Tag Archive for CAAS

Building a National Museum Topic of CAAS Distinguished Lecture April 4

Historian and author Lonnie Bunch will deliver the Center for African American Studies' 18th Annual Distinguished Lecture on April 4.

What are the challenges of building a national museum? Lonnie G. Bunch III, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, will speak on this topic during the Center for African American Studies’ 18th Annual Distinguished Lecture. The event takes place at 8 p.m. April 4 in Beckham Hall. A reception will follow.

Bunch, a historian, author, curator and educator, is the founding director of the national museum. In this position he is working to set the museum’s mission, coordinate its fundraising and membership campaigns, develop its collections, establish cultural partnerships and oversee the design and construction of the museum’s building. Rooted in his belief that the museum exists now although the building is not in place, he is designing a high-profile program of traveling exhibitions and public events ranging from panel discussions and seminars to oral history and collecting workshops.

“I have known Lonnie Bunch for many years, but the most important reason the African American Studies Program selected him as this year’s Distinguished Lecture speaker is because of his immeasurable accomplishments as a historian, curator, and educator and his scholarly publications and contributions to the field of African American studies,” says Alex Dupuy, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, chair of the African American Studies Program. “It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for our nation as a whole, and of Mr. Bunch’s role in its construction. His lecture on ‘The Challenge of Building a National Museum’ will give Wesleyan a unique opportunity to hear and learn directly from the Museum’s founding director and his work in its mission, design, contents, fundraising, and partnerships from the ground up.”

The museum, the 19th to open as part of the Smithsonian Institution, will be built on the national Mall where Smithsonian museums attracted morethan 24 million visitors in 2005. It will stand on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument and opposite the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

As a public historian, a scholar who brings history to the people, Bunch has spent nearly 30 years in the museum field where he is regarded as one of the nation’s leading figures in the historical and museum community.

CAAS Hosts First Book Series Featuring Scholar-Authors

The Center for African-American Studies (CAAS) is hosting a First Book series during the Fall 2011 semester. The series features trailblazing junior scholar-authors whose projects are and will make significant contributions to the field of African-American Studies.

Gina Athena Ulysse, the new director of the Center for African American Studies, associate professor of African American Studies, associate professor of anthropology, created the series as the main initiative of her directorship to coincide with the AFAM junior colloquium that she is teaching.

Ulysse’s interests and concerns were to economically achieve three goals: 1) give AFAM incoming majors the opportunity to engage directly with scholars who are impacting the field of study; 2) revive CAAS’s old tradition of excellent programming; and 3) expose the broader Wesleyan and Middletown community to works and projects that are not only adding new knowledge to African-American Studies but are doing so in original and nuanced ways. “In recent years, there have been so many developments in the field that ask us to rethink historiography, seriously engage with queer studies and unpack both the racialization and geopolitics of religions, criminality and consumer cultures within the U.S. and broader black diaspora. The projects selected to inaugurate the series specifically reflect on these intersections,” Ulysse says. “I was also adamant that the series includes a Wes alumna whom we would bring back to celebrate her achievement. We have a solid line up!”

Book by Kate Ramsey.

On Oct. 4, Jafari Sinclaire Allen, assistant professor of anthropology and African-American studies at Yale University, will speak about his book, iVenceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba (Duke University Press 2011). In Venceremos, Allen marshals a combination of historical, literary, and cultural analysis– most centrally, ethnographic rendering of the everyday experiences and reflections of Black Cubans to show how Black men and women strategically deploy, re-interpret, transgress and potentially transform racialized and sexualized interpellations of their identities, through “erotic self-making.” Venceremos argues that mutually constituting scenes in Havana and Santiago de Cuba– like semi-private, extra-legal parties of men who have sex with men; HIV education activism; lesbian performance and incipient organizing of women who have sex with women; hip-hop and la monia (US R&B/soul music) parties and concerts; sex labor; cigar “hustling” and informal Black consciousness raising networks– represent a gravid space for becoming new revolutionary men and women, with new racial, gender and sexual subjectivities.

On Oct. 18, Kate Ramsey, assistant professor of history at the University of Miami, will speak about her book, The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (University of Chicago Press 2011). Vodou has often served as a scapegoat for Haiti’s problems, from political upheavals to natural disasters. This tradition of scapegoating stretches back to the nation’s founding and forms part of a contest over the legitimacy of the religion, both beyond and within Haiti’s borders. The Spirits and the Law examines that vexed history, asking why, from 1835 to 1987, Haiti banned many popular ritual practices.

Book by Khalil Gibran Mohammed.

On Nov. 8, Khalil Gibran Mohammed, the new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, N.Y., will speak on The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard University Press 2010). In Condemnation, Mohammed writes about ways black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans’ own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies. Read more about Mohammed in this New York Times article.

On Nov. 29, anthropology major Oneka LaBennett ’94, assistant professor of African and African American studies at Fordham University, will speak about her book, She’s Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn (New York University Press 2011). In She’s Mad Real, LaBennett draws on more than a decade of researching teenage West Indian girls in the Flatbush and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn to argue that Black youth are strategic consumers of popular culture and through this consumption they assert far more agency in defining race, ethnicity and gender than academic and popular discourses tend to acknowledge. Importantly, LaBennett also studies West Indian girls’ consumer and leisure culture within public spaces in order to analyze how teens like China are marginalized and policed as they attempt to carve out places for themselves within New York’s contested terrains.

For more information about the series visit the African American Studies Program web site online here.

CAAS Distinguished Lecture April 14 Focuses on Journalist Grace Halsell

Robin D. G. Kelley

Prize-winning author Robin D.G. Kelley will deliver the Center for African-American Studies 17th Annual Distinguished Lecture at 8 p.m. April 14. Kelley is a professor of American studies and ethnicity and history at the University of Southern California.

His topic will be, “Faking It for Freedom: Grace Halsell’s Amazing Journey through the Minefields of Race, Sex, Empire and War – A 20th Century Love Story.” The lecture is based on Kelley’s new project – a biography of the late journalist Grace Halsell. Halsell, a white journalist, spent a good part of her life masquerading as others and traveling the country and the world in order to understand the experience of subjugation.

“Halsell is an interesting figure: she ran toward crisis and found ways to insert herself, and each time it tested her liberalism, her faith, expanded her feminism, and reinforced her anti-racism, while simultaneously revealing the limits (and evolution) of her perspective,” Kelley says. “And every encounter, every journey

Alumni Gift Supports CAAS Lounge Renovation

The first-floor lounge of the Center for African American Studies will be renovated thanks to a $50,000 gift from Michelle ’84 and Kurt ’87 Lyn P’12 of Houston, Texas.

Their gift honors the 40th anniversary of the establishment of CAAS and is intended to make the lounge a more attractive venue for the entire campus community.

Ashraf Rushdy, professor and chair of the African American Studies Program, professor of English, expressed deep gratitude to the Lyn family for their generosity.

“The money will be used to make the lounge even more welcoming