black excellence” can obscure Black exhaustion, vulnerability, and disability. As we consider the chronic weathering of Black bodies, we will investigate the importance of sleep and other forms of rest for intergenerational healing. Sleep deprivation, after all, is dream deprivation. But we will insist on dreaming… as the basis of collective organizing and intimate worldmaking.

Taken together, this series is experimental as much as interdisciplinary — practicing, playing, and imagining alongside a wide range of scholars, artists, and activists. If, as Toni Cade Bambara cautioned, “not all speed is movement,” then this seminar invites a slower approach to thinking and being in and beyond the academy.

Hobson-Rogers Seminar Room, 104 Morrison Hall
All sessions begin promptly at 5:00 PM

Fall 2023

Spring 2024



Black Speculative Futures

This seminar investigates the enduring interplay between speculation and Blackness. In recent years, speculation has emerged as a key term in Black and African American Studies with speculation emerging as the site where Blackness gets refracted, refined, and (re)imagined. Speculation, Saidiya Hartman reminds us, activates a methodological approach to reading and writing Black histories that both evade and are erased from the historical record. But speculation is also the economic engine of racial capitalism and a mode of creative dissent and art making. Taking up this capacious understanding of speculation and the speculative, this seminar will explore how writers, scholars, artists, and cultural producers across historic periods mobilize speculation as an analytic, a creative praxis, and an interventionist strategy. Over the course of this year-long seminar, we will investigate various iterations of speculation – creative, financial, economic, methodological – and the forms it takes. We will place questions of speculation at the center of our discussion of  public policy, histories of racial capitalism, aesthetics, performance, and literary genre. How, we will ask, do those figures who are made to secure exploitative systems of economic and ideological values forecast alternative civic and social futures? And how has speculation emerged as extractive economic practice and an insurgent praxis? This series will bring together scholars, artists, and writers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, all of whom think diversely about speculation in their work, their method, and their practice.

Fall 2022

  • September 21 / Information Session
  • September 28 - Monica Huerta (Princeton University)
  • October 12 - Justin Mann (Northwestern)
  • November 16 - Justin Leroy (Duke)
  • December 7 - Janet Neary (Hunter College)

Spring 2023


Plantation Effects: Visual Ecologies of Race, Place and Labor


Plantation Effects: Visual Ecologies of Race, Place and Labor

This seminar examines the multiple iterations of the plantation, and to draw from Katherine McKittrick, the kinds of futures it brings forth for us now. The plantation might be, to paraphrase Krista Thompson and Huey Copeland an “afrotrope” – a “recurrent visual form” that has played a key role in the formation of Black Diaspora identity and culture. We will consider its various representational formats, along with its various lives, and afterlives. As an ecological, material and economic intervention in the landscape, the plantations is a site of labor and knowledge production. It is both a form of enclosure and an extremely mobile form, a space where human and commodity flows converged, and an ecology formed through interspecies interaction. By considering these histories of the plantation – an ideological and spatial apparatus – we will think through its implications for practices of labor, experiences of the natural world, the organization of vision and, constructions of freedom as they have been formulated in African American Studies. Furthermore, across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, the plantation remains a site where alternative constructions of freedom, and otherworldly economies of knowledge, resilience and resistance formed. We will also consider how the transformations wrought by the plantation across the globe create possibilities to imagine the intimacies and particularities of time and space differently that can help us better understand the politics of race, representation and labor in our contemporary moment. Invited presenters for this seminar include scholars, writers and artists working in the fields, and intersecting geographies of Art History, History, Literary Studies, African American Studies, Creative Writing, Anthropology, Geography and the Environmental Humanities.

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Faculty Convener - [email protected]

Shelby Sinclair — Graduate Student Convener

Fall 2021

Spring 2022


Faculty-Graduate Seminar


“Writing the Impossible”: Black 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.

