Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture

Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture
MARCH 21st-22nd 2018
Birmingham City University and The University of West Indies are delighted to announce a forthcoming international conference on reggae culture and sound system innovation, and give notice of a forthcoming call for conference papers. Information on submission processes will be published in December. The conference will be hosted in The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at BCU, with its world-leading concert venues and conference facilities. The conference will also allow you entry to a number of planned reggae events and performances.

Running alongside the Arts Council-funded Let’s Play Vinyl sound system touring exhibition, hosted by Birmingham City University, the conference will engage academics with the wider sound system culture. The exhibition features specially commissioned photographs of a new generation of sound system operators, toasting and ‘build your own’ system workshops, and the opportunity for all ages to play records on a traditional reggae sound system, designed and built for the exhibition.

The Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture International Conference builds upon recent meetings of the Reggae Research Network (held throughout the UK in 2017), the Bass Culture Research Project and associated events, and the forthcoming Strictly Vinyl Sound System Outernational #4 in January at Goldsmiths, University of London, which aims to establish new approaches to reggae culture research.

This Reggae Innovation conference promises to be a landmark event in reggae culture research, highlighting the music’s subgenres, crossovers, mashups, intersections, and innovations, featuring international academic guests and musicians. The conference will discuss reggae innovation, in particular theoretical and practical expressions of how innovation plays out through music and popular culture.

Collectively, these events mark the first stage of a series of research and external engagement activities to investigate music diversity, cultural innovation, and visualisation. Like this conference, forthcoming events will place the spotlight on music heritage and innovation through a series of workshops and plenary sessions on visual culture, technology, and new collaborations.

We would particularly welcome proposed papers that address the following conference sub-themes:

·      Innovation through heritage, from mento to dancehall .

·      Innovation for heritage beyond dancehall.

·      Reggae musicians and innovation case studies.

·      Reggae, music, and gender.

·      Reggae and the music industry; new forms, new marketing, new audiences.

·      Jamaica and diasporic sonicities.

·       Reggae new music, new media, new technologies.

·      Exploring reggae’s inner and outer spaces and locations.

·      Reggae in and out of popular music studies.

·      Creativity: from theory to practice; methods and processes.

·      Reggae in transition: reinventing reggae- reconfigurations, collaborations, and crossovers.

·      Reggae futures.

We would also welcome presentations made through innovative uses of media, music and technology alongside traditional formats. Presentation proposals from musicians are welcome.

Abstracts for individual or panel presentations of no more than 300 words per presentation, supported by a short biography no longer than 75 words per speaker, should be submitted to the conference organisers for international peer review. Details of the submission processes and deadlines will be published later in December.

Book launch: Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

by Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg (Pluto, 2017)

 BOOK LAUNCH, 12 noon, Sunday 1 October 2017

NEWS FROM NOWHERE, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool L1 4HY


 “In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St. Domingue—it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”


 “This exciting new biography of Toussaint Louverture seeks to reclaim him from conservative revisionist interpretations. Inspired by C.L.R. James and informed by the latest research, Forsdick and Hogsbjerg deliver a spirited, nuanced profile of this great revolutionary leader. The book provides a fascinating analysis of the range of reactions to Toussaint, from Wordsworth in 1802 to contemporary comic books and rap.”

Alyssa Sepinwall, California State University San Marcos

Come and join the authors to discuss their new book

Refreshments available

Further details:

Translating Development

A free seminar with the support of the AHRC and the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR)

October 12th, Senate House, London: 1-4

This seminar will provide a forum for translators working in the area of development and NGOs to talk about their work, and discuss the challenges it involves. It will bring key translation studies specialists and trainers into dialogue with practitioners, and will inform broader translation networks about translation in the field of development.

For more information and registration, see:

Brexit, linguaphobia and the politics of multilingualism

Many thanks to Caio Iwan of BBC Cymru Wales for the invitation to write a blogpost for Cymru Fyw on current questions of linguaphobia in the Welsh context and beyond: Y Gymraeg a thwf ‘linguaphobia’. An version in English is available below.

Shortly after the EU referendum, Professor Yaron Matras of the University of Manchester wrote a blogpost on linguaphobia for the Manchester Policy Blog. Discussion below of several of the initial examples of recent political pronouncements on language in the UK are developed from this source.


The politicization – and often demonization – of domestic multilingualism during the 2016 EU referendum campaign is now well documented.

Growing hostility towards those speaking languages other than English was not only evident in widespread verbal abuse and even a series of criminal assaults, but also increasingly present in political discourse.

Already in February 2014, the then UKIP leader Nigel Farage had supplemented his customary xenophobic rhetoric with an attack on audible minorities when he claimed that he felt ‘awkward’ when he could hear no English being spoken while travelling on a train from London to Kent.

In the same year, Farage claimed there were ‘entire areas in our cities where nobody speaks English’, a telling indication of the inability of many in the UK to understand that a national culture does not equate to a single national language, and that – by extension – the richness cultural diversity is invariably accompanied by linguistic diversity.

This ethnolinguistic nationalism that presents the UK as exclusively Anglophone has seeped into the policy sphere, where attention to language in recent years has tended to be informed by a dangerously ideological monolingualism.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles included in December 2012, among his ‘50 ways to save: examples of sensible savings in local government‘, the suggestion that local authorities should no longer provide documents in languages other than English because translation ‘undermined community cohesion and encouraged segregation’. In the same paragraph, provision of translation was linked to ‘ giv[ing] community grants to organisations which promote segregation or division in society’, with the mealy-mouthed proviso that ‘in the constituent nations of the United Kingdom outside England, there are additional legal requirements to translate documents into other native languages of the United Kingdom’ (with the implication that provision in minoritized languages is a legal burden rather than a positive social good).

Two years later, Prime Minister David Cameron similarly saw multilingualism as a threat, claiming in the face of any real evidence that there is a direct correlation between the amount of English spoken by Muslim women in the UK to their likelihood to be resilient ‘against the messages of Daesh’.

Such statements cross party political lines, and were not uncommon under previous Labour governments, with both Tony Blair and David Blunkett being on record for associating ‘Britishness’ with an ability to speak English.

As Farage’s comments about his own feelings of awkwardness make clear, public transport has often been the shared space in which such incidents of linguistic prejudice have occurred.

A widely reported example in June 2016 underlined the complex misconceptions that such incidents often entail.

