Cultural and literary events

Writing and the Relation

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Lecture Hall Ernest Vilgrain (Amphi 1A), Building Halle aux Farines, Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7, Paris Rive Gauche site

With Rozena Maart, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa

Introduction by Sylvie Laurent, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, France

How do writers consider the representation of human relations, and particularly between characters with various racial, gender-related, sexual, or national (self)identifications? In what way does that influence – or not – both their mind’s eye and their literary praxis? How do they negotiate – and possibly anticipate – what Paul Ricoeur has called the "hermeneutic circle" by which the story-told is supposed to facilitate and forge the reader’s identification? Has their work and art a political value and if so is it intended to be transcended? Has literature an identity and if so, is it related to the author as both artist and subject?

Professor and writer, Rozena Maart will address the main theme, Writing and the Relation by offering a tour-de-Azania of what writing means when inscribing relations of blood, sex, gender and sexuality, inking blood in textual coloniality, under and between  apartheid ‘s reign when its tongue was twisted, locked in a tight vaginal grip with the British Empire and its allies. She will show you how she has written her history  in then out of the absences of her present, past and future, somewhere then everywhere, on walls, on the inside of thighs, under chairs and on top of them, between legs and at the  top of mountains, in psychiatric wards where Fanon  diagnosed revolution and down medical halls and soccer fields where Biko announced Black Consciousness. The relation is you, her, she, he, zhe, mademoiselle, monsieur, meneer and mevrou, auntie and uncle, you who believe you have no relation, no relation to writing or the already inscribed, and your tour-de Azania, the original name of South Africa, will be spiked with the memory of Edouard Glissant’s creole words that spoke the forbidden, Biko’s fisted smile that fought for freedom,  Fanon’s fearless fight in bringing the mind into the centre of colonial discourse, Paulette Nardal’s siore where she hosted discourses of negritude in Paris on dinner plates, Derrida’s determination to reveal White Mythology, Lllian Ngoyi’s march against the apartheid laws—these are her relations.

Rozena Maart

Dr. Rozena Maart, Associate Professor, is Chair of Gender Studies at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa. Her work examines relationships and among Political Philosophy, Derrida and Deconstruction, Black Consciousness, Psychoanalysis, Feminist Theory and Critical Theories of race and racism. She is an award winning writer who has published short stories, and novel and poetry; one of her screen scripts, based on The Writing Circle, is currently under review with a film company. She is a member the International Assembly of Women Philosophers.

Rozena Maart was born in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa and in 1973 along with her family members and close to a quarter of million people were forcibly removed from District Six, the slave quarter in Cape Town. In 1986 she, along with four women, started the first Black feminist organisation in South Africa, Women Against Repression.  The following year Dr.  Maart was nominated to the “Woman of the Year,” award for starting the first Black feminist organization in South Africa and for her work in the area of violence against women. At the time Dr. Maart was working in Gynecology and Emergency Unit at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1988 she obtained her Masters’ degree at the University of York, UK and in 1997, after working for several years as professor and consultant, Dr. Maart completed her PhD at the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK., which was titled, “The Politics of Consciousness: The Consciousness of Politics: When Black Consciousness Meets White Consciousness.”

In 1992, Dr. Maart won “The Journey Prize: Best Short Fiction in Canada,” for her short story, “No Rosa, No District Six”. After completing her doctoral work, teaching for a few years, she then decided to write four more stories, which then went into a collection titled, Rosa’s District Six. Rosa’s District Six was published in December 2004 and made the weekly bestseller list in Canada in 2006; it also made the HOMEBRU list in South Africa in April 2006. She published The Writing Circle in November of 2007 both in Canada and South Africa. In 2010 The Writing Circle was noted as one of the ten top books in South African literature in her homeland, South Africa.

Cracks in the Reflection – Blacks of/in Europe or Diversity between Knowledge and Social Transformation

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Lecture Hall Ernest Vilgrain (Amphi 1A), Building Halle aux Farines, Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7, Paris Rive Gauche site

A round-table discussion moderated by Arlette Frund, Université François Rabelais-Tours

