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Revising the Black Atlantic: African Diaspora Perspectives

STIAS Workshop

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An international colloquium

Published in 1993, Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness is unarguably one of the seminal critical texts of the twentieth century. Simultaneously repositioning and advancing established global race studies, it has contributed significantly to foregrounding and complicating (interpretations of) black epistemology and cultural ontologies. Yet, significant criticisms of the concept of the Black Atlantic(Patterson and Kelly 2005, Zeleza 2005) have highlighted a conceptually limited focus on Africa that has not just perpetuated the ideological marginalisation of the continent. Exposing “the very narrow and particular way in which Africa is used, signified” (2012) in this respect, Michelle M. Wright has more recently noted the ways in which, premised on a “linear progress narrative” (2015), canonical Black Atlantic studies tend toward reinstating normative and patriarchal, exclusory hierarchies of blackness.

Black AtlanticIn line with global south decolonial imperatives, this colloquium attempts to problematise and extend the traditional focus of the Black Atlantic to include African Diaspora perspectives on blackness. Foregrounding the continued contributions, primarily of literature(s) and philosophy in this regard, the colloquium will probe the limits of the Black Atlantic, conventionally conceived. Emphasising a revisionary, ‘Africanist’ focus in this regard, the event aims to realign (contemporary) African ideologies and materialities for more inclusive and expansive global understandings and visions of blackness.

Bringing together established and emerging scholars in the field of Humanities and the Social Sciences, the colloquium encourages comparative, transatlantic/transnational/transcultural readings of the Black Atlantic that complicate and enhance established views of blackness and Africa. Thirty-minute papers addressing, but not limited to, issues of ethnicity/race, gender, sexuality, intersectionality, identity /subjectivity from any angle, are invited.

Selected papers will be peer-reviewed for a special issue in an accredited journal or edited volume and for projected publication by end 2020.

Colloquium organiser: Dr Aretha Phiri, Senior Lecturer, Department of Literary Studies in English (DLSE) and Iso Lomso Research Fellow, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa. Participation in this colloquium will be by invitation. STIAS will provide the colloquium venue, catering, local airport transfers and accommodation for up to 12 participants. STIAS welcomes home institution support for flight tickets, but will consider to cover travel costs of participants upon request.

The colloquium is supported by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) as part of Dr Phiri’s Iso Lomso research project. Please visit the project site at and the Iso Lomso homepage at for more information.

Date and time

Thursday, 10 October 2019 —
Friday, 11 October 2019

All Day​


STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre

10 Marais street

Related to this event


Iso Lomso Fellow
South Africa


This project offers a fresh, comparative, transatlantic and transnational analysis of leading African-American author, Toni Morrison’s, work on blackness through the diasporic lens of contemporary female writers of the African diaspora, Zoë Wicomb, NoViolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Taiye Selasi. The project explores how a selection of their texts speak (back) to, in order to rewrite, Morrison’s claims on race through an ‘Africanness’ that takes into account cultural- and context-specific, complexly globalised configurations of contemporary black subjectivities. Showing how their literature ‘Signifies’ upon an African- American metanarrative of blackness through an intertextual relation with, and formal revision of, her work, this project deploys the literary and culturally specific dialogic calland- response mode as its structural premise in order to suggest the stimulating ways that Morrison’s concerns around blackness are being critiqued to reflect nuanced and sophisticated, mediated and mutable, versions of African subjectivity, especially with regard to (intersectional) black female subjectivities. In this way, the project aims to offer a fresh perspective on Morrison’s work while significantly realigning contemporary African ideologies and materialities for more inclusive and expansive global visions of blackness.

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