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Rethinking the Afropolitan

Photo by Hector Mediavilla

The Ethics of Black Atlantic Masculinities on Display

OCTOBER 19-21, 2017

The recent proliferation of images, articles, and even a Guinness commercial about Congolese men known as sapeurs (the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) raises new ethical questions about how we read race, gender, and identity in images and texts. Sapeurs appear to be the epitome of  the "black dandy." However, these extravagantly dressed men also engage in friendly fashion competitions and do so against bleak West Central African urban landscapes. The conference aims to examine the intersections of  gender, race, and visual culture, in the Atlantic, spanning Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe from the 16th century to the present.

This conference is organized by Rosa E. Carasquillo, professor of history, and Lorelle Semley, associate professor of history, at the College of the Holy Cross. The conference is sponsored by the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. All sessions are free and open to the public.

EXHIBITION: October 19-December 15, 2017

The Cantor Art Gallery will mount a two-person exhibition in conjunction with the conference.

Making Visual the Music of Ismael Rivera
Photographs by Christopher Lopez
Lopez’s recent photographs, taken recently in Puerto Rico, focus on the imagery laden music of one of Puerto Rico’s most beloved musicians of the 20th century.

S.A.P.E.: Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes/ Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People
Photographs by Héctor Mediavilla
Mediavilla, who lives and works in Spain, produced this series of photographs of Congolese men who have, since the early part of the 20th century, dressed as elegant French men for show and display. Known as Sapeurs, these men consider themselves artists, adding glamour to their humble environment through their refined manners and impeccable dressing styles.

PERFORMANCE: October 20, 2017; 8 PM, Hogan Ballroom

Gonzalo GrauArts Transcending Borders presents "A Tribute to Ismael Rivera: An Afro-Caribbean Icon," featuring Gonzalo Grau.

At the height of his career in the 1970s, Puerto Rican singer Ismael Rivera shared the stage with salsa greats such as Benny Moré, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, and revolutionized tropical music with his unique singing style and improvisational skills. Today, he is lionized in various Afro-Caribbean communities as a bastion of cultural nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Gonzalo Grau breathes new life into Ismael Rivera hits in new arrangements for a stellar ensemble, including Worcester's own Manolo Mairena.

Preliminary Schedule

Read more about the participants»


Silvio Torres-Saillant4:30 PM: Opening Keynote
Silvio Torres-Saillant, Professor of English and Dean in Humanities, Syracuse University, and author of “An Intellectual History of the Caribbean,” New Directions on the Americas Series (Palgrave, 2006).


5:45 PM: Gallery Reception


9 AM: Welcome

9:30 AM: Panel 1: Reviewing Slavery and its Afterlives
Facilitator: Michael West, Associate Professor of History, College of the Holy Cross

“Movement, Transformation, and Relocation: Moirans’ disarticulation of African Slavery’s Legality”
Rebeca Moreno Oramo, Visiting Assistant Professor, Washington College

“Homoerotic Desire and the Fallacy of Spanish Masculinity in Quito”
Antonia Carcelén-Estrada, Visiting Assistant Professor, College of the Holy Cross                        

“Counterfeit Kin: Kidnappers of Color, the Reverse Underground Railroad, and the Origins of Practical Abolition”
Richard Bell, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland

11 AM: Panel 2: Consuming Culture
Facilitator: Selina Gallo-Cruz, Assistant Professor of Sociology, College of the Holy Cross

“Urban Iconography: Lauren Ekué and Afro-Parisian Consumerism”
Dawn Fulton, Professor of French Studies, Smith College

“Between Feast and Famine: Food Lack and the Aesthetics of Cape Verdean Masculinity in the Works of Baltasar Lopes”
Serena J. Rivera, Visiting Assistant Professor, Bridgewater State University

“Textiles, Clothing and Cultural Encounters: Self-Fashioning on the Upper Guinea Coast, 1820-1850"
Jody Benjamin, Assistant Professor, University of California, Riverside

12:15 PM: LUNCH

1:30 PM: Panel 3: Texts and Improvisation
Facilitator: Jean Ouedraogo, O'Leary Chair in Francophone Studies, College of the Holy Cross

“The Other Afropolitans: Dandyism and Sexual/Gender Variances in Senegalese Literature and Popular Culture”
Babacar Mbaye, Associate Professor of English, Kent State University

“Black Dandy in Afro-Caribbean Diasporas: Black Aesthetics as an Epistemology of Improvisation, Self-Invention and Re-humanization”
Michael Bucknor, Associate Professor of English, University of the West Indies

“Afropolitan Antiheroes and the Racial Politics of Online Scam baiting”
James Yeku, Ph.D. Candidate in English, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

“The Afropolitan in France: A French-U.S. Conversation”
Veronique Helenon, Universite de Toulouse

3 PM: Panel 4: Performing Masculinities
Facilitator: Álvaro Jarrín, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross

“Unexpected Queerings – Expanding Definitions for Contemporary Black African Masculinities”
Anima Adjepong, PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Texas, Austin, and
Amoako Boafo, Visual Artist, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna Austria

“Selling the Exotic: Tourism, Black Masculinity, and Travel for Sex in the 20 th Century Caribbean”
Elizabeth Manley, Associate Professor of History, Xavier University of Louisiana

“Negotiating the 'Dominant Urge' of an Impossible Masculinity: Insights into Claude McKay’s Man”
Jarrett H. Brown, Assistant Professor of English, Howard University

Robert Trent Vinson4:30 PM:  Second Keynote
Robert Trent Vinson, Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, College of William and Mary, and author of "The Americans are Coming!: The Dream of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa" (Ohio University Press, 2012)


8 PM: Concert (Hogan Ballroom)
"A Tribute to Ismael Rivera: An Afro-Caribbean Icon," featuring Gonzalo Grau


9 AM: Panel 5: Afropolitan Urban Landscapes
Facilitator: Melissa Weiner, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of the Holy Cross

“Afropolitan Detroit: Counterpublics, Sound, and the African City”
Sidra Lawrence, Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology, Bowling Green State University, College of Musical Arts

“From Bohemian Piolo to Black Left Jorocón: The Pan-African Conversion Narrative in Carlos Moore’s Pinchón”
Trent Masiki, Visiting Assistant Professor, Africana Studies Department, Dickinson College

“Urban Men, Militarization, and the Afropolitan in Post-Colonial Kampala, Uganda”
Benjamin Twagira, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Boston University

“Tailored Men: Technology, Mobility, and 'Dressing Literate' in Dahomey, 1950s-1970s”
Elizabeth Fretwell, Ph.D. Candidate in History, University of Chicago

10:45 AM: Roundtable
Paulina Alberto, Associate Professor of History, University of Michigan
Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo, Associate Professor of English and American Studies, Vanderbilt University
Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis University

Read more about the participants»