September 12: Lee D. Baker, Duke University, “Race, Racism and the Ambivalence of Anthropology”

September 19: Rachel Watkins, American University, “A Bioanthropology of Liberation”

There is a growing body of literature within bioanthropology that historically frames the process of acquiring and processing bodies to be included in US anatomical collections as structural violence. This framing is helpful in situating these collections (and the individuals therein) within the broader history of racism enacted upon African Americans, who make up a substantial portion of these samples. However, discussions stop short of self-critical reflections on current bioanthropological research and practices involving these collections that might also reflect forms of structural violence. This is part of a broader trend minimally including US anatomical collections in discussions regarding ethical issues and community engagement that include skeletal remains with a burial context. As a result, there is a way that skeletal remains without a burial context remain situated as research subjects in a way that those with a burial context do not.

This discussion considers how the positioning of US anatomical collections reflects Blakey’s assertion that biological anthropology is minimally informed by cultural and historical literature.  Scholarship rooted in Black feminist and African American studies is used to consider how these remains can and should be repositioned for inclusion in larger discussions about race, racism and the value of Black lives taking place today. This repositioning also opens up possibilities for these collections to be a part of discussions regarding repatriation, protection and public engagement.

September 26: Mark Hauser, “Plantation Water-ways: The Politics of Water in an 18th Century Racialized Landscape”

Recent headlines about Michigan, California, and India, have disabused a public conventional wisdom that water is free of charge. Cases such as these, where human needs directly compete with institutional forces, are not new. Water, as a substance essential to production and reproduction in 18th Caribbean plantations, created a predicament, the resolution of which was unevenly borne by human beings held as slaves. Building on Barbara Voss' concept, the 'meso-scale' (2008), and  Maria Zedeno's (2009) insights about index objects, I present an assemblage-based analysis of slave life comparing ‘water-ways’ at two plantations occupied during Dominica's brief sugar boom (1760-1830).  I combine material characteristics of objects used to capture and transform water with their biographies in a landscape, circulations in peripheral flows, and supporting roles in social relations. Pottery and glass used to store, capture, and serve water were part of the creative strategies used by enslaved laborers to resolve some of the predicaments of slavery.  At the same time, they created predicaments of their own as media for some of the cultural politics that supported plantation colonies. As such, a focus on water-ways allows us to examine exclusionary forces such regulation, markets, violence and legitimation, at the human scale.

October 3: Angela Reyes, Hunter College, “Race, Mix, Excess: Philippine Elites and the Semiotics of Coloniality”

This talk explores how notions of “mix” and “excess” relate to the ongoing renewal of colonial orders in the postcolony. It looks to the historical and contemporary context of the Philippines to examine how ideas about race and language get linked to elite social figures and how one elite figure in particular—the “conyo”—is reportedly heard and seen by a listening subject that is constituted as anxious and moral. Taking a semiotic approach to questions of coloniality, this talk focuses on how qualities of people and language become “iconized”—that is, stand in a relationship of resemblance to one another—in a manner that makes mixed and excessive qualities seem to inhere naturally in the conyo figure and register. This talk considers how creating distinctions among Philippine social types produces interior alterities that sustain colonial hierarchies: positioning elites “as” colonists whose supposedly mixed and excessive qualities are regarded as foreign, overly modern, and a national betrayal.


October 10: David Kazanjian "'Chilam Balam, a native of the Yucatan…’: Racial Capitalism and the Caste War of Yucatán"

In this talk—from my recently published monograph The Brink of Freedom—I track the role the nineteenth-century Yucatán played in Cedric Robinson’s influential theory of racial capitalism. Drawing on Robinson’s own seemingly incidental reference in Black Marxism to Chilam Balam, a legendary Maya prophet, I unsettle his “red to black” narrative, which presumes that enslaved Afro-diasporans replaced exterminated indigenous people as the principle racialized labor force in the Americas. I show how the frequent appearance of the figure of Chilam Balam throughout the nineteenth-century—in Maya texts, in the archeological and anthropological research of Karl Hermann Berendt, and in the writings of Yucatec Creole intellectual Justo Sierra O’Reilly—indexes the complex articulations of African-descended people and indigenous people. Viewed from the perspective of the figure of Chilam Balam and the racialized dynamics of the Caste War conjuncture, I argue for what Jack Forbes might have called a red-black theory of racial capitalism. 

October 17: Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania, “Legacies of Multi-Racial Slavery in the Middle East”

October 31:Adia Benton, Northwestern University

November 7: Colin Sansom, University of Essex, “Indigenous Peoples and the Idea of Progress: Contemporary Legacies of Enduring Racial and Ethnic Prophesies”

November 14: Roundtable Discussion:  Dorothy Roberts (Penn), Sarah Tishkoff (Penn), Michael Yudell (Drexel)*

November 21: Amade M’Charek (University of Amsterdam)

November 28: Monique Scott (Bryn Mawr)

December 5: Paul Shackel (U of Maryland, College Park)

February 20:  Stephanie Takaragawa (Chapman U)

February 27:  David Shorter (UCLA)

March 13:  Paul Mullins (Indiana U)

March 20:  Myrna Perez Sheldon (U Ohio)

March 27:  John McWhorter (Columbia U)

April 3:  Vanessa Agard-Jones (Columbia U)

April 10:  David Valentine (U Minnesota)

April 24: Clarence Gravlee (U Florida), “Sick of Race: How Racism Harms Health and Misleads Medicine”