Black Geographies Graduate Student Conference Call For Proposals

Morgan Vickers's picture

The Black Geographies Graduate Student Conference promotes critical dialogue on the racial, ecological, sociopolitical, cultural, economic, and sociospatial processes that constitute the materialities of Black life and its everyday contoursThe BGGSC foregrounds the geographical practices, knowledge, and interventions of African Diasporic communities while challenging, reorienting, and refuting racialized colonial conceptions of space, place, time, scale, diffusion, and landscapes. This collective gathering is designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates to collaborate and engage with each other through Black geographical thought across disciplines, academic affiliations, and communities. 

The BGGSC will take place on March 17-18, 2023 at the University of California, Berkeley. The two-day conference will feature panels, a roundtable discussion on the geographical imprints of Black horror films, and a keynote lecture from Dr. Jovan Scott LewisWe welcome submissions from graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and community members, including research papers, creative and digital projects, potential articles, dissertation chapters, and multimedia works centering four designated themes: Black Earth, Black Sound, Black California, Black Futures. Please see the CFPs below. The core themes anchoring this conference are designed to offer robust discussion to a receptive, interdisciplinary audience of scholars and are not meant to encompass the totality of Black geographical inquiry. If you are interested in participating, please submit a project synopsis or abstract (max 300 words) via this Google Form by Friday, January 13, 2023 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. We will notify selected panelists by Friday, January 27, 2023. For more information about BGGSC, please visit our website at bggsc.com or send questions to contact@bggsc.com and we will respond as soon as we can. 

The Black Geographies Graduate Student Conference is organized by graduate students from Berkeley Black Geographies, the Geography and History departments at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University’s History Department and Black Studies Collective (a research workshop sponsored by the program in African & African American Studies). 

Theme One: Black Earth
Session Organizers: Morgan P. Vickers and Dimitri Diagne

For many Black communities, the environmental crises of our time are not novel. They are the continuation of centuries-long historical processes ranging from intensive sugar cane farming in the colonial Caribbean, to gold mining in South Africa, to dam construction in the U.S. South. Black peoples’ relationships with land and natural resources is crucial to situating contemporary environmental crises in longer histories of capitalism, colonialism, and globalization. This panel brings into relief the sociopolitical, racial, and geographical contours of environmental crises by  attending to the spatial and historical specificity of various communities’ experiences of environmental degradation. We turn to Black ecologies, which “names the corpus of insurgent knowledge produced by these same communities, which we hold to have bearing on how we should historicize the current crisis and how we conceive of futures outside of destruction” (Roane & Hoseby 2019).

The Black Earth theme addresses historical eco-social relations, contemporary crises, and futures outside of destruction. We seek works that explore Black individuals’ and communities’ economic, sociopolitical, and cultural engagements with landscapes and natural resources. This theme is not merely about histories of Black people coerced into participating in or bearing the costs of unsustainable and exploitative ecological projects. Rather, it encompasses diverse histories of Black modes of relating to the ecological world. 

 

Proposals submitted under this theme might address, but are not limited to:

  • Black agricultural practices across time and space
  • Eco-social connections between Blackness and material formations, such as earth, sand, soil, sediment, and water
  • Black ecological relations outside of futures of destruction
  • Black living, survival, and adaptation in the face of climate change, rising tides, droughts, and other extraordinary climate events of the Anthropocene
  • Marronage, fugitivity, and other historical Black liberatory ecological practices
 

Theme Two: Black California
Session Organizers: Morgan P. Vickers

California is a state of diverse topographies, rich cultural histories, multiracial convergences, and a long history of some of the starkest income disparities in the nation. The geography, politics, economy, and sociality of the current state represent, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore notes, “150 years of California history and more thay 300 years of national anxieties and antagonisms.” Extractive industries like gold mining, forestry, agriculture, hydroelectricity, oil drilling, shipping, tourism, and development have historically produced racial disparities and exploited Black labor in California. 

Yet, Black Californians have spearheaded political revolutions, established interracial and intercultural solidarities, shaped West Coast culture, and produced billions of dollars of wealth in every corner of the state. This confluence of industries, ecologies, and cultures also produced a distinct Black West coast feeling, shaping social spaces, music, media, fashion, and vernacular. California’s distinct and intertwined economic, cultural, and environmental characteristics position the state as ripe for physical and human geographic analyses.

This panel explores the making and remaking of Black California throughout its history, attending to our understandings of the state as a Black place, how the state (or portions of the state) have been made Black through racialization and resource extraction, and how California serves as a rich case study to explore the geographical complexities of Black West Coast life as a collection of feelings, reactions, cultures, vibes, and placemaking practices. 

