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Race Matters: Understanding a Global Crisis

Beyond Equiano: Varieties of Blackness in the Atlantic, Pacific

and Indian Ocean World

Thu., & Fri., October 29 & 30, 2015 at the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook

1008 Humanities Building


 Event Schedule (subject to change)


Thursday, October 29

11:45 am -12:45 pm Graduate Student Lunch (rsvp only)

1:00 pm          Welcome by Kathleen Wilson, Professor of History and Cultural Analysis and Theory, HISB Director

1:15 pm          Panel Presentations


Herman Bennett, History Dept, CUNY“Africans into Slaves: Sovereignty & Body Politics in the Early Atlantic”

In arguing for sovereignty’s importance in the inaugural encounters involving Africans and Europeans, “Africans into Slaves: Body Politics in the Early Atlantic” excavates a political history often obscured in framings of blackness where cultural transformations have long assumed pride of place.

Urvashi Chakravarty, English Dept, George Mason University“Drawing to Black Color: Learning Race in Early Modern England”

 This paper situates the early modern English schoolroom as a crucial space for the pedagogy and performance of early modern race. In their reception of the Latin languages and literatures of blackness, I argue that early modern schoolboys mediated and molded contemporary conceptions of color and its relationship to race, slavery, and family.

  James Sweet, History Dept, University of Wisconsin Beyond Equiano: ‘Seeing’ African Intellectuals in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World”

 In this lecture he will address the vexing challenge of writing intellectual bio-graphies of Atlantic Africans who lived ethno-graphically. Categories of individual, Western subjectivity often elide categories of selfhood defined by social belonging. Nevertheless, if scholars are conscious of these erasures, the biographical approach offers ripe opportunities for translations that center African ideas in the history of the Atlantic world.


3:15 – 3:30 pm           Coffee Break


James Sidbury, History Dept, Rice University “Why Does It Matter Where Equiano was Born? Thoughts About the Relationships Among the Cultures of Africa and the Cultures of the Diaspora"

 This talk uses the disputes surrounding questions about the birthplace of Olaudah Equiano to explore implications behind the different criteria scholars use when discussing cultural diversity among Africans and Europeans in the Atlantic World.

 Ashley Cohen, English Dept, Georgetown University A West Indian in Calcutta: Julius Soubise and the 18th Century's Black British Racial Formation”

 Scholarly accounts of race in the British Empire are largely—and often, exclusively—derived from histories of slavery in the circum-Atlantic world. In this paper, she use the transnational life of Julius Soubise to challenge this geographical delimitation. Soubise was brought as a child "pet" slave to England, where he eventually outgrew this role and rose to the highest circles of London's fashionable world. By 1777, however, Soubise’s time on the bon ton had run its course and caused him to flee to Calcutta, where he lived until his death in 1798.


5:00 pm          Reception


Friday, October 30, 2015

 9:30 am          Coffee

10:00 am        Welcome

10:15 am        Workshop Discussion by Panelists, SBU Faculty Interlocutors & Graduate Students

12:00 pm        Closing Remarks


Panelists Biographies:

Herman L. Bennett is a Professor in the Ph. D. Program in History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) and the Executive Officer of the Office of Educational Opportunity & Diversity Programs.  He just completed a new book, Soiled Gods: Africans & Sovereign Power in the Early Atlantic (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press).

Urvashi Chakravarty is Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. Her current book project, Serving Like a Free Man: Labour, Liberty, and Consent in Early Modern England, explores the problem of slavery in early modern English literature and culture’s iterations of “free service.”

James H. Sweet is Vilas-Jartz Distinguished Professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of two books, Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441-1770 (UNC, 2003) and Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (UNC, 2011).    

James Sidbury is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the Department of History at Rice University and the author of Becoming African in America.  He is currently at work on a study of race formation among blacks, Indians and whites during the era of the American Revolution.  

Ashley Cohen is assistant professor of English at Georgetown University. Her publications include a critical edition of Lady Nugent's East India Journal, and an article about Maria Edgworth and global labor management, which appeared in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation. She is completing a book project that excavates the political, institutional, cultural and epistemological linkages between Britain's colonies in India and the Atlantic world.