Free to Be Anywhere in the Universe: An International Conference on New Directions in the Study of the African Diaspora

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Date & Time: 
Thursday, April 25, 2019 12:15pm


IRAAS 25th Anniversary Conference“Free to Be Anywhere in the Universe: An International Conference on New Directions in the Study of the African Diaspora

Conference dates: Thursday, April 25 – Saturday, 27, 2019

Conference Locations: The Forum at Columbia University & Columbia University’s Faculty House & Leroy Neiman Gallery at Dodge Hall

Free & Open to the Public;
Registration is Required for Admission into The Forum, secured building




Ford Foundation Logo

Humanities NY Logo

Humanities New York Vision/Action Grant




Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University
Barnard College Department of Africana Studies
Columbia University School of the Arts
Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research at Columbia University




Thursday April 25
Location: The Forum at 125th street

12:00pm – Noon – 2:00pm
Roundtable – From Theory to Praxis, Black Studies Beyond the Academy
This roundtable seeks to connect some of the fundamental work of IAC alums whose grounding in IRAAS has made significant impact on their work outside the academy.  It seeks to highlight the social justice, political, governmental, medical, and educational work our alums are doing, especially around race, inequality, and justice.  Panelist, will also dicuss past programs and initiatives that continue to influence their current work.

2:00pm – 2:15pm - BREAK

2:15pm – 4:15pm
Intellectual Legacies of IRAAS Scholarship
This session will highlight the leading scholarship by IRAAS alums whose work engages the various fields and subfields of Black/African American Studies. Panelists will connect their work to new paradigms and innovations for the future of  Black Studies.  It will also highlight the legacy and influence of IRAAS on their current work and placement in the academy.

4:15pm – 5:00pm – LOCATION CHANGE Faculty House on Columbia Campus at 116th Street (Amsterdam Avenue & Morningside Drive)
Enter through small Iron gate midblock, next to Jerome Greene Hall. Walk straight back past the Wein courtyard  and the Faculty House is on the right

5:00pm – 6:00pm
South African Artist, Mary Sibande Pre-Exhibition Talk

6:00pm – 8:00pm
Mary Sibande Exhibition Opening – Leroy Neiman Gallery, Dodge Hall (Near 116th Street & Broadway gate )

Friday April 26
Location: The Forum at 125th street

10:00am – 11:45am
Genealogies of Black Studies
This session examines distinct and overlapping genealogies of Black Studies. It brings together leading scholars who work in different iterations of Black/African American Studies. Panelists will draw upon their pathbreaking scholarship to speak about trajectories of Black Studies in their own subfields.

11:45pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 3:00pm
Diasporic Politics
What are the emerging forms of social solidarity and activism now taking shape across the African diaspora in the wake of neoliberal economic policies, trans-border migrations, climate change and un/natural disasters, and the rise of white, ethno-nationalisms in North America and Europe?  How do we think the concepts of African diaspora and Black World while attending to the differing spatial scales at which diasporic communities are imagined, and the varying interests and projects that they serve?

3:00pm – 3:15pm

3:15pm – 5:00pm
The Theoretical Turn

The significance of “theory” has long been a question for scholars who locate themselves in relationship to the interdisciplinary field of African American and African Diaspora Studies. At the same time, one could argue that black studies constitutes a theory of the modern world, and of how to produce knowledge in the wake of modernity’s central contradictions (i.e. of slavery and freedom). That said, in recent years Black Studies has been enlivened by engagements with a variety of theoretical resources that have yielded multiple trajectories (i.e Afro-Futurism, Afro-Pessimism, Black Performance, Black Queer studies, to name just a few). This panel is charged with assessing the resources and weighing the prospects for future work within what some have referred to as a novel “theoretical turn” in Black Studies.

5:00pm – 6:30pm

6:30pm  – 8:15pm
with Filmmaker & Cinematographer, Arthur Jafa

Saturday April 27
Location: The Forum at 125th street

10:00am – 11:45am
Black Urban Life
Scholars in this transdisciplinary panel will explore the multivalent socio-spatial contours of Africa and the African Diaspora, in particular how black agency, politics, humanity and mobility across the topographies formed in the wake of colonialism, enslavement, capitalism, and liberal democracy impact life in the black world. In addressing the nuanced spaces of communal, urban, national, and planetary life, panelists will also consider how to best understand the productive spatio-temporal possibilities of new black imaginaries, cartographies of resistance and refusal, and diasporic community building.

11:45pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 3;00pm
Global Black Feminisms

Concepts of black feminism have informed and helped to reshape fields of academic study as well as political organizing. The proposed panel seeks to present a historical sweep of black feminist thought and practice. Participants might consider a number of questions including, but not limited to the following: How do historical legacies of race, gender and justice shape mass incarceration today? How have black women intellectuals participated in shaping black political thought? How has their participation in global freedom struggles furthered the vision of those movements, including what we conventionally understand as movements for Civil Rights? In what ways do contemporary forms of racial and gender inequality influence professional occupations? How has a black feminist framework informed contemporary black cultural production?

3:00pm – 3:15pm - BREAK

3:15pm – 5:00pm
Imaging Freedom
This panel considers socio-spatial imaginaries and the active visualization, definition, and construction of artistic freedoms. What roles do literature; music, the visual arts and popular culture play in imagining and articulating trans-diasporic expressions of subjectivity, experience and memory? How do we today theorize the conditions of possibility for an African Diasporic aesthetic, while attending to cultural, historical and geopolitical differences?

5:00pm – 6:30pm –
***Change of Venue***

6:30pm  – 8:15pm
Closing Keynote Performance.
Doors 6:30PM, Event starts at 7:00PM

Location Change : The Harlem Stage 150 Convent Avenue New York, NY, 10031

Closing Keynote Performance:  Vocalist, Composer, Cultural Worker & IRAAS Alumna, Imani Uzuri

"Come On In The Prayer Room"
Imani Uzuri presents a special immersive (work-in-progress) performance entitled "Come On In The Prayer Room", inspired by visual artist, street preacher, mystic and musician Sister Gertrude Morgan's (April 7, 1900-July 8, 1980)  “all white” (artifacts, walls, funiture and clothes) Prayer Room which was located in the front room of her New Orlean’s Lower Ninth Ward home (that she christened the Everlasting Gospel Mission). She ran prayer services there from 1965 until her death. In this ritual performance, Uzuri explores the interstitial, liberating and transformational nature of spirituality, social practice, prayer and sound embedded within African-American and African Diasporic prayer practices.

You can find out more about Imani Uzuri’s work at