 

Proposals submitted under this theme might address, but are not limited to:

  • Black migration patterns: Great Migration, railways, and Green Book sites
  • The making of Black urban, suburban, and rural spaces and places in California
  • Black Hollywood and Black West Coast music, sounds, and culture 
  • Black organizing and resistance from the Black Panther Party to the LA Riots and beyond
  • Economic and military histories of Black labor in the Pacific and California port cities
  • Racial capitalism, mass incarceration, and the making of the “Other”
  • Blackness in the California industry and economy — including explorations of Black labor, commodity, racial capitalism, and social reproduction in the state
 

Theme Three: Black Sound 
Session Organizers: april l. graham-jackson and Sibahle Ndwayana 

This panel explores the racialization of sound and how it is mediated, contextualized, and experienced through place-based orientation and the sociosonic textures of Black life. This cluster draws from Black poetics to think with Black acoustemologiesthe ways Black people know, order, and understand their worlds and what is audible to and for them through sound and racial positioning. Black sound tends to the affective and cross-sensory dimensions that inform, express, disrupt, and (re)shape Black life. Within this context, sound as a geographic modality deepens what Katherine Mckittrick identified as a “Black sense of place” and diagrams the materialities of Blackness as sound that highlight the sonic fluidity of Black places and the Black people we find in them. 

This theme is also designed to think with Black sound as a mode of relationality that emphasizes both movement and emplacement within the everyday rhythms of the African Diaspora. This panel takes seriously Vanessa Agard-Jones' provocation addressing the importance of localized framings (scales) of being “in place and being emplaced.” To that end, this framework considers “sonic creolisations” as an entry point for thinking with the various ways Blackness is heard, listened to, and sounded across a range of African Diasporic modes that emphasize movement (diffusion) and emplacement (fixity). 

This panel seeks proposals explicitly concerned with the interdependence of and relationships between Blackness, sound, and geography. We welcome submissions attuned to listening, hearing, tuning out, and engaging the sonic dimensions of Blackness and how these linkages inform Black acoustic environments, the everyday lives of Black people, and what it means to be a racialized listening and hearing “subject.”

 

Proposals submitted under this theme might address, but are not limited to:

  • Black sonic orientations connected to Black places (e.g. the sounds of Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis and global resonances and “remixes” of the movement, house music and kwaito parties in Chicagoland and South Africa)
  • Noise, “sonic pollution,” acoustic displacement, and sonic practices that mute and|or tune out Black sound (e.g. Don’t Mute DC Movement) 
  • “Schizophonia” or the ways Black sound “splits” from its perceived place of origin through technological advancements and reproduction|appropriation  
  • Methods|Methodologies addressing how we research, locate, and tend to Black sound when it is “absent” from historical archives
  • Cartographic representations of Black sound, including but not limited to voice, breath, language, etc. and Black soundings produced in|by landscapes, homes, beauty shops, market places, the yard, corner stores, fete, carnival, street bashes, sound clashes, etc. 


Theme Four: Black Futures  
Session Organizer: Matt Randolph

The Black Futures theme invites works across academic disciplines that explore the connection between possibility and reality. This panel seeks to understand where Black futures can be found or forged through Afrofuturism as a Black placemaking strategy. We draw from Black life worlds that do not harm or exploit Black people, but instead are structured through Black epistemologies and spatial practices that affirm Black places and sustain Black life. Afrofuturism has largely been understood through the confluence of technology, futurity, and the speculative. This theme approaches Black futures geographically by asking where they are located and experienced within and beyond our imaginations. 

As Ytasha L. Womach has theorized, “Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.” At the same time, Black futures have a geographical dimension as much as an intellectual one. Ruth Wilson Gilmore makes clear that “freedom is a place.” Therefore, in order to build a better world, the fluid realm of ideas, dreams, theories, and geographic imaginaries must materialize into something tangible. 

We invite scholarship that explores how communities of the African Diaspora have resisted structural racism and imagined new possibilities through collective place-making across local and global scales. Works under this theme might range from historical case studies of Afrofuturist/Afropessimist thinking, being, and acting, to contemporary explorations of grassroots organizing fighting for a better future for Black people, to analyses of literary works that overcome racial injustice and speculate about living otherwise. This panel asks: How have Black actors envisioned and produced spaces of possibility for Black self-determination, liberation, creativity, and/or autonomy? How do we draw from the imaginative currency of Afrofuturism to conceptualize and produce a “Black sense of place”?

 

Proposals submitted under this theme might address, but are not limited to:

  • Afrofuturism, the Black Radical Imagination, and related topics and discourses
  • Afrofuturistic aesthetics in popular cultures (i.e. Black Panther comics and films, Drexciya’s music, N.K. Jemison’s science fiction works, etc.)  
  • The relationships between freedom and place/space  
  • The intellectual history of Black social, educational, and political movements 
  • How dreams for more racially just worlds are forged materially in spaces and places (through activism, political mobilization, community work, etc.) 
  • Conflict and intellectual diversity about what the best Black future should look like
  • Is there a universal claim to Black liberatory futures? (and if so, how does place-based orientation - thinking about where freedom is located - complicate this?)

Note: The Black Geographies Graduate Student Conference stands in solidarity with the 48,000 academic workers on strike across the UC system. This CFP was written and organized ahead of the strikes, and was pre-scheduled to be sent out on this date by our Stanford co-organizer. We are happy to accommodate the needs of any UC worker who might need an extension or flexibility at this time.