VW Foundation Symposium: Migrating the Black Body

International Symposium

Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture

September 10-13, 2014

Schloss Herrenhausen, Hannover, Germany

Organized by:

Leigh Raiford (UC Berkeley) and Heike Raphael-Hernandez (University of Würzburg)

In Against Race, Paul Gilroy asks, “What forms of belonging have been nurtured by visual cultures?” (155).  Gilroy’s work in particular has been enormously influential as a model which understands diaspora as a set of transnational connections “rooted” in conceptualizations of common racialized experiences and “routed” through a set of “cultural and political resources black people” draw upon in their struggles against various and divergent forms of oppression.  Diaspora then is an “imagined community” that must be forged, constantly made and remade; diaspora is not perceived as a priori essence but as a process that involves labor and practice. “Through such practices,” Jacqueline Nassy Brown observes, “differently located blacks transcend national boundaries, creating a mutually accessible, translatable, and inspirational political culture that invite[s] universal participation” (“Diaspora and Desire” 75). The symposium takes up these concerns about the “making” of the African Diaspora and asks how visual forms have enacted such a mutually accessible, translatable and inspirational political culture?  In what ways have visual forms functioned as a “diasporic resource”—as raw material, as ore—among, between and within transnational black communities? (Brown, “Black Liverpool”).

The symposium brings together an international group of scholars and artists to explore the production of blackness and the black body through visual culture in the African Diaspora.  They will ask how visual media--from painting to photography, from global independent cinema to Hollywood movies, from posters and broadsides to digital media, from public art to graphic novels-- shaped diasporic imaginings of the individual and the collective self? The discussions will be interested in the multiple constellations formed by the symposium’s key terms: migration and movement; the black body; and visual culture.  The presentations range in interest in how black bodies and black images travel; how blackness itself is forged and remade through diasporic visual encounters and reimagined through revisitations with the past; and how visual technologies themselves structure ways of seeing African diasporic subjects and subjectivity.   


Nana Adusei-Poku (Hogeschool Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Mita Banerjee (University of Mainz, Germany)

Rushay Booysen (photojournalist, Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

Tina Campt (Barnard College, USA)

Kiersten Dunbar Chace (filmmaker; Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Cedric Essi (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany)

Cheryl Finley (Cornell University, USA)

Robeson Taj Frazier (University of Southern California, USA)

Sonja Georgi (University of Mainz, Germany)

Catrin Gersdorf (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Robin J. Hayes (The New School, New York City, USA)

Erica Moiah James (Yale University, USA)

Carsten Junker (University of Bremen, Germany)

Tobe Levin (Oxford University, GB; University of Maryland UC, Europe)

Alanna Lockward (Art Labour Archives, Berlin, Germany)

Amna Malik (The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, GB)

Charles I. Nero (Bates College, USA)

Irina Novikova (University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia)

Tavia Nyong’o (New York University, USA)

Sylvester Ogbechie (University of California at Santa Barbara, USA)

Joachim Östlund (Lund University, Sweden)

Marco Purpura (Independent scholar, Italy; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, December 2013).

Leigh Raiford (University of California at Berkeley, USA)

Heike Raphael-Hernandez (University of Würzburg, Germany; University of Maryland UC, Europe)

Alan Rice (University of Central Lancashire, GB)

Julia Roth (Bielefeld University, Germany)

Reginold Royston (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Karen N. Salt (University of Aberdeen, GB)

Darieck Scott (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Krista Thompson (Northwestern University, USA)

Cathy Covell Waegner (University of Siegen, Germany)

Pia Wiegmink (University of Mainz, Germany)

Lyneise Williams (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)

For further information please contact: