The Politics & Poetics of Imagination in the Black Mediterranean with SA Smythe: September 13

The Politics & Poetics of Imagination in the Black Mediterranean with SA Smythe



The Politics & Poetics of Imagination in the Black Mediterranean with SA Smythe
Thursday September 13, 2018
Dwinelle Annex, Room 126

Please enjoy the video of this event here, the summary here, and the podcast on our SoundCloud channel here

Co-sponsored by the Arts Research Center and the University of California Humanities Research Institute

Most migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea encounter the transimperial regime of Fortress Europe (under the guise of “Frontex Europa” and other border operations). In Édouard Glissant’s book Poetics of Relation, he considers a relational force in which “all the threatened and delicious things” might join one another expansively, “without conjoining, that is, without merging.” What kind of transformative space might that conjure in relation to the so-called “crisis of migration” in the Mediterranean? What kinds of imaginative poetics would such a space require? SA Smythe seeks to engage those questions with a poetic invocation that speaks to Black diaspora, cultural memory, and trans embodiment followed by a discussion of the contours of “the Black Mediterranean.” In Sister, Outsider, Audre Lorde wrote that “the future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference.” This presentation describes the potential for radical futurity and solidarity via Black Italian women’s writing and coalitional Black cultural production in the Mediterranean, historicizing the presence and politics of Blackness in Italy as aligned with the figures of the refugee, the migrant, the postcolonial subject, and the citizen. In part, Smythe will discuss “The Lampedusa Project,” an exhibition of texts, films, postcards, ephemera, and multimedia performance-based materials that were collected to trace the migrant experience through the Mediterranean. The project was organized by l’Archivio delle Memorie Migranti (the Archive of Migrants’ Memories) as a repository of material traces of those who often portrayed as voiceless or nameless with first-hand testimony, thus creating both an archive and transmedia witnessing and mattering of Black and migrant lives. Rather than existing solely as a metaphor, a fixed geography or a paradigmatic site of loss often referred to as a “wet cemetery,” Smythe reads the Black Mediterranean as a complex site of Black knowledge production, Black resistance and possibilities for new coalitional consciousness.

SA Smythe is Assistant Professor of Black European Cultural Studies in the Department of African American Studies at UCLA, currently completing the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Smythe earned a PhD in History of Consciousness from UC Santa Cruz, with designated emphasis in Feminist Studies and Literature. Smythe is currently founder and organizing member of the Queer Studies Caucus of the American Association of Italian Studies, publishing editor of THEM – Trans Literary Journal, and Associate Editor for Scarf magazine. Smythe is also a published and performing poet and an activist involved in Black queer/trans and abolitionist writing collectives in London, Bologna, Berlin, and currently Los Angeles. Their academic book manuscript is Crisis and the Canon: Rethinking the Black Mediterranean and their second book of poetry is titled proclivity, forthcoming in 2019.

ARC’s 2018-19 program is a collaboration between ARC Interim Director Natalia Brizuela (Film & Media and Spanish & Portuguese), Tarek Elhaik (Anthropology, UC Davis), Anneka Lenssen (History of Art), Leigh Raiford (African American Studies), and Poulomi Saha (English), supported by a generous grant from The University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI).

The year’s investigations on art and critique from/in the Global South will take off with a Workshop in Mexico City (September 6-8), co-convened by Natalia Brizuela and Elena Tzelepis (University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece), organized through the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs (ICCTP) with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Mexico City workshop will take place at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) at the UNAM. More details on the Mexico City workshop can be found here

This project was supported in part by the University of California Office of the President MRPI funding MR-15-328710.