Mods: Work-in-Process with Jill Richards
Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 3:00pm

An Infinity of Committee Meetings: Négritude Women, Feminist Praxis, and UN Bureaucracy

Fisher-Bennett Hall, room 222

This Mods event is co-sponsored by the Gen/Sex working group and the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women.

In 1945, the Charter of the United Nations established Article 73e, a clause necessitating extensive anthropological and statistical documentation of the colonies. In the years following, Article 73e created a lasting bureaucratic tangle, spawning an archive of some 10,000 pages detailing committee meetings, sub-committees, ad hoc commissions, and other organizational bodies. Looking closely at this archive, I focus on the day-to-day functioning of the committee meeting as an administrative practice and form of knowledge production. Central to this discussion are the clerks, secretaries, and other functionaries who do not appear in the official record, including Paulette Nardal, an area expert for the Committee on Non-Self-Governing Territories, Négritude author, founder of the Martinican Women’s Union, and editor of the black feminist journal, La Femme dans la Cité. From 1945-1951, La Femme dans la Cité published regular updates on United Nations, alongside Creole legends and coverage of grassroots feminist activism in Martinique. Reading back and forth across the UN archives and La Femme dans la Cité, I reconsider the “committee meeting” as a deceptively slippery form of social life, decision-making, care work, and governmentality foundational to the development of institutional human rights and a more popular, black feminist mobilization against colonial law.

Jill Richards is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Yale University. She is working on a number of projects relating to global modernism, human rights law, citizenship, foreign policy, feminist collaboration, LGBTQ organizing, and (somewhat obliquely), young adult literature.