Memory and Performance in African-Atlantic Futures: Call for Papers

 Three-Day International Conference

At a time when new dynamics are emerging around the issues of justice (transitional, reparative, etc.), mourning and commemoration in Africa and its diaspora, the conference “Memory and Performance in African-Atlantic Futures” seeks to consider the current historical conjuncture and the extent to which it reveals new questions about memory in the historical, temporal and social contexts of slavery and imperialism. We invite scholars, artists, curators and other professionals within fields as varied as literature, theater and the performing arts, visual art, history, law, anthropology, cultural studies, to engage in a conversation around the dynamics of memory within the historical framework of African-Atlantic slavery and colonialism and the political, aesthetic and epistemological specificities that they engage in the current moment. We hope to underscore how these dynamics, too often overlooked in the critical and theoretical sites of memory studies, are currently shaping, reshaping and (re)mediating the global flows of memory.

We propose two main axes of investigation:

Shapes and forms of memory

How do we think the forms and effects of the enfleshed, material memories of slavery, colonialism and their afterlives and the ways in which these are enlisted in the spaces of performance, be they physical (theater, dance, ritual, oral performance, etc.) or textual (the different performative manifestations of the written word)?

This question necessarily involves a consideration of how African diaspora time-senses fashion modes of performance of memory and how oral and ritual performance forms impact, shape, record and encode memory in the context of colonial violence. Can African and diasporic forms of embodied memory become tools that combat imperialism? How can the performance of post-slavery/ post-Empire memory shed new light on Western theories of memory that emerge from Holocaust studies or on Western theories of haunting, trauma and mourning?

Epistemologies of memory

What challenges do African diasporic modes of memory bring to Euro-Western epistemologies of justice, history, and the human? How does postcolonial memory call into question the social deployment of memory within the nation and across nations? At a time when the movement for reparations for slavery in the African diaspora is achieving unprecedented momentum, we invite contributions that question settled understandings of the triad of time, history and justice and those that address postcolonial engagements with memory through “corrective” performance practices of justice, “truth-telling” and witnessing. Additionally, in considering institutional marginalization, suppression, and exclusion of postcolonial memories, we seek contributions about practices that challenge the order of remembrance in official commemorations, museums, schools, archives and discourses.

Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • institutions of memory
  • memory and the law
  • memory and reparations
  • memory and colonial enlightenment
  • memory and ‘the human’
  • new “problem-spaces” and memory
  • memory and futures
  • Vodou and futures
  • Black Speculative Arts Movement and futures
  • ritual performance and futures
  • decolonizing memory
  • decolonizing the museum
  • decolonizing the curriculum
  • citation as a politics of memory

Presentations should last no longer than 20 minutes.

Submission Guidelines

Abstracts in English of no more than 300 words should be sent to by Friday, March 2, 2018. Please send abstracts in PDF or Word format, accompanied by the title of the paper and a short biography. ­­­­­­

We also welcome proposals for complete panels, which should consist of three presenters. Panel proposals should not exceed 500 words and should be accompanied by short biographies of each of the presenters.

The organizing committee will communicate acceptance decisions no later than March 9. Please consult the conference website, where further details will be posted.

Conference Conveners

Dr. Jason Allen-Paisant (University of Leeds)
Prof. Maxim Silverman (University of Leeds)

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Dr. Louise Bernard (Museum of the Obama Presidential Center)
Prof. Lubaina Himid (University of Central Lancashire)
Prof. Tavia Nyong’o (Yale University)
Prof. Adam Sitze (Amherst College)
Dr. Chokri Ben Chikha (Royal College of Fine Art, Ghent)

Inquiries should be addressed to Dr. Jason Allen-Paisant.