A passenger on a rail replacement bus between Cardiff and Newport reported shortly before the EU referendum that a Muslim woman talking with her son was told by a stranger that she ‘should really be speaking English’.

Informed by another traveller that the woman was speaking Welsh (and not, as the man clearly assumed, Arabic), the humiliated linguaphobe was left muttering to himself.

This was not, however, an isolated incident.

The result of the EU referendum appears to have legitimated a wave of prejudice against speakers of languages other than English, a tendency of which the Polish community were particular victims, with attacks on cultural centres as well as on individuals.

In several high-profile cases – such as the murder of Arkadiusz Jóźwik in Harlow in August 2016 – it became apparent that belonging to an audible minority was becoming increasingly dangerous, meaning that multilingualism has increasingly been pushed from the private into the public sphere.

What these examples illustrate are the entanglements of the multiple languages spoken in the UK.

The 2001 census in England and Wales provided for the first time detailed evidence of the everyday practice this linguistic variety, revealing the superdiversity increasingly evident in many urban areas.

What is striking in the complex linguistic ecology of 21st-century Britain and Ireland is the juxtaposition of ‘minoritized’ or ‘heritage’ languages – such as Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Irish or Welsh – with languages associated with more recent migrations from Europe, Africa, Asia or elsewhere.

Research suggests quite clearly that new arrivals to the UK require linguistic support for a relatively short period, and that such provision clearly accelerates social inclusion.

What remains unpalatable for a significant minority of the population is the fact that such inclusion does not imply an adoption of Anglophone monolingualism, but means that many retain the right to a functional bilingualism or multilingualism according to which – as is the case in most other parts of the world – people deploy a repertoire of languages according to the situations in which they find themselves.

The clear prejudice against those speaking languages other than English are increasingly described by the term ‘linguaphobia’.

The concept was first adopted in the 1950s – by analogy with other academic phobias – to suggest a militant monolingualism manifesting itself as a failure in, avoidance of and a hostility towards learning other languages.

Post-Brexit, the concept increasingly describes an ideological phenomenon that judges national belonging in terms of the exclusive use of the English language.

The most prominent media attention in this area has focused on so-called ‘community’ languages, ranging from Arabic to Polish, questioning the right of speakers of languages other than English to express themselves openly in the public sphere, but equally apparent is a parallel hostility to the indigenous languages of the UK.

This is not least evident in ideological monolingualism of recent attacks on Welsh in the English media, seen for instance in a deeply flawed account of bilingual education in The Guardian or a critique of the Welsh language act in The Times.

Such linguaphobia fails to acknowledge the historic multilingualism of the UK, and the associated right of people to be educated in and to live their lives in languages other than English.

It also reflects the persistent failure to see the existence of multiple languages – in schools, in universities, in businesses, in public services – as a social and cultural resource, rather than an impediment to some dangerously reductive monolingual myth of national cohesion.

CFP on Contemporary French Poetic Practice

Nina Parish (University of Bath) and Emma Wagstaff (University of Birmingham) are delighted to invite article proposals for an Autumn 2018 guest-edited special issue of L’Esprit Créateur on the theme of ‘Poetry’s Forms and Transformations’.

The poetic practice of the last twenty years in France takes multiple forms. The definition of poetry is expanding to take account of its porous boundaries with other art forms, practices and genres, whose own boundaries and definitions are also challenged and expanded. This special issue will examine the connections between poetry and other disciplines and creative practices. The volume will not simply propose that poets engage with the work of other practitioners. The AHRC Translating Cultures workshops from which it emerges (see revealed that the relation between poetry and other creative practices produces new artistic forms rather than dialogue, and poetic objects emerge that are more than written texts inspired by other media. Poetry leaves behind the format of the written collection to extend into other domains, and poets reflect on that phenomenon in their texts or in parallel to them, thinking about what other forms and practices do to transform poetry. Among the most recent manifestations of innovative poetic forms are poets’ explorations of the possibilities afforded by digital technologies, not merely to aid the dissemination of their work, but rather radically to transform our understanding of performance, exhibition and publication.

We invite proposals for articles in English that examine contemporary (post-2000) French-language work in which poetic practice engages with other creative practices or disciplines to produce new forms, and would be particularly keen to receive proposals on poetry’s involvement with dance, architecture, or film. We welcome proposals on French-speaking practitioners not based in France as well as on female-authored creative work. Abstracts of around 250 words should be sent to and by 30 September 2017. The deadline for final articles (c. 6000 words) to be submitted will be 31 January 2018.

CFP: 11th Liverpool Travel Seminar: ‘Travel, Text and Image’


‘Travel, Text and Image’: Liverpool, 23rd September, 2017.
The eleventh annual Liverpool Travel Seminar – a collaboration between University of Liverpool, Liverpool Hope University and Liverpool John Moores University.

The Liverpool Travel Seminar is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research forum launched jointly by Liverpool Hope University, the University of Liverpool, and Liverpool John Moores University in 2007. It provides a constructive environment in which colleagues from Liverpool’s universities with interests in travel and travel writing discuss the latest developments in their fields whilst reflecting on possible future directions. The Seminar provides a cross- and inter-disciplinary research infrastructure, permitting cross-institutional dialogue and research collaboration in Liverpool itself. At the same time, it aims to expand national and international networks of scholars working on travel and associated fields.

This year’s symposium – dedicated to ‘Travel, Text and Image’ – will take place on Saturday 23rd September, 2017. The Keynote speaker is photographer Frédéric Lecloux, currently Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the University of Nottingham, who will be speaking about his work including a recent project tracing the travels of Nicolas Bouvier in Nepal.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers which address the general themes of travel, text and image, including (but certainly not limited to) studies of travel photography, book illustrations, carnets de voyage, cartography, posters and other visual ephemera, rhetorical strategies including ekphrasis, the iconographic potential of the digital… We welcome papers from diverse disciplinary perspectives, exploring a variety of theoretical frameworks, cultural contexts and historical periods.

For further details, please contact the Seminar organisers: Professor Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool;; Dr. Zoe Kinsley (Liverpool Hope University; or Dr. Kate Walchester (Liverpool John Moores University;

Please send abstracts of 300 words and a bio of no more than 60 words by August 18th, 2017.

Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations: A Picture from the UK, 2014-16

‘Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations’ was a Translating Cultures network that ran from 2014-16. A report on the findings of the project has recently been published by Rajendra Chitnis (University of Bristol), Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL), Rhian Atkin (University of Cardiff) and Zoran Milutinović (UCL).

