Fall 2017

Thursday, October 5, 2017, 4-6 pm in Humanities 193

       Remembering Gi’was: Indigenous Landmark Legends and the Politics of American Antiquity

       Gesa Mackenthun, Rostock University

The paper investigates the sometimes manifest, sometimes latent connections between constructions of American antiquity and conflicts over territorial ownership and stewardship in the US. It rests on the assumption that the colonial discourse of settlement, which still pervades contemporary legal practice and obliquely continues in the critical approach of ‘settler colonialism’, systematically effaces other forms of land ownership. Late colonial constructions of American ‘prehistory’ collude with the colonial legal construct of ‘continuous occupation’ – a concept that requires of the tribes to prove their long-term tenure of the lands in question. This unilateral imposition of ‘proof’ coincides with the frequent denunciation of indigenous oral traditions as fanciful fictions. I argue that late colonial narratives about antiquity and heritage are themselves powerful instruments for legitimating colonial hegemony and more often than not used to disarticulate indigenous claims. A counter discourse exists, e.g., in an archive of geomythical and geoepistemological stories by the Klamath, Modoc and other tribes from the area around Crater Lake, OR, collected between 1870 and 1920. This impressive corpus of topological narratives suggests a millennia-long indigenous land tenure, a deep knowledge of the land and its products, and the memory of a cataclysmic event 7,000 years ago, thus giving support to indigenous claims and archaeological evidence of an ancient human presence. In addition to this historical relevance, they also are philosophically valuable as they counter the rationalist binaries at the heart of colonial discourse with an other method of preserving survival knowledge in a world of danger –a relational and ‘nomadic’ hermeneutic of resilience that may be used as an antidote to the capitalist logic of appropriation and classification.


Gesa Mackenthun is Professor of American Studies at Rostock University. Her publications include Fictions of the Black Atlantic in American Foundational Literature (Routledge, 2004), Metaphors of Dispossession. American Beginnings and the Translation of Empire, 1492-1637 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), and (co-edited with Bernhard Klein) Sea Changes. Historicizing the Ocean (Routledge, 2004). She was the initiator and first spokesperson of the graduate school “Cultural Encounters and the Discourses of Scholarship” funded by the German Research Foundation (2006-15). The resulting conference series she edits (8 volumes so far) include Entangled Knowledge. Scientific Discourses and Cultural Difference (2012, with Klaus Hock), Agents of Transculturation (2014, with Sebastian Jobs), and Fugitive Knowledge (2015, with Andreas Beer). DEcolonial Heritage: Natures, Cultures and the Asymmetries of Memory is an upcoming volume (edited with Aníbal Arregui). Her current research deals with nineteenth-century imperial travel and archaeology and the scientific constructions of American antiquity.

Tuesday, November 2, 2017 at 4 pm in Humanities 193

A talk and reading by Caribbean author Tiphanie Yanique:

Belonging: Immigrating into Our Own Country (and a reading from Land of Love and Drowning)

Tiphanie Yanique was born in the Round da Field neighborhood of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.  Yanique is the author of the poetry collection, Wife, which won the 2016 Bocas Prize in Caribbean poetry and the United Kingdom’s 2016 Forward/Felix Dennis Prize for a First Collection. Tiphanie is also the author of the novel, Land of Love and Drowning, which won the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Award from the Center for Fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award for Pan-African Literature, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, and was listed by NPR as one of the Best Books of 2014. Land of Love and Drowning was also a finalist for the Orion Award in Environmental Literature and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.  She is also the author of a collection of stories, How to Escape from a Leper Colony, which won her a listing as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5Under35.  Her writing has also won the Bocas Award for Caribbean Fiction, the Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship and an Academy of American Poet’s Prize. She has been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the sixteen cultural figures to watch out for and her writing has been published in the New York Times, Best African American Fiction, The Wall Street Journal, American Short Fiction and other places. She is currently Associate Professor of English and African American Studies, and Director of Creative Writing at Wesleyan University.

Fall 2016

Tuesday, November 15 2016 at 4 pm in Royce 306

M. NourbeSe Phillip will read from her poem Zong!

M. NOURBESE PHILIP is an unembedded poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and former lawyer who lives in the space-time of the City of Toronto.  She is a Fellow of the Guggenheim, and Rockefeller (Bellagio) Foundations and the MacDowell Colony.  She is the recipient of many awards including the Casa de las Americas prize (Cuba).   Among her best known published works are: She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks, Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence, and Harriet’s Daughter, a young adult novel.  Philip’s  most recent work is Zong!, a genre-breaking poem, which engages with ideas of the law, history and memory as they relate to the transatlantic slave trade.

              Co-sponsored by:

UCLA Division of Humanities; The Department of English; Atlantic History Speaker Series,
Department of History; Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; Center for the Study
of Women; Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in History; John Charles Hillis Endowed Chair in Literature


Thursday, April 07, 2016 at 4 pm in Humanities 193

Simon Gikandi, Princeton University “Reflections on Post-colonialism”

This lecture is part of the Penny and Edward Kanner Forum on Literary and Cultural Studies, Department of English


Thursday, Feb 11, 2016 at 4 pm in Humanities 193

Lisa Lowe, Tufts University “Beyond Compare: Asymmetries as Method”

This lecture is part of the Penny and Edward Kanner Forum on Literary and Cultural Studies, Department of English

FALL 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015 at 4 pm in Humanities 193

Saidiya Hartman, Columbia University “An Intimate History of Slavery and Freedom”

This lecture is part of the Penny and Edward Kanner Forum on Literary and Cultural Studies, Department of English

Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 4 pm in Humanities 193

Peter Hulme, University of Essex “Setting the Sails:  The Theory and Practice of Deep Mapping”

This lecture is part of the Penny and Edward Kanner Forum on Literary and Cultural Studies, Department of English

Past Events