Join us for Faculty Lunch #5 featuring Professor Claire Garcia!
February 5, 2019
Gaylord Hall in the Worner Center

“Beyond Baker and Bricktop: The Black Woman Intellectual in Paris During the Interwar Years”
Claire Oberon Garcia

I will be talking about my current work on black women writers in Paris during the first part of the 20th century. France, and modern Paris in particular, has long been a draw for artists, intellectuals and political figures from all over the world. Romanticized by literary images from Victor Hugo to Ernest Hemingway, immortalized in film from Hollywood to New Wave to Woody Allen, enjoyed by the millions of international tourists who make it perennially one of the most popular cities in in the world, as well as by the millions of consumers who buy French-themed products made in China and purchased at T.J. Maxx, Paris’s multifaceted significations and myths continue to speak to the imagination. Some people do have a vague idea that, at least until recently, France offered relative freedoms to African Americans that they could never enjoy at home, and most are aware of James Baldwin and Richard Wright’s self-exiles. But the presence of black women intellectuals in interwar Paris is still mostly invisible save to a relatively small group of scholars in the field.
I’m interested in black women’s texts as they engage and transform the metaphorical and literal spaces of Paris, France. To navigate Paris’s cityscape, institutions, and narratives entails more than simply finding one’s way through a city’s streets, institutions, and social and economic relationships: it is to engage with some of the most deeply held values, history, and debates of modern Western societies. I’ll give an overview of the work of about half a dozen black women writing in Paris during the interwar years, when black consciousness and black liberation movements were percolating around the world before erupting into the first chapters of the decolonization and civil rights struggles that continue today. Each writer makes claims for the black women as observers, not objects of observation; citizens, not colonialized subject; theorizers of intersectionality avant la lettre. Each of these writers engages perceptions of the illegibility of the black woman as intellectual and citizen; they critique the contemporary controlling images of black women, such as those exemplified by Josephine Baker’s popular acting out of erotic colonial fantasies; and each in her own way constructs and affirms black women’s agency and power to create social and political change.

Doors open – 11:45am
Talk begins – 12:15pm
Event concludes – 1:15pm

Click here to register:

-vegetarian chili
-beer cheese broccoli soup
-bread bowls
-shredded cheese
-fried jalapenos
-herbs with green onion
-carrot cake cupcakes pre set
-ice tea

Posted by for the January 31, 2019 digest.

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