The report emerged from a series of public, industry-focused workshops, interviews and other published material arranged and produced during the life-time of the project. ‘Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations’ explored how smaller European literatures attempt to reach the wider world. It concentrated on the variety of actors who collaborate to bring a text to an international audience.

Key findings:

• The widespread and enduring pessimism about the prospects for translated literature in the UK is outdated.

• Concern has shifted from a focus on the low amount of translated literature being published to questions about the diversity of literature translated.

• The number of independent presses publishing translated literature has markedly increased in the past decade, often founded by people from corporate publishing or the financial sector with sophisticated strategies for raising their profile and establishing their brand.

• Technological advances are central to the growth in translated literature. Social media, book review sites, on-line reading groups and bloggers have transformed the notion of ‘word-of-mouth’.

• Translated literature remains a preoccupation of the educated urban middle-class, centred fundamentally on London and almost completely absent from school curricula.

• Commercial imperatives foster conservative approaches to book choices even among independent publishers, to the detriment of less familiar European literatures.

• The success of genre fiction in translation raises both hopes that this will make reading translated literature more normal and concerns that this will reduce the diversity of literature translated. An emphasis on retranslating classics rather than translating new works exacerbates the situation, particularly for smaller European literatures for which few if any works have historically attained international classic status.

• Data about the diversity of translated literature shows what is published more than what is actually read. The increasing dominance of English-language literature in both English-speaking contexts and in translation suggests that a declining diversity of voices and perspectives is not unique to English-speaking readers.

• Alongside questions about the diversity of national voices and of literary genres, male authors continue to dominate translated literature, raising questions about selection processes for translation (by publishers and other ‘gatekeepers’, including translators) or for funding or promotion (by national and international organisations or competition juries).

• The prominent phenomenon among smaller European literatures of ‘supply-driven’ translation – motivated not by reader demand but by a desire to circumvent the market or draw publishers’ attention to texts – makes texts available, but raises concerns about the proliferation of unread texts and the quality of translation and product.

• Advocates are divided between those who favour forms of intervention, particularly in relation to funding strategies, to increase the quality and profile of translated literature and those who fear the consequences of intervention for the diversity of translated literature published, including the range of literatures available to readers.

CFP — (Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance 

(Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance 

LAHP Student-led Interdisciplinary Conference 2017 

Keynote speaker: Dr Alexander Samson, UCL 

The London Arts and Humanities Partnership is pleased to announce the cross-disciplinary student-led conference (Im)mobility: Dialectics of Movement, Power and Resistance, which will be hosted by The London School of Economics (28 November 2017). 

We live in a time in which global mobility is one of the central themes of several political agendas. It is subject to contestation, resistance and attempts of redefinition, in debates that are often shaped around the narrative of ʻidentities under threatʼ. Building on the ‘mobility turn’ theorized by sociologist John Urry (2007), Stephen Greenblatt, in his manifesto on Cultural Mobility (2009), began to explore the ʻtension between individual agency and structural constraintʼ, in both the present and the past. This cross-disciplinary conference aims to investigate the dynamics of mobility and immobility in relation to structures of power. How does (or did) power regulate the mobility and immobility of people, objects and ideas across time and space? Inversely, in which ways have matters of movement resisted and altered injunctions placed upon individuals, groups and/or objects by those in power? What effects do such dialectics of movement have in reshaping the cultural and social realms? 

We invite PhD students and early career researchers from any department within the Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences to contribute with 20-minutes papers that address, but are not necessarily limited to, the following issues: 

● (Im)mobility and construction of social and cultural identities 

● (Im)mobility, law and freedom 

● Migration 

● Translation, language mobility and power 

● Bodily (im)mobilities and disability 

● Maps, travelogues and postcolonialism

● Movements of people in urban and rural environments 

● Hidden or concealed mobilities of people, objects, ideas (e.g., smuggling, trafficking, resistance to censorship) 

● Mobility of academics and intellectuals 

● Digital technologies, social media, flow of information and politics 

● Artistic, literary and musical interpretations of mobility-power dynamics 

To submit a paper, please send a presentation title and an abstract of approximately 300 words, along with your CV and contact details, to by 30 July 2017. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by the end of August 2017.

Some small bursaries are available for presenting attendees travelling from outside of London. Enquiries should be directed to

Segalen, Colloque de Cerisy du 3 au 10 juillet 2018, CFP

‘Attentif à ce qui n’a pas été dit’ : Segalen 1919-2019

Colloque de Cerisy du 3 au 10 juillet 2018

Appel à contribution

Disparu prématurément en 1919, Segalen, médecin, voyageur, archéologue, écrivain, a laissé une œuvre abondante, en grande partie inédite à sa mort. Des éditeurs, des écrivains et des critiques l’ont mise en valeur au cours des années 1960, ce dont témoigne un de ses lecteurs : « un grand écrivain méconnu qui mourut en 1919. C’était un médecin. Il voyagea en Chine, qu’il raconta dans deux livres que l’on découvre maintenant. Son style est d’une rare modernité » (François Mitterrand, Lettres à Anne, 28/11/1971 p. 925).

Située au carrefour de plusieurs cultures et de plusieurs disciplines, fortement novatrice en matière de formes et d’idées, son œuvre n’a cessé depuis lors de susciter l’intérêt de critiques littéraires, d’ethnologues, de philosophes, mais aussi l’inspiration et l’émulation d’artistes (poètes, musiciens, peintres, etc.). C’est cette réception multiforme de l’œuvre de Segalen que ce colloque de Cerisy se propose d’étudier, il s’agira d’évaluer quelles lectures en ont été faites, en France comme dans les pays où elle a été traduite. En quoi a-t-elle marqué les penseurs et créateurs tout au long du XXe siècle et en ce début de XXIe siècle? Et en quoi, par sa diversité, nous aide-t-elle à penser le monde et l’art aujourd’hui ?

La réflexion pourra s’articuler autour des directions suivantes :

Resituer Segalen dans l’histoire de son époque : la jeune République et ses opposants (bonapartistes), la colonisation, la chute de l’Empire de Chine, la Première Guerre mondiale, compte tenu de l’évolution du regard porté sur ces questions depuis plusieurs décennies.

