Orlando, Florida, USA
Wednesday, January 30 – Saturday, February 2, 2019
“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.”
– Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road
The Collegium for African American Research will hold its 13 th Biennial Conference in Orlando, Florida, USA, at the University of Central Florida, in conjunction with the ZORA! Festival. The legacy of Zora Neale Hurston~ folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, playwright, and essayist~ is more relevant now than ever. In the year that the 30 th annual ZORA! Festival celebrates Eatonville’s rich cultural heritage and the life of its most famous citizen, the world is experiencing what black people in the United States and around the world see as a “Second Nadir.” The historian Rayford Logan originated the term “The Nadir” to describe the period of virulent anti-blackness that emerged in the wake of advances in legal rights, educational access and social mobility for blacks after Reconstruction. The period between 1877 (when Eatonville was founded as the first of several self-governing African American municipalities) and the first two decades of the twentieth century witnessed a rollback of hard-won legal and citizenship rights for African Americans, an increase in state and state-sanctioned violence against black citizens, the first wave of placing Confederate monuments in public spaces (the second wave occurred during the Civil Rights movement) and a flourishing of negative images of black people in popular culture. As we embark upon a century that has witnessed the election of the first black president of the United States and has seen efforts of white Western nations to come to terms with the fact that they have been multicultural societies for many decades, we find once again a resurgence of anti-blackness not only in the United States, but worldwide. Like the first Nadir, the Second Nadir is a backlash against advances in black legal rights, educational access and social mobility.
Hurston’s career and the history of the all-black community that she was so proud of embody many of the contradictions and paradoxes of black cultural and social life in a white supremacist society. Hurston was one of the first intellectuals to study and appreciate the complexity and vibrancy of black culture. She decentered whiteness in both her research and creative work. Her ethnographic studies took her throughout the African Diaspora, demonstrating the connections among communities in Jamaica, Haiti, and the American South, where she collected folklore and oral histories of black people, including the Gullah-Geechee people of the coastal sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina. Believing in the strength and integrity of black communities that had preserved and created their own traditions even after suffering the physical, psychic, and social brutalities of enslavement and colonization, she controversially asserted that racial integration was not necessary for and perhaps even undermined black wellbeing. The Collegium for African American Research is excited to co-host its 13 th biennial international conference with the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, USA and the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community. Florida is a state rich in the complicated history of colonialism, enslavement, and migration that is posed at the nexus of trajectories that move through Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. In choosing Orlando as the site of its second conference in the United States, the Collegium for African American Research acknowledges the city and the entirety of Florida as spaces and places where, in recent years, violence against Black/BlackQueer/Latinx bodies have taken some of its most heinous forms. The sanctioned murder of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, at the hand of a self-appointed vigilante, George Zimmerman, and the 2016 terrorist attack on Queer people of color at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, are part and parcel of a continuum of violence against black people dating back to the Rosewood massacre in 1923 which left six black people dead at the hands of white supremacists who resented the town’s prosperity. To this day, Orlando’s black population of roughly 24% experiences overwhelming racial disparities in employment, education, and encounters with law enforcement and the judicial system. The city thus offers an opportunity to interrogate systemic barriers that impede African diasporan Floridians’ agency and self-determination as well as to explore the resilience, creativity, and successes in the face of such barriers.
We are interested in work that addresses themes of the many forms of black cultural celebration and resistance in the face of “blacklash” in history and the present. We welcome academic papers and creative work in any discipline and medium. We are particularly interested in a broad range of topics that focus on black resistance, black cultural expression as a means of affirmation and resistance, Hurston’s legacy, and the relationship of the Florida region to the global black diaspora. CAAR is an international organization that particularly encourages work that reflects a comparative and/or diasporic focus from scholars throughout the world.
Suggested topics might include but are not limited to:
CAAR welcomes proposals for complete panels, individual papers, and workshops that focus on applied or experiential aspects of the conference theme.
Please send proposals by August 31 to CAARconference@gmail.com.