In this round-table panelists will be invited to examine the ways in which Blacks of/in France can be exemplary of the condition of Blacks of/in Europe, and in a larger perspective of other minority-subject groups. France struggles with the specter of its centrality – currently fading away in economic globalization and political multipolarity – the republican pact, which represents the hard-core thought of the nation. It appears more and more as an idealization successively challenged by decolonization and, in the last thirty years, the peripheral jolts of regionalism or the collective mobilizations of minority-subject groups, be they cultural, ethnico-racial, gender-related or sexual. This historical and sociocultural process remarkably calls into question the redefinition of citizenship – the French ethos of identity but also the emblem of the collective mirror-image. Between the traditional republicanism and the contemporary republicanist multiculturalism is there a third way for the French republic? Would constitutional and institutional changes, with subsequent political and educational adaptations make it possible to seriously challenge the current sociopolitical domination of Blacks, non-Whites, non-French individuals, and members of other minority-subject groups? What is the just and fruitful equilibrium to be found for public policy – between on the one hand the much-needed fight against stigmatization and stereotyped cultural representations and on the other hand the no-less necessary implementation of an organizing anti-discriminatory legal body? How are these issues of social transformation related to the conditions of production of knowledge, especially in the academic and scientific circles? In what ways is this state of matters analogous and/or isomorphic to/with  Europe as a geographical space, a political body, a multicultural collective-self at war with its own mirror-image? In this multi-layered crisis what is the role and agency of self-identified Blacks of/in France and Europe? Is the cure to be found in coalition-building, and possibly – as previously attempted in other countries like the US – one that would aim at comprehending the different black lived experiences, the various modes of being black? Could they be desiring modes of being black – continuous and discontinuous, socially given and imaginative, here and there, everywhere?


Françoise Vergès
Françoise Vergès is currently Consulting at the Center for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London, andpresident of the Comité pour la Mémoire et l’Histoire de l’Esclavage (France).

Françoise Vergès has written on vernacular practices of memories, on slavery and the economy of predation, the ambiguities of French abolitionism, French republican colonialism, colonial and postcolonial psychiatry in the French colonial empire, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, French postcolionality, postcolonial museography, the routes of migration and processes of creolization in the Indian Ocean world.  She has worked with filmmakers and artists – Isaac Julien, Yinka Shonibare, Arnaud Ngatcha – and was a project advisor for Documenta 11 in 2002.

Between 2003 and 2010, Françoise Vergès was Head of Scientific and Cultural Development and Program of Maison des civilizations et de l’unité réunionnaise where she developed the notions of “Museum without Objects” and of “Six Worlds”: African, Malagasy, European, Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, which have made the indiaoceanic world.

Her most recent publication is Ruptures postcoloniales. Les nouveaux visages de la société française with Nicolas Bancel, Florence Berbault, Pascal Blanchard, Ahmed Boubakeur, and Achille Mbembe. Paris: La Découverte, 2010.

Michel Giraud
Michel Giraud is a sociologist, researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) – France, affiliated to the Centre de Recherche sur les Pouvoirs Locaux dans la Caraïbe (CRPLC) of the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (UAG). He is the author of Races et classes à la Martinique (Paris, Editions Anthropos, 1979) and the co-author of L’école aux Antilles. Langues et échec scolaire en Guadeloupe et en Martinique (Paris, Editions Karthala, 1992), and of many other publications on race, culture, gender and politics in the French West Indies and their diaspora in continental France, including recently “Colonial Racism, Ethnicity, and Citizenship. The Lessons of the Migration Experiences of French-Speaking Caribbean Populations” in Margarita Cervantes-Rodríguez, Ramón Grosfoguel and Eric Mielants (Co-Eds.), Caribbean Migration to Western Europe and the United States. Essays on Incorporation, Identity, and Citizenship, Temple University Press, 2009, pp. 43-57. “ Question noire et mémoire de l’esclavage ”, Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, « 50 ans », 198-200, 2010, pp. 677-706 and “ La promesse d’une aurore ”, Les  Temps  Modernes, « Antilles »,662-663, janvier-avril 2011. His current research focuses on how the French West Indian identities have been, and still are, negotiated since the abolition of slavery in Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1848, what are the role and place of identity affirmations (in terms of ‘race’, culture or nation) in the strategies structuring the political field and how in the postcolonial globalization era new meanings of citizenship are emerging in the French West Indies and their diaspora.

Heike Raphael-Hernandez
Heike Raphael-Hernandez is Professor of English at the University of Maryland University College Europe. In 2009, she was invited as Visiting Professor by Berkeley’s African American Studies department where she taught courses on Black Europe.

She is editor of Blackening Europe: The African American Presence (2003) and author of The Construction of a Utopian Aesthetic for African American Literature: Ernst Bloch’s Principle of Hope and Contemporary African American Women Authors (2008). Among her other publications are AfroAsian Encounters: Culture, History, Politics, co-edited with Shannon Steen (2006) and several articles on contemporary African American writers, African American youth culture, and the Vietnam War and its legacy in African American literature. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript that deals with Global South Immigration in American movies.