Comment apprécier la « modernité » spécifique de l’œuvre de Segalen en tenant compte de ce qu’il doit à son époque ? Depuis la période « fin de siècle », les naturalistes des Cliniciens ès Lettres et les symbolistes (« les chers miens »), Rimbaud, Claudel, Maeterlinck, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche et Jules de Gaultier, vers une « poétique » qui lui est propre.

Segalen est l’inventeur de formes et d’un style nouveaux : quels en ont été les effets sur d’autres créateurs ?

Étudier les problèmes posés par l’édition des textes de Segalen, compte tenu du fait qu’il a laissé la plupart de ses œuvres inachevées à sa mort, et voir en quoi ces nouvelles éditions ou l’édition de lettres et de textes demeurés longtemps inédits modifient l’appréciation de son œuvre.

Étudier les diverses interprétations par des critiques de la notion centrale de « Divers » et les significations qu’elle peut prendre aujourd’hui chez des écrivains, des poètes, des penseurs et des philosophes, des ethnologues, en France et à l’étranger, particulièrement en Chine.

Étudier la « diversité » des travaux de Segalen dans les sciences (médecine, psychiatrie) Les méthodes scientifiques ont-elles marqué sa pensée et son style ? Comment les textes de Segalen sont-ils reçus par des médecins ? Il a mené lui-même des recherches en sciences humaines (ethnologie, sinologie, archéologie…). En quoi ces travaux sont-ils liés à son œuvre littéraire ? Comment sont-ils appréciés par des sinologues (par exemple Basile Alexeiev, Vadime Elisseff, Simon Leys, François Jullien…) ?

Étudier la réception des œuvres de Segalen par des poètes (Remy de Gourmont, Pierre Jean Jouve, Pierre Emmanuel, Édouard Glissant, Gérard Macé, Kenneth White, Salah Stétié, Lorand Gaspar, François Cheng, Christian Doumet, Pang Pei…)

Étudier différentes réceptions critiques de Segalen en Europe (Henry Bouillier, Gilles Manceron, Michel Pierssens, Daniel Bougnoux, Noël Cordonier, Christian Doumet, Marc Gontard, Dominique Gournay, Étienne Germe, Marie Dollé, Charles Forsdick, Mickaël Taylor, Maria Zinfert…) et en Chine (Cheng Tcheng, Hung Chengfu, Ho Kin-Chung, Esther Lin, Qin Haiying, Huang Bei…) 

Étudier les traductions de Segalen en diverses langues (allemand, anglais, chinois, espagnol, italien, japonais, néerlandais, portugais etc.)

Etudier des œuvres picturales, musicales et des sculptures, créées en relation avec les textes de Segalen.

Étudier la réception des ouvrages de Segalen par des bibliophiles.

Les propositions de communication sont à envoyer pour le 30 juin 2017 à :


Le comité scientifique :

Colette Camelin, Muriel Détrie, Christian Doumet, Mathilde Poizat-Amar, Philippe Postel

“Littérature-monde en français”: Ten Years On

Un entretien avec Alain Mabanckou et Abdourahman Waberi

Charles Forsdick: Le manifeste pour une littérature-monde en français a été publié il y a dix ans. A votre avis – une décennie plus tard – quel a été son impact sur la production littéraire dans le monde francophone?

Alain Mabanckou: Je crois que c’est un manifeste qui ne faisait que confirmer le mouvement actuel de la littérature : s’ouvrir au monde et ne pas se laisser emprisonner par les discours nationaux. Nous n’avons donc fait qu’accompagner un courant et, dix ans plus tard, nous pouvons dire que la production littéraire est de moins en moins marginalisée ou prise de haut. En France les écrivains africains par exemple publient dans de grandes maisons d’édition et leurs œuvres sont critiquées au même titre que celles des écrivains français, et dans les mêmes journaux.

Abdourahman Waberi: Son impact a été, à l’évidence, important puisque dix ans après sa publication, étudiants, journalistes, auteurs ou chercheurs nous sommes nombreux à en parler encore. Le point de convergence ou si vous préférez le désir de bousculer l’hégémonie parisienne est, lui, très ancien. Les idées avancées dans ledit manifeste circulaient déjà avant 2007. Véronique Porra le rappelle : « Les auteurs reprennent ici des idées-force qu’ils ont pour certains déjà développées dans des articles ou interviews depuis le début des années 2000. C’est par exemple le cas d’Abdourahman Waberi, qui dès 1998 s’est distancié des écritures postcoloniales et rangé dans une catégorie qu’il a lui-même définie comme celle des « enfants de la postcolonie » ; c’est également le cas d’Alain Mabanckou, d’Anna Moï et de Nancy Huston, qui ont déjà énoncé des prises de positions critiques similaires dans des articles ou des essais antérieurs… ». Ces idées circulent et circuleront sous de nouvelles formulations, me semble-t-il.

CF: Le manifeste a été beaucoup commenté dans le monde universitaire anglophone, surtout aux Etats-Unis – selon Jackie Dutton, on a maintenant publié plus de 300 articles et chapitres à son sujet, dont ceux dans la collection éditée chez les Presses Universitaires de Liverpool. Pourquoi un intérêt de cette envergure en dehors de la France?

AM: Je crois que la France a toujours été en retard dans la réception et la critique des œuvres des écrivains venus d’ailleurs et écrivant en français. L’espace anglophone est plus réceptif à notre discours grâce à l’abondance des chercheurs en études francophones. Enfin, j’ai comme l’impression qu’en France on a perçu le manifeste comme un coup d’Etat qui permettait aux francophones de s’emparer de la langue française. De même, étudier en profondeur la littérature-monde donnerait le sentiment aux chercheurs français de la fin d’un discours franco-centré.

AW: Le chiffre avancé par Jackie Dutton est impressionnant mais il ne me surprend pas puisque le colloque de Tallahassee auquel vous et moi avions assisté en 2009 aux côtés de Michel Le Bris, Jean Rouaud, Anna Moï, Alain Mabanckou, Dominic Thomas, Alec Hargreaves etc… signalait cet engouement sans pareil. Je pense qu’il y a beaucoup raisons mais la principale tient au fait que les enseignants et les chercheurs évoluant dans le monde universitaire américain (mais aussi canadien ou australien, par exemple) s’emparaient de cet objet pour questionner de façon opportune leur champ d’étude. Leurs interrogations trouvaient des échos dans le manifeste. En tout cas le temps était venu aussi, pour eux, de s’éloigner de certaines habitudes et de braquer leur attention sur d’autres sujets d’études… La France reste ou restait sourde voire hostile à ces questionnements pour des raisons liées à la fois à son histoire et à son système universitaire.

