On September 29th and 30th 2023, InBEST hosted the symposium "Archiving Marginalized Knowledges: Digital Black European Archive" at Yale University, USA. The symposium was generously sponsored by the Senate of Berlin, the European Studies Council at the Yale MacMillan Center and the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM).
The symposium brought together a group of academics and students who will collaborate on institutionalizing the study of Blackness in Europe, e.g. through a Digital Black European Archive. "An understanding of Black history is part of European history, but it might take a while until we get there. So for the moment, the digital archive might be a way of saving certain materials that won't survive much longer," Prof. El-Tayeb summarized.
In the introductory conversation, the co-conveners of the Intersectional Black European Studies group embedded the symposium within their over thirty-year-long communal struggle to institutionalize the study of Black individuals, communities, and histories on the European continent. Central to their work and mission is the recognition of many Black individuals and communities in Europe who have come before them and who have contributed greatly to their cause. The co-conveners also pointed to various persisting challenges, including European universities' opposition to establishing Black Studies and a lack of state funding. "But Black, queer feminism is swimming against the flow. So we are undaunted," Prof. Maisha Auma (Technical University Berlin) affirmed.
The first keynote conversation was held between Prof. Gloria Wekker (Professor emerita, Utrecht University) and Prof. Gail Lewis (Visiting Professor at Yale) and moderated by Prof. El-Tayeb. Both panelists emphasized the importance of an intersectional approach to studying Blackness in Europe, highlighting the integral contributions of Black, queer-feminist organizing. Prof. Wekker also spoke to the transatlantic dimensions of Black solidarity, recalling that the American feminist and scholar Audre Lorde helped connect Black, queer-feminist collectives across Amsterdam, Berlin, and Europe in the 80s. Archiving these memories and many others is urgent. "As I speak, people around me are passing and cannot tell their stories anymore," Prof. Wekker shared.
In the second keynote conversation, Karen Taylor (Board Member of the Afro-diasporic, anti-discrimination NGO Each One Teach One), Prof. Mame-Fatou Niang (Carnegie Mellon University), and Prof. Roderick Ferguson (Yale) discussed various strategies to institutionalize Black Studies. While Prof. Niang recounted that she had to leave France and come to the United States to finally study the work of Black intellectuals, Prof. Ferguson pointed to the persisting dangers in the American academy. Referring to the novel development of universities across the country welcoming LGBT and Black Studies, Prof. Ferguson asked: "What are all the complexities that are in an institutional 'Yes'?"
Besides enriching panels, the participants were invited to engage in five different and intensive workshops:
a) The Role of Feminist and Queer African Studies
b) Digital Archive of Black Europe
c) Strategy Group
d) Afrofuturism and AI
e) Translation in a Multilingual Diaspora
In these groups, the role of knowledge production, power structures and imbalances, futuristic perspectives and the role of AI in terms of data collection, as well as, the meaning of “lost in translation” when it comes to the variety of languages used by a diverse Black diaspora have been discussed. The workshops were filled with a diverse range of practical and theoretical expertise from archivists in action, the Yale fellows and their experiences with archiving in Germany, students and activist scholars dealing with these questions and realities for several decades. The symposium brought together, empowered and created a space for envisioning the futures of archiving marginalized knowledges in the context of Intersectional Black European Studies. The journey doesn't end here: a network was born. The InBEST network, consisting of the workshop participants, continues to work on these topics, connect, and engage in future projects.
Seven Yale graduate students have been selected as fellows to engage in the summer and fall program. They worked between Berlin and New Haven and documented their archiving experiences through different means. Part of the outcome of this pilot fellowship program was practical: we laid the foundation for the digital archive; part was pedagogical: students created a manual and curricular tools to be disseminated through various networks. This will allow students and community activists in locations across Europe to begin their own digitizing projects (for which often nothing more than a smartphone is required).
Intersectional Black European Studies
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