ANN: Upcoming Conference "Black Studies in Europe: A Transnational Dialogue", Nov. 16-17, 2017


The conference Black Studies in Europe: A Transnational Dialogue will take place on November 16-17, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium

Venues: ULB Solbosch Campus (Nov. 16) and VUB Plein Campus (Nov. 17)

Although it has long been existing on the other side of the Atlantic, where it found institutionalisation in the wake of post WWII black social movements in the US, the field of Black Studies is only emerging in Europe. Its development is uneven, however. Some European countries show a longer history and a more prolific scholarship than others in the study of people categorized as “Black”. Different approaches are being used, and different traditions are being formed. The relationships between scholarship, activism and the wider political landscape are more or less close, more or less explicit, more or less influential to each other, depending on the context. Although they all refer to the large, unavoidable, body of literature that has been produced on race and the black experience in the US, scholars in European Black Studies diversely engage with the concepts and theories that have been created in the American context and that mainly arise from a “middle-passage epistemology”, as Michelle Wright pointed out. The applicability of these concepts and theories in the European context, which show various histories of and relationships to blackness, is variously being questioned. Moreover, some scholars, although they address issues related to people categorized and/or identifying as “Black”, might not label their work “Black Studies”. The very subject of Black Studies, i.e. the “Black” subject, can also be understood in various ways. The question “who is Black?” has received diverse responses in the UK, France, Germany, or Belgium, for example, and definitions of blackness are far from being stabilized. However, efforts have been made during the last decade to put together research conducted in several European countries, i.e. to develop Black Studies at the European level, as several conferences and resulting publications such as AfroEuropa (e-journal launched in 2007), Black Europe and the African Diaspora (2009) or Africa in Europe(2013) testify.

This international conference aims at interrogating that emerging field of Black Studies in Europe and exploring its state of the art, by putting into dialogue scholarship and research developed in various European countries. It will follow four lines of discussion: (1) How did “Black Studies” emerge in specific European domestic or regional contexts? Which concepts and theories are being used and/or developed? Where do they take inspiration from? How are transnational academic networks being developed? How are research agendas being framed? How do they relate to other relevant fields of study such as African Diaspora Studies, African Studies, Postcolonial studies, and Migration Studies? (2) Who is considered “Black” in European Black Studies? Is the very notion of Black Studies relevant across Europe, given the various definitions and lived experiences of “black” populations in Europe? Does “Black” equal, or goes beyond, “Afro-“ categories (“Afro-Dutch”, “Afro-British”, “African diaspora”, etc.)? (3) To what extent do research agendas interact with social movements and/or other forms of activism related to race, on the one hand, and with the political environment, on the other hand? How does academia articulate with activism and with political developments on migratory, postmigratory and postcolonial issues? (4) To what extent do/should research agendas converge at the European level? Can we define a common conceptual framework for the study of blackness and race relations across Europe? Moreover, what is to be considered Europe in European Black Studies, given the tension between political, geographical, and symbolic definitions of the continent?

Keynote speakers:

Michelle Wright (Emory University, USA)

Paul Gilroy (King's College, London)

Kwame Nimako (BESS, the Netherlands)

Mireille Fanon-Mendès-France (Fondation Frantz Fanon, France)

Jean Muteba Rahier (Florida International University)

Roundtable participants: 

Jacqueline Andall (University of Tokyo, Japan). Geographical focus: Italy.

Véronique Clette-Gakuba (ULB), Sarah Demart (KULeuven), Nicole Grégoire (ULB), and Sibo Kanobana (UGent). Geographical focus:  Belgium.

Iolanda Evora (University of Lisboa, Portugal). Geographical focus: Portugal.

Sarah Fila-Bakabadio (University of Cergy-Pontoise, France). Geographical focus: France.

Marta Sofía López Rodríguez (University of Léon, Spain) Geographical focus: Spain.

Michael McEachrane (Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights, Sweden). Geographical focus: Sweden and Northern Europe.

Kwame Nimako (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Geographical focus: the Netherlands.

Peggy Piesche (Gunda-Werner-Institute for Feminism at Heinrich-Boell-Foundation, Germany). Geographical focus: Germany.

Stephen Small (University of California Berkeley, USA). Geographical focus: UK.

Antumi Toasijé (Pan-African Studies Centre in Parla, Spain). Geographical focus: Spain.

The roundtable participants will talk during approximately 90 minutes, which will be followed by 30 to 45 minutes of extensive discussion including the audience.

The conference working language will be English.

Additional activities include a decolonial visit of Brussels organized with the Collective Colonial Memory and Fight Against Discrimination and a book launch for Prof. Stephen Small's new book "20 Questions & Answers on Black Europe".
The number of participants is limited ; therefore, we invite you to register for the conference as soon as possible. To do so, please contact Geneviève Corbisier at