CF: Le manifeste a fait allusion aux “écrivains d’outre-France”, sans faire de distinction entre les auteurs dits “postcoloniaux” et ceux qui sont plutôt “exophones”, c’est-à-dire qui ont adopté le français comme langue nouvelle. Faudrait-il, selon vous, faire la différence entre ces deux désignations?

AM: Je pense que la vraie révolution serait d’aller vers les écrivains francophiles – ceux dont les pays n’ont pas été colonisés par la France et qui sont venus à la langue française par choix. Je ne me sens pas “exophone” ou même “d’outre-France”: je suis un écrivain africain qui dit le monde en français, parce que le français est ma seule langue d’écriture. En cela je me sens aussi proche de ceux qui ont choisi une langue, peut-être même plus proche d’eux que d’un écrivain français.

AW: Le manifeste pensé et porté par un petit groupe d’écrivains dont j’étais cherchait d’abord à créer une masse critique. Tous les écrivains agacés par le parisianisme, pensions-nous, devaient se sentir attentifs à notre démarche. Et nous n’avions pas tort, loin de là. Bien sûr, tous n’ont pas été sollicités pour des raisons de temps et de place. Le grand public ne s’encombre de ces désignations. Les critiques et les chercheurs qui étudient ces mondes doivent bien sûr s’y attarder pour approfondir leurs analyses et nous offrir des résultats fiables et sérieux comme cela se fait dans tous les domaines.

CF: Le manifeste évoque une littérature-monde en français, à savoir monolingue. Votre propre oeuvre circule en traduction en plusieurs langues, dont notamment bien sûr l’anglais. Quel est le rôle de la traduction dans la world literature, et peut-on la concevoir sans être – pour citer Edouard Glissant – “en présence de toutes les langues du monde”?

AM: Toutes les langues peuvent se parler et se parlent. Si nous avions célébré une “littérature-monde en français”, c’est parce que c’était le dernier champ qui résistait à l’appel du monde. La littérature-monde dans l’espace anglophone n’est pas une question : c’est une littérature qui a son prestige et qui donne à la langue anglaise une vitalité extraordinaire à travers des écrivains comme Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozie Achie, Teju Cole et bien d’autres. Ces auteurs sont considérés comme des écrivains à part entière. Dans la littérature française on ne se gêne pas de faire des anthologies dans lesquelles tout est « blanc », national et loin du mouvement du monde. La traduction a désormais un rôle essentiel : il permet au monde de mesurer l’étendue de l’imaginaire en français, un imaginaire qui ne vient pas forcément de France. D’ailleurs on traduit plus les auteurs écrivant en français et venus d’ailleurs que les auteurs « franco-français ».

AW: Mon œuvre circule en anglais, langue dans laquelle presque tous mes livres sont disponibles grâce au talent et à la générosité des traducteurs sans qui rien de polyphonique ne peut s’accomplir. En effet, les écrivains travaillent, comme le soulignait mon regretté ami Edouard Glissant, en présence de toutes les langues du monde. Ils peuvent fomenter des projets artistiques fabuleux à partir d’un lieu microscopique comme Sainte-Lucie (Derek Walcott), Martinique (Césaire, Glissant..) ou Djibouti mais ils ont besoin de l’alchimie opérée par la traduction. Mes livres sont traduits en anglais mais aussi dans une multitude d’autres langues comme l’italien, l’allemand ou le japonais et cela représente à mes yeux la meilleure des récompenses.

CF: Alain Mabanckou, la publication récente de L’Histoire mondiale de la France – collection à laquelle vous avez contribué un excellent chapitre sur la mort d’Aimé Césaire – a suscité de vives controverses : y a-t-il, à votre avis, des rapports entre la littérature-monde et cette nouvelle historiographie transnationale de la France ?

AM: En France quand on touche à l’Histoire il faut s’attendre à des polémiques. Mon ami historien Patrick Boucheron qui a eu l’idée de ce livre est soucieux de la réécriture de l’Histoire de France tournée vers le monde. Dans ce sens il fallait montrer une France métisse, bâtie aussi par des gens venus d’ailleurs. J’étais honoré d’écrire un chapitre sur Césaire qui est à mon avis l’un des plus grands poètes français… Ce livre collectif peut donc être vu aussi comme une volonté de placer le monde au cœur de l’imaginaire en français, cette fois-ci sur le plan de l’Histoire de France…

CF: Dans ce chapitre sur Césaire, vous faites allusion avec justesse à la “contribution indéniable” du grand poète Martiniquais “dans ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler aujourd’hui la world literature”. Ce constat suscite chez moi deux questions : le manifeste aurait-il pu reconnaître une généalogie beaucoup plus complexe de la littérature-monde¸ avec des apports des auteurs importants tels que Césaire, Senghor, Damas et d’autres ? et aurait-il dû se situer par rapport aux autres catégories littéraires – pas nécessairement synonymes ou traduisible – telles que justement la “world literature” ou la Weltliteratur ?

AM: Je crois que dans le Manifeste on peut ressentir en filigrane la présence de Césaire, de Glissant. De Césaire nous empruntons le refus de la soumission : les auteurs francophones ne sont pas les esclaves de la langue française, mais cette langue ne vaudrait rien si elle n’était pas revivifiée par les écrivains venus d’ailleurs.  De Glissant, on peut constater que même dans l’expression “littérature-monde” son esprit est là, avec ses thèses de “l’identité rhizome” ou sa “poétique de la relation”. Césaire et Glissant sont parmi ceux qui ont placé notre imaginaire dans le concert du monde.

CF: Enseignant dans le système américain, vous connaissez bien, Abdourahman Waberi, la façon dont on aborde et la littérature dite “francophone postcoloniale” et la “world literature” en dehors de la France. Je te pose la même question qu’à Alain: selon cette perspective, le manifeste aurait-il pu reconnaître une généalogie beaucoup plus complexe de la littérature-monde¸ et aurait-il dû se situer par rapport aux autres catégories littéraires telles que la world literature ou la Weltliteratur?

AW: Oui, mais encore une fois il ne faut pas assigner au manifeste des missions qui n’étaient pas les siennes. Il ne s’agissait pas de poser les fondements d’une réflexion académique au long cours. Il s’agissait de s’adresser d’abord aux journalistes, aux éditeurs, aux libraires français pour leur dire d’arrêter de minorer les productions des artistes que l’on appelle Francophones.

