SSMF 2022: “Pause”

Pause and Black Feminist Thought(s)

Engaging Black feminist thought/Black feminism(s) and practices as a vehicle, this panel discusses core questions raised by the SSMF theme: For whom is pause a privilege? For whom is it a need for existence? How do our (media and other) practices respond to the notions of pause? Panelists will speak on their work across the Black diaspora.

This panel is co-sponsored by the Center for Media at Risk at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

Thumbnail image on homepage: Still from Chrystel Oloukoi’s The Black Nocturnal, 2021.

Moderated by Florence Madenga, University of Pennsylvania
Saturday, March 26, 5:00 PM — 6:15 PM Eastern

The Church of Black Feminist Thought

Ra Malika Imhotep
University of California, Berkeley

The Church of Black Feminist Thought (CoBFT) is a transnational embodied spiritual-political education project co-convened by Ra Malika Imhotep & miyuki baker in an effort to share citations in more accessible ways and to surface the oft-overlooked labor of black feminist artists, scholars, and writers. While much academic work is suspended in long publishing timelines and hard-to-decipher language, The Church of Black feminist Thought believes that bringing the words of black feminist thinkers into conversation in physical (or digital) space, then translating our collective ruminations into visual storytelling and illustration will nourish and support many. The Black Feminist Study Theory Atlas we’ve created is designed to activate a more imaginative way to access learning that nourishes the spirit. The counter-imaginations and strategies for how to thrive in our minds, bodies, and spirits pulled from the rich traditions of Black feminist Thought and Practice are thus shared in a format that opens up to living with theory/knowledge/wisdom, rather than mastering it.

Ra Malika Imhotep (they/she) is a Black feminist writer and performance artist from Atlanta, Georgia currently completing a PhD in African Diaspora Studies and New Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. As a scholar and cultural worker, Ra is invested in exploring relationships between queer Black femininities, Black vernacular cultures, and the performance of labor. As a steward of Black Studies and Black feminist thought, Ra dreams, organizes, and facilitates spaces of critical reflection and embodied spiritual-political education. Ra is co-author of The Black Feminist Study Theory Atlas and their debut poetry collection gossypiin is being published by Red Hen Press, April 2022.

The Stillness of the Sovereign: Palenquera women and Embodied Enactments of Refusal in the Colombian Caribbean

Amber Henry
Haverford College

This work centers the everyday lives, labor practices and grassroots mobilization of Palenquera women, female Afro-Colombian street vendors work in the historical district of Cartagena, Colombia. Building on the theme of pause, Amber theorizes stillness as a particular mode of embodied contestation she terms postures of refusal. She demonstrates how Palenquera women use stillness in order to affirm their sovereign status and mark themselves as legible to private and state actors who attempt to reconfigure them into apolitical symbols of cultural heritage in accordance with neoliberal and multiculturalist policies. By attending to stillness, her work examines how sovereignty becomes produced as an embodied stance, its enactments and the processes of alienation against which sovereign beings must contend. Through strategic deployments of refusal, disavowal and opacity, Palenquera women manage to refute processes of alienation and affirm their status as (in)alienable bodies, even while engaging in essentialized forms of cultural performance.

Amber M. Henry earned her PhD in Anthropology and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her engaged ethnographic work explores contemporary configurations of sovereignty for Afro-Colombian women in the context of neoliberal multiculturalism and has inspired numerous community projects and the 2021 documentary film My Name is Angelina.

Black Nocturnal

Chrystel Oloukoi
Harvard University

Chrystel is working on a series of experimental short films entitled “Black Nocturnal”, related to her dissertation, a continuously expanding archive of engagements with nighttime and surveillance, primarily in Lagos and Boston. She employs a diversity of formats – digital, 16mm, (fake) surveillance footage and smartphone images – to investigate the ambivalence of nighttime, as a time-space of intensified surveillance by state and non-state actors over marginalized bodies, and a time-space of potential subversion from disciplinary gazes. Via an aesthetic of fragments, obliqueness and underexposure, this series refuses the violence of visualization, and asks what ways of seeing, knowing, and being might emerge from engagements with dark matters.

Chrystel Oloukoi is a PhD student, freelance film critic and curator, broadly interested in experimental cinema, queer cinema and Black continental and diasporic cinema. They are the co-curator of Monangambee, a nomadic panafrican microcinema in Lagos and a 2021-2022 curatorial intern at Canyon Cinema.
Panel discussant:
Deborah A. Thomas
University of Pennsylvania

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation, Exceptional Violence, and Modern Blackness. Thomas co-directed the documentary films Bad Friday and Four Days in May, and she is the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston. Prior to her life in the academy, she was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women.