By Dalia Griñan
PhD candidate, History, Rutgers University
On November 20, RBSC and the Slavery and Freedom Studies Working Group co-hosted a three-scholar panel, “The Black Atlantic in the Age of Black Lives Matters.” To learn more about the work of the panelists visit their websites linked below.
Nathalie Batraville, Assistant Professor, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University
Christopher Freeburg, Professor and University Scholar, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Associate Professor of Musicology & Ethnomusicology, Boston University
There is a current across some Black scholarship and activism that operates around the act of unsettling paradigms that are assumed to be fixed. In the global Black Lives Matter uprisings of 2020, the paradigms in question are the police (as enforcers of “safety”) and the carceral state (as an appropriate vehicle of punishment and reform). In Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993), the paradigms are modernity and the nation-state as they are typically conceived. Through his critiques, Gilroy speculated on the counter-modernity of Black cultural production, the limits of racial or cultural “purity,” and non-belonging—or elsewhere-belonging—of Black subjecthood. Employing the literal and metaphorical significance of ships, his book discussed the Atlantic as “a continent in negative” around which people, ideas, and expressive culture circulated as a result of transatlantic slavery and its legacy. Gilroy’s ideas around diasporic intimacies have felt all the more tangible this year as we have witnessed not just massive movements of solidarity, but the parallel perils faced by Black people across nations. RBSC and the Slavery and Freedom Studies Working Group’s co-hosted event, “The Black Atlantic in the Age of Black Lives Matter,” invited scholars to link these historic intellectual and political developments. Reading Gilroy’s writing alongside their own areas of scholarship, Nathalie Batraville, Michael Birenbaum Quintero, and Christopher Freeburg pulled ideas forward from The Black Atlantic into our contemporary moment.