CF: La publication récente d’une traduction américaine de Moisson de crânes: textes pour le Rwanda me mène vers des questions de mémoire: y a-t-il, à votre avis, des rapports entre la littérature-monde et les tentatives littéraires de parler d’une mémoire coloniale et postcoloniale – ou même de transformer le texte littéraire en lieu de mémoire?

AW: Intuitivement je dirai oui il y a des multiples rapprochements. Cependant il me faudrait plus de temps de réflexion et d’espace pour creuser cette piste. Je pense à l’instant au nouveau livre d’Anna Moï qui reparle de son pays, le Vietnam, en dialoguant avec une autre “Vietnamienne”: Marguerite Duras. Cette remontée dans le temps n’est pas un fait du hasard mais un désir de transformer l’espace et le texte littéraire en lieu de mémoire.

CF: Une dernière question à vous deux: quel avenir pour la littérature-monde en français? S’agit-il toujours d’une catégorie utile, ou a-t-elle maintenant atteint son but?

AM: Je pense que comme tout manifeste, le nôtre reflétait une période, celle du début des années 2000. Nous avons prôné une littérature-monde, maintenant il s’agit de vivre le monde en littérature et de se rappeler que la création littéraire est avant tout une aventure personnelle. Il ne faudrait pas que la littérature-monde soit vue comme une catégorie à part. Il faudrait qu’elle ne soit plus qu’une littérature comme une autre.

AW: Le manifeste sous sa forme initiale a atteint son but, la réflexion continue et doit continuer sous de nouveaux angles. Et c’est très bien ainsi.

Call: Red Africa – a special issue of Twentieth-Century Communism

Call for contributions

Red Africa – a special issue of Twentieth-Century Communism

In Red Africa. Affective Communities and the Cold War, Mark Nash writes: ‘although only a minority of independent African states chose formal affiliation with Marxism and communism, there is no doubt that together with the developing nationalist movements this was a major ideological force in African culture and politics’. Twentieth-Century Communism invites contributions to a special issue on the oft-neglected theme of Communism and Africa. The journal is open to contributions from the field of cultural studies as well as the social sciences. Subjects could include: the history of Communism in Africa before and after decolonisation, notably the experience of ‘tropical Marxism’; relations between Africa and the world Communist movement, in all its tense diversity (East/West, European/non-European, Moscow/Beijing/Belgrade/Pyongyang/ Havana/East Berlin/Tirana/Paris, etc.); the experience of Communist Africans in exile; the place of Africa in Marxist theory.

Contributions of approximately 5000 words should be submitted by 1 October 2017 to Gavin Bowd, The issue will appear in the second half of 2018.

CFP: Memory, Migration, and Decolonisation in the Caribbean and Beyond, 1804 to the Present

Memory, Migration, and Decolonisation in the Caribbean and Beyond, 1804 to the Present

Institute of Latin American Studies, Senate House, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, 23rd–24th May 2017.

We invite papers that interrogate the intersections between memory, migration, and decolonisation across the Caribbean and its diasporas. The conference seeks to explore how ideas about decolonisation have resonated in the Caribbean, the Americas, and Europe. We take Haitian independence (1804) as a thinking point for debates surrounding concepts of independence, colonialisms, and freedoms. We welcome papers that explore contemporary practices of neo-colonialism and resistances to them as well as issues of formal ‘decolonisation’. We will develop themes of decolonisation by moving beyond any set discipline: we are particularly interested to hear proposals from artists, curators, musicians and community activists, as well as scholars. As part of an ongoing oral history project, this conference will feature a community-led public engagement activity that focuses on the lived experiences of decolonisation and migration amongst members of Britain’s Caribbean diaspora.

Themes of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Memories and experiences of migration, empire, and (de)colonisation;
  • (Neo)colonialism in the contemporary Caribbean and beyond;
  • The development of national consciousness;
  • Caribbean literature;
  • Theorising decolonisation;
  • Visions of a post-colonial future.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, by Friday 17th March, to

Keynote Speaker: Prof Matthew Smith (University of the West Indies, Mona)

Guest Speakers: Prof.Tina K. Ramnarine (Royal Holloway, University of London) Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry (University of West London)

Convenors: Jack Webb and William Tantam (Institute of Latin American Studies); Maria del Pilar Kaladeen (Centre for Postcolonial Studies)

In association with AHRC Translating Cultures Theme.

The Black Jacobins Reader: out now

co-edited with Christian Høgsbjerg

“This is the most authoritative confirmation to date of the intellectual stature of C. L. R. James and the prophetic grandeur of his great classic, The Black Jacobins. Some eighty years after its first publication, readers of different generations and across a diversity of national origins document their admiration of the depth and spontaneity of James’s analytical interpretation of the Haitian Revolution. It was the first and only example in modern history of a successful slave revolt when a population of enslaved Africans defeated three European armies and converted a slave plantation into the Independent Republic of Haiti. The nineteenth century had judged it inconceivable; and ever since it has survived a universal silence.” — George Lamming

The Black Jacobins, with its unforgettable story of Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, is one of the great books of the twentieth century. The Black Jacobins Reader provides us with a rich selection of reflections on C. L. R. James’s achievement and his own rethinkings over time. Whether understood as a cultural history of revolution before cultural history; a classic text for revolutionaries; a meditation on universal history; a pioneering Marxist analysis of the slave trade, slavery, and modern capitalism; an inspiration for generations of historians; an exploration of what it means to be ‘West Indian’; a disruption of orthodox notions of historical temporality or a provocation to think about the relation between the past and the present; or indeed any combination of these; it is undoubtedly a book that continues to inspire many. Black activists in U.S. prisons, writers, and historians are amongst those who remind us, in different ways, of the power of a text such as this—one that wrote the history of a people supposedly without history.” — Catherine Hall

Containing a wealth of new scholarship and rare primary documents, The Black Jacobins Reader provides a comprehensive analysis of C. L. R. James’s classic history of the Haitian Revolution. In addition to considering the book’s literary qualities and its role in James’s emergence as a writer and thinker, the contributors discuss its production, context, and enduring importance in relation to debates about decolonization, globalization, postcolonialism, and the emergence of neocolonial modernity. The Reader also includes the reflections of activists and novelists on the book’s influence and a transcript of James’s 1970 interview with Studs Terkel.