Jake Lamar
Jake Lamar was born in 1961 and grew up in the Bronx, New York. After graduating cum laude from Harvard with a degree in American History and Literature, he was hired by Time magazine, where he spent six years, writing mainly on U.S. politics. He quit Time to write his first book. Bourgeois Blues is a memoir about Jake’s relationship with his father and the transformation of American racial politics in the mid-twentieth century. The book was published in 1991 and, the following year, was awarded the Lyndhurst Prize, a three-year grant given to writers, journalists and people in community service.

Inspired by such authors as Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Jake traveled to Paris in 1993. He planned to stay for a year but never returned to live in the USA. He has published five novels, among them The Last Integrationist, which, in France, was awarded the Grand Prix de Cognac. His two most recent novels, Rendezvous Eighteenth and Ghosts of Saint-Michel, were set in Paris. Jake has taught at the Ecole Polytechnique, served as writer-in-residence at the MC93 Theater in Bobigny, just outside Paris, and is a frequent commentator on U.S. politics in the French media.

The Black Isles Night – Vision and Self-Perception (I)

Friday, April 8, 2011


Lecture Hall 310 (Amphi 310), Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Val-de-Seine, Paris Rive Gauche site

Screening of Leah Gordon’s Atis-Rezistans and round-table discussion moderated by Myron M. Beasley, Bates College, USA

André Eugène in Atis-Rezistans

Atis-Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue (34mins) produced & directed by Leah Gordon (2008)

Grand Rue is the main avenue that runs a north-south swathe through downtown Port au Prince, Haiti. At the southern end of Grand Rue, near the municipal cemetery and amongst the labyrinthine warren of back streets that line the avenue, is a bidonville community that has a historical tradition of arts, crafts, music and religious practice. This close-knit community is hemmed in on all sides by the makeshift car repair district, which serves as both graveyard and salvation for the cities increasingly decrepit automobiles.

Contemporary Haitian artists Celeur, Eugène, Claude and Guyodo all grew up in this atmosphere of junkyard make-do, survivalist recycling and artistic endeavour. Their powerful sculptural collages of engine manifolds, TV sets, wheel hubcaps and discarded lumber have transformed the detritus of a failing economy into bold, radical and warped sculptures. Their work references their shared African & Haitian cultural heritage, a dystopian sci-fi view of the future and the transformative act of assemblage. All three artists pay particular homage to the Vodou spirit Gede, the master of the phallus and the guardian of the cemeteries. Their monumental sculptures incorporating human skulls and six-foot long phalli are liberally scattered around this slum area, leaning insouciantly against shack walls, transforming the clamorous area into an organic art installation. This multi-layered film is a portrait of this neighbourhood, the artistic community and a meditation of the links between sex, death and creativity as expressed through the Vodou spirit Gede, that influences all their work.

Leah Gordon

Leah Gordon is a photographer, film-maker and curator and has, in recent years, produced a considerable body of work on the representational boundaries between art, religion, anthropology, post-colonialism and folk history. In 2006 she commissioned the Grand Rue Sculptors from Haiti to make ‘Freedom Sculpture’, a permanent exhibit for the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool.  Continuing her relationship with the Grand Rue artists, Gordon organized and co-curated the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince in December 2009. She has also been involved in a range of film, photographic and curatorial projects including documenting experiences of homophobia in London; colonial legacy and the museum in Maputo; links between the Slave Trade and the River Thames and carnival practice in Jacmel, Haiti. Her photography book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti is published by Soul Jazz publishing in June 2010.  Gordon is represented by Riflemaker Gallery.

Myron M. Beasley 

Dr. Myron M. Beasley (Curator of Creative Events for the “Black States of Desire Conference) is scholar, curator and performance artist who teaches in the programs of African American/American Cultural Studies at Bates College. He is the 2010 recipient of the Whiting Foundation Fellowship to complete his ethnographic work in Haiti.  He is also the recipient of the 2010/2011 Andy Warhol Writer’s Grant for his writing project about rituals and death through the prism of artists of African descent.  (

His ethnographic work has led him to fieldwork in the Morocco, Brazil and Haiti.  His work has appeared in several academic journals including Text and Performance Quarterly and Performance Research. He is also an international curator ( and his installations have appeared internationally, particularly his "Ritual, Sacred Spaces, and the Body: Men of African Descent and the Performance of Sexuality" at Performance International-PSi 6 and his short film work on food and ritual in Brazil at Umami Festival (

Title – La chute
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