Deutsch Intern

VW Foundation

International Symposium

In/Visibility and Opacity: Cultural Productions by African and African Diasporic Women

Schloss Herrenhausen, Hannover, Germany

July 10-12, 2019

Organized by:

Anja Bandau (University of Hannover, Germany), Cheryl Finley (Cornell University, USA) Leigh Raiford (UC Berkeley, USA) and Heike Raphael-Hernandez (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Recent decades have seen intensifying xenophobia, growing anti-immigration rhetoric, and more and more blatant forms of neoliberal racism in many civic societies around the globe; as part of this development, we observe that especially in popular culture and the mass media, women of Global South communities are often depicted as passive victims.  Gender issues are presented in ways that allow the West to offer women the opportunity to be rescued from their oppressing “exotic” cultures.

Such representations of gendered cultural markers lead to our investigation in regard to the African-descended women and cultural productions.  The symposium’s focus will be on African and African Diasporic women’s experiences, contributions, and cultural productions in reciprocal relationship. By focusing on this reciprocal relationship, we hope to provide several methodological innovations. Our goal with such interventions is to propose a system of theoretical analysis that has not been in place regarding black women as cultural producers. Therefore, we want to ask question such as the following: Have African Diasporic and African Gender studies, when applied via theoretical frameworks that favor geographically separated approaches, hindered or fostered discourses on African-descended women’s everyday-life experiences?  How might we enrich scholarly understandings of affective work by focusing jointly on the experiences and cultural productions by African-descended women in diasporic as well as African settings? What could contribute to new knowledge and new understandings when these often seemingly separated fields approach questions together? How does a transnational awareness generate new or help nurture already existing alliances regarding local political activism?

Since these markers easily imply the danger of sensational representations, we also want to ask about the relationship between subjectivity, authenticity, and objectivity in representation. Therefore, we also ask: Who is doing the act of speaking? And who is the subject that is spoken of?

In addition, we are aware that it is no longer merely enough to say “women” without clarifying or broadening that category. That is to say, we need also to think more explicitly about how queer, trans- and gender nonconforming women of African descent challenge, expand, or modify our definitions about black womanhood and black women’s cultural productions. So, for example, how do narratives of “rescue” (non-Western women as passive victims) break down or simply do not exist when we’re talking about trans women or lesbians who don’t garner the same kinds of “sympathy” as straight & cis-women, nor do these women always qualify for refugee status? Or how is the perceived stability of nations that are based on the “masculine-feminine binary” identified by Judith Butler challenged by queer subjects? Finally, how might the work of scholars who work at the intersections of queer theory, trans theory & Diaspora studies complicate our notion of black women’s cultural productions and inspire a complex, multilayered, differently intersectional and wholly inclusive theory? 

Resulting from our group’s diverse fields of scholarship and expertise, we envision an approach to an intersectional study that is historically comparative (across different time periods), interdisciplinary (across multiple fields), and multi-sited (across different geographic locations). While we are aware of the already existing and sophisticated scholarship that has set milestones for individual aspects of these contact zones for African Diaspora Studies and African Women Studies in general, we see a need for a new and updated perspective now -- one that takes these women’s voices and their cultural productions and experiences and rigorously explores the different reciprocal contact zones in conversation with each other. We claim that the diversity of multiple geographies, economies, and histories have transatlantically influenced cultural productions of the gendered African Diaspora to a much greater extent than scholarship from individual fields has expressed so far. We based our claim on the proposition that African Diaspora Studies offer a theoretical framework that enables a mode of studying and conceptualizing black people globally, a means of interrogating the condition of movement, migration and exile of black peoples forged by racial capitalism, new world slavery, imperialism and colonialism.  Within this rubric, African Diaspora Studies also consider the process by which black peoples understand themselves as linked, imagined through culture, cultural production, and political movements. 


Karla Araya (University of Costa Rica at San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica)

Anja Bandau (University of Hannover, Germany)

Sladja Blažan (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Julien Bobineau (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Jennifer DeVere Brody (Stanford University, USA)

Maria Magdalena Campos Pons (artist, Cuba/USA)

Monica Cardim (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Alessandra Di Maio (University of Palermo, Italy)

Cedric Essi (University of Bremen, Germany)

Ubax Cristina Ali Farah (artist, Belgium)

Cheryl Finley (Cornell University, USA)

Josephine Fontaine (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Tanisha Ford (University of Delaware, USA)

Yogita Goyal (UCLA, USA)

Dominique Haensell (Free University Berlin, Germany)

Veronica Jackson (artist, USA)

Jasmine Johnson (Brown University, USA)

Molina Klinger (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Jennifer Leetsch (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Wendy Maxwell (Queen Nzinga) (artist, Costa Rica)

Mafalda Nicolas Mondestin (artist, Haiti)

Hannah Nelson-Teutsch (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Temi Odumosu (University of Malmö, Sweden)

Mutiat Oladejo (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)

Youssra Oukaf (Soultana) (artist, Morocco)

Ianna Hawkins Owen (Williams College, USA)

Kerstin Pinther (LMU München, Germany)

Annika Radtke (University of Hannover, Germany)

Leigh Raiford (UC Berkeley, USA)

Heike Raphael-Hernandez (University of Würzburg, Germany)

Paola Ravasio (University of Bielefeld, Germany)

Angelita Reyes (Arizona State University, USA)

Paula Ross (artist, USA/Germany)

Ilka Saal (University of Erfurt, Germany)

Kendra Salois (American University, Washington, D.C., USA)

Darieck Scott (UC Berkeley, USA)

Fatou Kandé Senghor (artist, Senegal)

Kathleen Sheldon (UCLA, USA)

Nina Sylvanus (Northeastern University, USA)

Barbara Webb (CUNY Graduate Center, USA)

Pia Wiegmink (University of Mainz, Germany)

Tobias Wofford (Virginia Commonwealth University, USA)

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