Contributors: Mumia Abu-Jamal, David Austin, Madison Smartt Bell, Anthony Bogues, John H. Bracey Jr., Rachel Douglas, Laurent Dubois, Claudius K. Fergus, Carolyn E. Fick, Charles Forsdick, Dan Georgakas, Robert A. Hill, Christian Høgsbjerg, Selma James, Pierre Naville, Nick Nesbitt, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Matthew Quest, David M. Rudder, Bill Schwarz, David Scott, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Matthew J. Smith, Studs Terkel
Foreword / Robert A. Hill  xiii
Haiti / David M. Rudder  xxi
Acknowledgments  xxiii
Introduction: Rethinking The Black Jacobins / Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg  1
Part I. Personal Reflection
1. The Black Jacobins in Detroit: 1963 / Dan Georgakas  55
2. The Impact of C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins / Mumia Abu-Jamal  58
3. C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins, and The Making of Haiti / Carolyn E. Fick  60
4. The Black Jacobins, Education, and Redemption / Russell Maroon Shoatz  70
5. The Black Jacobins, Past and Present / Selma James  73
Part II. The Haitian Revolution: Histories and Philosophies
6. Reading The Black Jacobins: Historical Perspectives / Laurent Dubois  87
7. Haiti and Historical Time / Bill Schwarz  93
8. The Theory of Haiti: The Black Jacobins and the Poetics of Universal History / David Scott  115
9. Fragments of a Universal History: Global Capital, Mass Revolution, and the Idea of Equality in The Black Jacobins / Nick Nesbitt  139
10. “We Are Slaves and Slaves Believe in Freedom”: The Problematizing of Revolutionary Emancipation in The Black Jacobins / Claudius Fergus  162
11. “To Place Ourselves in History”: The Haitian Revolution in British West Indies Thought before The Black Jacobins / Matthew J. Smith  178
Part III. The Black Jacobins: Texts and Contexts
12. The Black Jacobins and the Long Haitian Revolution: Archives, History, and the Writing of Revolution / Anthony Bogues  197
13. Refiguring Resistance: Historiography, Fiction, and the Afterlives of Toussaint Louverture / Charles Forsdick  215
14. On “Both Sides” of the Haitian Revolution? Rethinking Direct Democracy and National Liberation in The Black Jacobins / Matthew Quest  235
15. The Black Jacobins: A Revolutionary Study of Revolution, and of a Caribbean Revolution / David Austin  256
16. Making Drama our of the Haitian Revolution from Below: C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins Play / Rachel Douglas  278
17. “On the Wings of Atalanta” / Aldon Lynn Nielsen  297
Part IV. Final Reflections
18. Afterword to The Black Jacobins‘s Italian Edition / Madison Smartt Bell  313
19. Introduction to the Cuban Edition of The Black Jacobins / John H. Bracey  322
Appendix 1. C. L. R. James and Studs Terkel Discuss The Black Jacobins on WFMT Radion (Chicago), 1970  329
Appendix 2. The Revolution in Theory / C. L. R. James  353
Appendix 3. Translator’s Foreword by Pierre Naville to the 1949 / 1983 French Editions  367
Bibliography  383
Contributors  411
Index  415

Teaching and research in ‘strategically important’ languages

Teaching and Research in ‘Strategically Important’ Languages:
a Comparative Perspective, between France and the United Kingdom

Christine Lorre-Johnston (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3), Catherine Davies (IMLR), and Charles Forsdick (AHRC) report on the recent seminar held in Paris discussing the notion of ‘strategically important’ languages.

imgThis one-day seminar was held at the University Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 on Friday 25 November 2016, in the amphitheatre of the Institut du Monde Anglophone. The seminar was conceived as a follow-up to a workshop entitled “What Is Modern Languages Research?” held by the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, in July 2015. The Paris event was jointly organised by Christine Lorre-Johnston (Sorbonne Nouvelle, and LabEx TransferS programme), Catherine Davies (London, Institute of Modern Languages Research [IMLR]), and Charles Forsdick (Liverpool, and leadership fellow of the Translating Cultures theme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC]), with the generous support of our respective institutions and research programmes.

The seminar took its cue from the fact that in England, Modern Languages, along with area studies and related languages, were considered “Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects” in the 2005 report of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The aim of the day’s discussions was to investigate the notion of ‘strategically important’ languages, in a comparative perspective focusing on the UK and France, and the impact of that notion on higher education and research, as well as school education.

The introduction by Christine Lorre-Johnston recalled the existence of the parallel institutions that frame research and teaching in the UK and in France. The first panel, on European languages, was chaired by Janice Carruthers (Queen’s University Belfast) and Ricarda Schneider (Sorbonne Nouvelle). Andrew Hussey (University of London Institute in Paris) started with Juan Goytisolo’s novel Landscapes after the Battle (1982) to destabilise the notion of linguistic identity in France in the 21st century, with the omnipresence of Arabic. Catherine Davies discussed “The Growth of Spanish and Portuguese in the UK,” pointing out that because British universities are autonomous, government “encouragement” is not enough to sustain language degree programmes: dialogue with university management is important. Tatiana Matzenbacher (Sorbonne Nouvelle) stressed the diplomatic and political importance of learning Portuguese. Godela Weiss-Sussex (IMLR) described various initiatives that have been taken to emphasize German culture in an effort to counter the decline in the number of students of German.

The next two panels, chaired by Charles Forsdick and Stefan Sperl (School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS]), dealt with non-European languages. Stefan Sperl explained how the SOAS Arabic Programme aims at transcending stereotypes for indigenous (English-speaking) students, and at gaining comparative perspective for heritage students (with an Arabic background). Luc Deheuvels (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales [INALCO]) retraced the long history of the teaching of Arabic in France, and pointed out that even though Arabic is taught in some 20 universities in France, there are still few Arabic teachers in secondary schools. Stephen Hutchings (Manchester), discussing Russian in the UK, evoked two current concerns: the notion of ‘securitisation’ of public discourse, and the need to explore the possibilities of research and teaching across language areas, because transnational and transcultural exchanges have spawned new geopolitical configurations. Nalini Balbir (Sorbonne Nouvelle) analysed the status of Hindi as a ‘rare’ or ‘small’ language in France, except in overseas departments with a population of Indian origin: in Guadeloupe, Hindi is taught at secondary level, and at the University of Réunion, a diploma in Hindi is available.

