Rethinking the Afropolitan

The Ethics of Black Atlantic Masculinities on Display


Photo by Hector Mediavilla

Photo by Hector Mediavilla from his S.A.P.E. seriesOCTOBER 19-21, 2017

A 21st century term, “Afropolitan” already is charged with contested meanings. Celebrated by some as the pinnacle of African modernities, others see the Afropolitan as a glorified consumer or perennial object of Western consumption. However, most discussions of Afropolitans have occurred in relation to the arts, literature, and fashion and almost exclusively in relation to Africans in Western cities or Westernized enclaves in Africa in the present. A historicized approach to the concept of the Afropolitan raises new questions about how scholars and activists read race, gender, identity, and ethics in images and texts.

This conference is organized by History Department professors Rosa E. Carasquillo and Lorelle Semley 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.

Photo by Christopher Lopez from the series "Envisioning the Music of Ismael Rivera"EXHIBITION: October 18-December 15, 2017

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

A Visual Guide to the Heart: The Music of Ismael Rivera
Photographs by Christopher López
López’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 that presents nuanced views of Congolese men who, since the early part of the 20th century, have used dress and performance to engage and counter the realities of political and economic hardship in postcolonial Africa.  

PERFORMANCE: October 20, 2017

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.

Schedule of Panels

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Silvio Torres-Saillant4:30 PM: Opening Keynote
The Advent of Blackness and Its African Consequences

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).
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9:00 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

10:45 AM: Panel 2: Consuming Cultures
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

1:15 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

“Female Sex Tourism and the Sanky-Panky: Deconstructing the Complex and Contradictory Masculinities of a Dominican Archetype”
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
Historicizing Afropolitanism? Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and South Africa's global anti-apartheid struggle

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)
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8:30 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

10:00 AM: Concluding Roundtable and Discussion
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

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