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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'Life in Marvelous Times' : Cultural Work in the Racial Present Conference

'Life in Marvelous Times' : Cultural Work in the Racial Present, A Race/Knowledge Project Conference will take place Friday, May 14, 2010 at the University of Washington, Seattle. Graduate students and university faculty are encouraged to apply. Proposal deadline: February 8, 2010.

'Life in Marvelous Times' : Cultural Work in the Racial Present Conference
In the 2009 single "Life in Marvelous Times," Mos Def declares that "we are
alive in amazing times." The lyrical images that follow those opening
lines, the sleeve artwork, and the fan-made video Mos Def chose to represent
the song suggest that the meaning of "marvelous" and "amazing" must be read
as multiple; they must be read to mean both "excellent" and "great" but also
"to cause wonder," "to astonish," and "to bewilder." According to Mos Def,
we must be amazed and marvel at how "basic survival requires super heroics";
we must be amazed and marvel at the "delicate hearts" and "diabolical
minds," at the "revelations, hatred, love and war." Taking a cue from Mos
Def, The Race/Knowledge Project understands the racial present as one of
these marvelous times. This is a moment marked both by seemingly intractable
political stalemates and by possibilities for large-scale transformation; by
dispossession, displacement and unchecked accumulation and by new
mobilities, movements and coalitions which seek to counter those formations;
and by the incivility of political discourse and by the widespread
acknowledgment of the fraudulent nature of those discourses and their claim
to represent "public" good. We marvel at the horror; we marvel at the
possibility. We marvel at the crisis, the beauty, the apathy, and the
critical potential.
This conference is premised on the understanding that cultural workers like
Mos Def help us to comprehend and re-think these "amazing" and "marvelous
times." We especially marvel at how literature, music, performance, film,
television, visual art, and all cultural production work to theorize,
actively (re)produce, and shape this racial present. Though much cultural
knowledge is assumed to be theorized and disseminated through the academy,
cultural workers occupy multiple locations that generate insightful and
invaluable criticism of these "marvelous times." Cultural work, then, allows
us to ask different questions about political identities, radical
coalitions, cultural/social critique, and political emancipation across
disciplines, institutional boundaries, and the divisions constructed between
"activist," "academic," and "community" work. The broad questions driving
this conference include: How does the marvelous erupt in culture and become
politically meaningful? What counts as cultural work? What are the
different ways cultural work addresses race, social justice, gender,
sexuality in an era of global capitalism? What is the relationship between
cultural production and social mobilization?
The Race/Knowledge Project situates the concerns of this conference within
global histories of decolonial struggle. In doing so, we position our
inquiries within the legacies of social struggles that considered culture
and cultural politics to be key vehicles of institutional and political
contestation. In these terms, we recognize the university as a site of
racial dominance and systemic inequality, as well as a terrain of social
struggle. As such, we understand that a critical focus on culture asks us to
not only challenge the content of academic knowledge production, but also
its institutional rituals and forms. Understanding the conference format as
one such ritual of knowledge production, we seek submissions that disrupt
the line between the study and production of culture, and put into question
both the forms and contents with which we know our "marvelous times."
In addition to university faculty and graduate students, we strongly
encourage submissions from undergraduate students, artists, performers and
other cultural workers, activists, and organizers, both in and outside of
the university, as well as from K-12 teachers.
Possible topics may include but are not limited to the following:
. cultural workers, cultural work and cultural politics in "marvelous times"
. race/racialization in its shifting articulations with gender, sexuality,
class, ethnicity, nationality and transnationality
. racism and anti-racist praxis in the context of "neoliberal
multiculturalism" and the ="colorblind present"
. Women of Color and materialist feminisms and the work of culture
. racial nationalisms and the state
. migrations, the violence of borders, and border thinking
. links between university sites, local/global activisms and performance
. anticapitalist struggles in the racial present
. racialized and gendered labor in regimes of "globalized" capital
. Queer of Color critique and cultural production
. the prison-industrial complex, immiseration, and the "new abolitionism"
. neocolonialism and decolonial struggle at "home" and "abroad"
. intellectual and activist labor with/against academic work
. racial democracy and fascism
. state violences and social movements
. whiteness, property, and (new) racial histories
Possible session formats may include but are not limited to:
. critical dialogues/roundtables between cultural workers, activists,
academics, and educators
. performances and performance-based workshops
. collaborative, multi-format presentations
. facilitated workshops or dialogues on topics related to the above
. readings followed by discussion
. visual presentations, art installations or film screenings
. short-format film plus interactive dialogue
. paper presentations
. workshops on anti-racist/anti-oppression pedagogy (community-based, K-12
and university level)
. planned collaborative reading and discussion of particular texts or
Please email proposals (of no more than 250 words) and equipment needs to
rkp9@uw.edu by February 8, 2010.