A whole panel, chaired by Charles Forsdick, was devoted to Chinese. For Derek Hird (Westminster), one challenge is to integrate Chinese language and another area of study, to offer a larger range of combined programmes. Li Wei (University College London) focused on the English Baccalaureate that was created in 2011, enabling high school students to join the “Mandarin Excellence Programme,” in the context of the ‘Golden Era’ between the UK and China. Joël Bellassen (INALCO) described the surprisingly long history of teaching Chinese in France, a language that ranked 5th in secondary schools in 2007, and has kept gaining ground since then. Because Chinese is so different from European languages, a better reference framework is still needed for it in the European Common Framework for languages.

The third panel, on “National Strategies,” was chaired by Janice Carruthers. Clíona Ní Ríordáin (Sorbonne Nouvelle) insisted on the need, in the case of the Irish language, to disentangle language from religion and politics and to acknowledge the presence of various traditions. Bernadette Holmes (Speak to the Future, UK) brought out the importance of a second language from employers’ viewpoint, and the value for young people of having cultural insight into another culture. Jocelyn Wyburd (Cambridge) explored the utilitarian aspect of the term strategic, including the importance of languages in the Army and the British Listening Services.

Catherine Davies chaired the fourth and last panel on “Strategic Usage of Languages.” Hilary Footitt (Reading) discussed the importance of languages in NGOs and the sense of temporality attached to it, of the need to learn a language now. Christopher Stone (Wolverhampton) noticed the same sense of immediate necessity with sign languages, often for economic reasons, notwithstanding the fact that sign language is a language of its own. Anna-Louise Milne (ULIP) evoked the variety of linguistic experiences that English students have when they spend three years in Paris, and how it changes their relation to the language. Charles Forsdick closed the seminar by stressing the need for a shift from ‘strategically important’ languages to the strategic importance of languages. He emphasised the intrinsic value of studying languages, as opposed to its utilitarian value, and the need to challenge the ‘linguistic muteness’ in research, policy and practice.

Christine Lorre-Johnston, Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3

Catherine Davies, IMLR

Charles Forsdick, AHRC

Human Zoos and Being Human

humanzoogermanyAnthropozoological displays—often associated more succinctly with the phenomenon of the ‘human zoo’—are public exhibitions of human beings, usually conceived to demonstrate in an exaggerated and stereotypical fashion the cultural and social differences between national and social groups. The term ‘human zoo’ designates a range of practices, not least because the term in its wider understandings can describe more generally various forms of curiosity towards those considered somehow different. The geneaology of the phenomenon is usually associated with the early modern period and in particular the first significant and sustained contacts between European and non-European cultures, when indigenous people from South America were brought to France, Great Britain and Spain and displayed to the European public. In 1550, a royal procession in Rouen before the French King Henry II featured Tupinamba Indians from Brazil, an event that inspired Montaigne to write his essay ‘Des cannibales’.

240px-baartmanThe display in London and Paris of Saartjie Baartman (pejoratively known as the ‘Hottentot Venus’) for the purposes of science, entertainment and the satisfaction of a more general prurience is often taken as the foundation of modern manifestations of the phenomenon. It was, however, with the advent of universal and colonial exhibitions—most notably the 1878 and the 1889 Parisian World’s Fairs—that ‘human zoos’ were institutionalized and linked to the elaboration of both colonial ideology and scientific racism. In parallel, a number of impresarios and showmen—one of the most notable examples being Carl Hagenbeck, owner of a major zoo in Hamburg—began to arrange highly successful tours of indigenous populations from various parts of the world, a practice that included the development of ‘villages’ displaying European populations (e.g., Breton, Irish and Welsh) minoritized in their wider cultural contexts. Particularly prominent involved Native Americans, and included the ‘Buffalo Bill Wild West Show’, which toured throughout Europe and visited Liverpool at least twice. With the advent of cinema and the rise of anti-colonial sentiment (or at least a growing anxiety surrounding the ideological foundations of empire), ‘human zoos’ fell rapidly into abeyance, and indeed became increasingly rare following World War II. The phenomenon was still in evidence at Expo 58, also known as the Brussels World’s Fair, but this was a rare example. Forms of display associated with ‘human zoos’ continue to be evident, however, explicitly in a number of recent controversial attempts to include humans alongside animals in the context of conventional zoos, but also in hybrid performance pieces such as Brett Bailey’s Exhibit B, a production of which was abandoned at the Barbican in 2014 after vocal protests centring on the extent to which the show replicated rather than critiqued the racism at the heart of the ‘human zoo’. Focus on ‘human zoos’ has also formed part of a more general debate on the treatment of human remains in museums, and the ways in which colonial racism can persist in unquestioned display practices. Some commentators see the spirit of the ‘human zoo’ present in popular forms such as reality TV

Despite the popularity of the practice in the period 1870-1930, and the proliferation of iconography and ephemera to which it gave rise, the ‘human zoo’ disappeared rapidly from collective memory. The work of the French public history group ACHAC raised awareness of the phenomenon and began to explore its global complexity, first in a conference in Marseilles in 2000, papers from which appeared in an influential book in 2002. (This has now been translated into several languages, and an English-language edition appeared with Liverpool University Press in 2008). A major exhibition on the subject was held at the Quai Branly in Paris in 2011/12, and a version of this will be on display in Liverpool later this month as part of the Being Human festival. The exhibition, which covers a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about ‘human zoos’, and the forms of observation they involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives. The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism—and to contributing to anti-racist education: ‘You are not born a racist, you become one. […] Racism is an intellectual, construction and more than anything, a political one.’

The exhibition will be held at the Kuumba Imani Centre in Liverpool from 17-25 November, and will be complemented by three events in which audiences will be invited to learn more about humans on display and to engage in debates on the subject. The exhibition will be launched with a roundtable on 21 November at 5pm, with speakers including Sandrine Lemaire (ACHAC, France), Shahmima Akhtar (Birmingham) and Lara Atkin (QMUL). At the University of Liverpool on 22 November, there will be a screening of the documentary on ‘human zoos’ produced by ACHAC (in French, with English subtitles); and a concluding panel discussion on ‘DISPLAYING HUMANS: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES’ will be held in the Anthony Walker Education Centre at the International Slavery Museum at 3pm on 23 November, with Shahmima Akhtar (Birmingham), Lara Atkin (QMUL), Stephen Kenny (Liverpool), Emily Trafford (Manchester) and Karen Salt (Nottingham).

Full details—including information about registration—are available here.