Unworking Dark Matters

Through collective readings, guest lectures, film screenings, and faculty and student presentations, 2016-2018 Working Research Group Recipient Unworking Dark Matters: Afro-Pessimism, Black Feminism and Poststructuralism has interfaced the Afro-pessimist, Black feminist, and poststructuralist-posthumanist thinking on embodiment, (de)subjectification, violence, human and inhuman development, and liberal democracy.

The group — co-directed by Professors Manthia Diawara (Comparative Literature; Africana Studies), Allen Feldman (Media, Culture, and Communication), and Kelli Moore (Media, Culture, and Communication) — has articulated these outlying schools of thought to engage post-civil and posthuman rights emergency zones exemplified by the violent policing of internally excommunicated and/or externally dislocated bodies traversing the concussed topologies of Ferguson-style policing, the war on terror, and the xenophobic treatment of asylum seekers.

“The screenings and artist talks considered the representation of black women in the visual arts while examining how the conceptual and technical strategies used by these millennial artists unwork the seemingly fixed categories of dark matter and maters.”

Allen FeldmanProfessor, Media, Culture and Communication, NYU

Nicole Fleetwood, Rutgers University, “State Goods: Procured Materials, Expropriated Space, and Clandestine Art Making in Prison”

“State Goods: Procured Materials, Expropriated Space, and Clandestine Art Making in Prison,”

Exhibition, “State Goods: Procured Materials, Expropriated Space, and Clandestine Art Making in Prison”

In 2016-2017, the group hosted a symposium launch and exhibition, public lecture, two workshops with graduate student participation, and a two-day conference on Black Feminist filmmakers that featured four graduate student papers on African-American mediologies traversing cinema, archival photography, and sound scapes. Below is more information regarding each event.

State Goods: Procured Materials, Expropriated Space, and Clandestine Art Making in Prison (October 14, 2016): A Symposium Launch Event and Exhibition featuring Nicole Fleetwood, Associate Professor of American Studies, Rutgers University, which explored various practices of incarcerated artists and activists to use carceral space, penal matter, and juridical papers to produce art about the U.S. prison state and its various techniques of violence.

“A Nigger Crop”: Hemp, Slavery, and Incarceration (October 28, 2016): A Talk and Student Workshop featuring Michael Ralph, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU

The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary (November 11, 2016): A Talk and Student Workshop featuring Kimberly Juanita Brown, Assistant Professor, English and Africana Studies, Mt. Holyoke College.

New Horizons in Black Feminist Visuality (April 6-7, 2017): A Film Screening and Conference, featuring the cinema and artwork of Ja’Tovia Gary, Tiona McClodden and Toyin Odutola in conversation with visual culture scholars Nicole Fleetwood and Kelli Moore and student discussants.

Each year, the Center for the Humanities sponsors Working Research Group grants to full-time faculty and graduate students at NYU. Designed to enhance the quality of research at NYU, and to promote collaboration and exchange across disciplinary lines, the Center offers these grants for faculty to lead regularly scheduled meetings on topics of broad humanistic concern for a period of one or two years. Emphasis is placed on allowing NYU faculty and graduate students to explore a topic of mutual concern.

Please see the Working Research Groups webpage for additional information and instructions on how to apply. The application deadline is January 28th, 2018. Note that the Center requests that each Working Research Group have co-directors drawn from at least two distinct disciplinary areas, departments, or schools at NYU and at least one co-director must be from the humanities.

Other current working research groups include: Islamic Studies, Artist Archives Initiative – Joan Jonas, Print Culture, Discard Studies, and Humanities for STEM: Using Archives to Bridge the Two Cultures. Want to know more about past recipients? Find their group details here.