Reena N. Goldthree, Faculty Convener - [email protected]

Shelby Sinclair — Graduate Student Convener

Fall 2020

September 17 — Jessica Maria Johnson
October 15 — Quito Swan
October 29 — Annette Joseph - Gabriel
November 5 — Shana Redmond
November 19 — Dr. P Gabrielle Foreman & Jim Casey  

Spring 2021

February 11 — Minkah Makalani
February 18 — Lorgia García Peña
March 4 — TBA
March 25 — TBA
April 8 — Matthew J. Smith
April 22 — Jorge L. Giovannetti-Torres  


Black Design


Black Design: History, Theory, and Practice

As our media-saturated culture exhausts every possible angle of consuming race, a new generation of scholars, activists, and artists has turned to investigating the structuring conditions of how blackness is experienced in everyday life. Their interest lies in highlighting how race has served as both an invisible subject and a necessary object of design. Bringing together some of the leading figures in the emerging field of Black Design studies, this seminar examines the construction and disruption of racial “commonsense” by those whose creative and technical labor often goes unnoticed. Our work will be geared toward recovering historical precedents for and theorizing contemporary applications of Black Design. In so doing, we will take seriously Teju Cole’s recent contention that design is “not [only] an intellectual exercise,” exploring what it means to “do” Black Studies in practice-based fields such as graphic design, illustration, book arts, game design, industrial design, fashion, museum curation, art installation, urban planning, and landscape architecture.

Kinohi Nishikawa, Faculty Convener -  [email protected]

Fall 2019

October 2 — Tia Blassingame (Scripps College)
October 23 — Jerome Harris (Housing Works in NYC)
November 13 — Tanisha C. Ford (University of Delaware)
December 11, — Kortney Ryan Ziegler (Independent Scholar)

Spring 2020

February 12 — Jomo Tariku (Designer)
February 26 — Toni L. Griffin (Harvard University)
March 11 —  Sara Zewde (Studio Zewde)
March 25 — Korey Garibaldi (University of Notre Dame)
April 8 — TreaAndrea Russworm (University of Massachusetts)
April 15 — Antionette D. Carroll (Creative Reaction Lab)
April 22 —  Akira Drake Rodriguez (University of Pennsylvania)


Surveilling Blackness: Race and the Maximum-Security Society


Surveilling Blackness: Race and the Maximum-Security Society

This seminar explores the intersections of technology, surveillance, and inequality. While the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the rise of facial recognition databases have sparked calls for privacy protections and algorithmic transparency, mainstream protest generally ignores the racialized, gendered, and classed inequalities that fundamentally structure the normalization of surveillance. Blackness is a key site through which surveillance technologies are innovated, concentrated, and justified, but, as Simone Browne has noted, surveillance studies leave race in general and Blackness in particular under-theorized. Over the course of this yearlong seminar, we will situate newer algorithmic, biometric, and information technologies within the longer history of surveillance practices rooted in anti-Black domination, colonialism, and counterinsurgency. This series also explores the freedom practices of anti-surveillance and counter-surveillance, as well as technology’s role in the struggle for liberation. Invited presenters include scholars, activists, and activist-scholars working in the fields of African American studies, law, philosophy, information studies, history, sociology, and statistics.

Naomi MurakawaFaculty Convener — [email protected]

Shelby Sinclair — Graduate Student Convener

Fall 2018

Nov 8 – Hamid Khan (Stop Spying LAPD Coalition)
Nov 15 – Jordan Camp (Barnard College)
Nov 29 – Jessica Eaglin (University of Indiana Bloomington)

Spring 2019

Feb 12 – Elizabeth Hinton (Harvard University)
March 5 – Mariame Kaba (Social Justice Institute, Barnard Center for Research on Women)
April 2 – Kadija Ferryman (Data & Society)
April 9 – Virginia Eubanks (University of Albany, SUNY)
April 23 – Carla Shedd (The Graduate Center, CUNY)
April 30 – Khalil Muhammad (Harvard Kennedy School)