Black Perspectives Publishes Online Forum: "Researching, Teaching, and Embodying the Black Diaspora"

Historians in the News
tags: teaching, African American history, academia, research, Black Perspectives, Black diaspora

Charisse Burden-Stelly is an Assistant Professor and Mellon Faculty Fellow of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College. She is a scholar of radical Black critical and political theory, political economy, and intellectual history.

Crystal M. Moten is a historian who specializes in 20th-century United States and Women’s/Gender History with a specialization in African American Women’s History. Her research examines Black women’s struggles for economic justice in the 20th-century urban north.

"From May 22-24, 2019, a group of scholars from liberal arts colleges throughout the country gathered at Carleton College for a workshop titled, “Teaching, Researching, and Embodying the Black Diaspora at Elite Liberal Arts Colleges.” Organized by Drs. Crystal Moten, Chipo Dendere, and Charisse Burden-Stelly, this workshop aimed to interrogate a host of issues that permeate Black study, Black Studies, and the Black diaspora in the context of the United States academy generally, and elite liberal arts colleges particularly.

In an era constituted by color-blind discourse and post-racialism on the one hand, and racial terrorism and resurgent white nationalism on the other, it is more important than ever to research, study, and teach about the Black diaspora. As the demands of student activists on liberal arts college campuses throughout the country suggest, the presence of Africana students, faculty, and curricula are currently lacking, but are desperately desired. The need for such content — and those who can teach it — goes beyond often-hollow rhetoric about “diversity” and “inclusion”; students are deeply concerned about the gap in their education regarding the racial implications of phenomena including structural dispossession, the global maldistribution of resources, political disenfranchisement, and cultural imposition and appropriation. In addition, they are keenly interested in the ways that the latter have been contested, challenged, and rejected by those racialized as Black wherever they are located. In short, as a heuristic, the Black diaspora reveals power relations nationally and globally; pressing social, political, and economic issues; the manifold manifestations of anti-Blackness; and current and historic struggles for empowerment, equality, and self-determination.

However, this content is not unanimously supported. Professors who engage in this sort of research, especially when it is linked to struggles for social transformation beyond the academy, have been targeted by white supremacists, right-wing media outlets, and even by some college and university administrators. Less hostile faculty and students have nonetheless suggested that such content is too controversial, divisive, or irrelevant to an ostensibly equal society. A dearth of Black faculty, institutional support, and resources present other barriers to teaching, researching, and studying the Black Diaspora at elite liberal arts colleges.

Thus, through a combination of panel discussions, facilitated sessions, and open dialogue, the workshop engaged questions including the following: what does it mean to teach about the Black diaspora at predominantly white, elite liberal arts colleges that tend to have a very low percentage of Black students and faculty? What are the ethical and moral responsibilities of non-Black persons teaching about the Black diaspora in these spaces? Are there pedagogical and epistemological approaches that should be used when teaching this content to white, often affluent, students? How can liberal arts administrators strive to recruit and retain Africana faculty to ensure that this content is represented on their campuses? And finally, what are the resources and relationships available that can help to support and sustain research on and the study of the Black Diaspora?



Articles in the online forum organized by Drs. Charisse Burden-Stelly and Crystal Moten include: 

Ultimate Stakes and Realities: Program Building and the Future of Black Studies by John E. Drabinski

Ancestors and the Ivory Tower: Reflection on Keynote by Andrea Stone

Gender, Blackness, and the Oppression Olympics by Jesús Gregorio Smith

Putting Ego Aside: Strategies for Building Inclusive Black Academic Spaces by Kantara Souffrant 

Faces at the Bottom of Ivory Tower’s Well: Forum Keynote by Christopher Tinson

Teaching While White by Alice Reagan

Politics and Power: Securing Resources for Black Study by Rose M. Brewer



Read entire article at Black Perspectives

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