CFP: Afromodernisms 1: Re-encounters with the French and Anglo-Atlantic Worlds, 1907 to ’61

This looks really good. How many darn good conferences are in England this coming year?

Keynote Speakers:

Professor David Scott, Columbia University, NY
Professor Demetrius Eudell, Wesleyan University, CT

In the context provided by Paul Gilroy’s configuration of the black Atlantic as a counterculture to modernity, this symposium is the first in a series seeking to re-examine the Atlantic as a locale for the emergence of modernism. Over the period 2010–12, we hope to consider the centrality of black folk, artists, writers, intellectuals, social scientists, musicians, as core members of the modernist avant-garde, and of “blackness” as a key representative and political category in the work of other modernists. We begin from a formulation of modernism as a heterogenous cluster of responses to locally specific experiences of modernity, rather than as a qualitative set of aesthetic indicators privileging formal innovation over political rhetoric. In doing so, we hope to enable further discussion of a widening spectrum of modernist languages in which the experience of modernity is delineated and inscribed.

The symposium addresses the interactions, exchanges, conflicts, and collaborations occurring across the French and Anglo Atlantic, and within experienced and imagined spaces of blackness, in the period 1907–61. We begin therefore with Picasso’s masked Demoiselles, and end with the publication of Fanon’s radical rejection of western colonialism in Les damnés.

The aims of the symposium are fourfold:
First, it seeks to stage a re-encounter with avant-garde aesthetic, political and social practice in the context of black responses to modernity across the French and Anglo Atlantic.
Second, it explores the emergence of new disciplines or schools, and underexplored interdisciplinary relationships in the human sciences that may have effected or at least contributed to the formal innovation or “newness” considered so characteristic of modernism.
Third, it takes Perry Anderson’s claim that one of the indispensible co-ordinates for locating modernism is its “proximity to social revolution” and resituates it in the context of an anti-colonial avant-garde operating across the Atlantic in the inter- and postwar years.
Fourth, it considers the degree to which a variety of actors operating from what might be termed “alternative” or “displaced” metropoles interacted to produce, in Jameson’s terms, an “active sense” of the history of modernity, one in which a black presence was of key aesthetic, political and cultural importance.

Individual papers and proposals, in English, for panels addressing any aspect of the interrelationship between Afromodernism and the French and Anglo-Atlantic worlds are invited from, but not limited to, the disciplines of literature, anthropology, history, art history, philosophy, music, or combinations of these; and concerning regions including but not limited to: Africa, the Caribbean, insular and continental Europe, Canada, the United States, Latin America. Teaching or curating panels and papers are also welcomed.

Topics might include:

The Harlem Renaissance/New Negro; Performance and/of blackness; Expressionism; fascism;
exoticism; the tropics; ethnographic fieldwork narratives/collections; the WPA; négritude; negrophilia; World War 1; configurations of the Black Atlantic; masking; marxism and modernity; World War 2; primitivism; folk and established religious expression; jazz; blues; surrealism; Boasian anthropology; tragedy; Windrush; aesthetic politics; drumming; new histories; revisionist historiography; beauty; comedy; revolution and anticolonialism; myth; reaction; gender and modernity; nationalism; the metropole(s); psychoanalysis; science and relativism; positivism; migration and/or displacement; civilization; degeneration.


Fionnghuala Sweeney (email: or Kate Marsh (email:

Deadline for submission: Thursday, 21 January 2010.

Conference website: