This project is an extension of Feminist Killjoys, PhD, a podcast that emerged in the spirit of Sara Ahmed’s theory of killing joy as a necessary component of feminist praxis. Ahmed suggests that harkening back to early feminist “consciousness-raising” (as well as to Marxist notions of “false consciousness”) is a useful (re)turn in order to make sense of our contemporary cultural desire for happiness. Ahmed argues that the happy housewife is the foil to the construct of the “angry black woman” or, she posits, the “feminist killjoy.” That is, the feminist who ruins a good time by speaking about injustice, inequality, their dire position as women, and so on. She writes:
What remains when the war ends? Ruins preserve histories that are often forgotten. In the face of conflict and destruction, ruins are proof that there was something before the wreckage, before the war, and before the painful emotions they now evoke. Not all ruins are the same; some buildings remain standing despite attempts to turn them into rubble. They are manifestations of people’s indestructible hope, resilience, and survival.
Group exhibition featuring work by Joshua Akers, The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Josh Begley, Joseph Beuys, Vincent Brown, Bureau d'études, Department of Unusual Certainties, W. E. B. Du Bois, Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, Forensic Architecture, Iconoclasistas, Julie Mehretu, Lize Mogel, Ogimaa Mikana, Margaret Pearce, Laura Poitras, Philippe Rekacewicz and Visualizing Impact
By responding creatively to the archival challenges presented by the social history of slavery, Harvard Professor Vincent Brown hopes to inspire new conversations about the inheritance of loss and the legacy of struggle.
People often talk about mass incarceration as if it’s just a continuation of American slavery. Historians know that’s not exactly right. Slavery was a legal system that allowed people and their descendants to be owned as chattel property forever.
Letters to Bank of America created by John Hulsey aligns itself with various versions of a people’s history or a history from below—literally by transforming key sites of economic power in the city of Boston into surfaces upon which records of individuals’ daily lives might be temporarily inscribed. Using a high-powered projector mounted on top of a van, the hand-written words of homeowners facing imminent eviction through foreclosure in the Greater Boston Area were projected onto the front facades of those financial institutions threatening them with displacement.
The website, TwoPlantations.com, is the interactive companion to a book written by Dunn called A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, for release on Harvard University Press next month, (4 November 2014). Features on the site include intricate family trees of seven enslaved families, three from Mesopotamia and four from Mount Airy, with mini biographies of each person detailed, information about the 140 people from the families from Mount Airy appearing in the 1870 census taken shortly after the Civil War, and a stunning original hand-drawn family tree of alone lineage, created by Dunn.
In the midst of ongoing insurrection, United States military officials desperately sought out new forms of knowledge about the islands on which they were fighting during the Philippine-American War. In October of 1902, well before the fighting was over or the proverbial dust had settled, the U.S. declared an official end to the war and the War Department produced it’s first survey map of the archipelago. This map borrowed heavily from Spanish imperial categories, shading some areas orange to represent control by “civil provincial government” and others green to show control by “Moro and other non-Christian tribes.” At the same time, the Census Bureau gathered and classified information about the people it saw as novel subjects of American rule. Together, these two technologies of governance produced a powerful and lasting set of ideas about religion, race, and regional difference that were mapped onto explanations for criminality over the first twenty years of American occupation.
The starting point of this project was my consideration of President Obama’s February 12, 2013 State of the Union address in which he said: “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country—the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead…” The remainder of the quote borrows from Martin Luther King, Jr.—that you can get ahead “no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.” This is a wonderful aspiration. What concerns me most, however, is the general idea that the basic bargain of the United States is getting ahead through hard work and meeting responsibilities. The problem is that the rhetoric of this basic bargain elides history; it forgets that in the nineteenth century there were, for example, enslaved people working hard at, among other things, picking cotton, a commodity that was the driving force of the nineteenth century global economy. Where does that hard work fit into this basic bargain?
In 1760, some fifteen hundred enslaved black men and women— perhaps fewer but probably many more— took advantage of Britain’s Seven Year’s War against France and Spain, to stage a massive uprising in Jamaica, which began on April 7 in the windward parish of St. Mary’s and continued in the leeward parishes until October of the next year. Over the course of eighteen months the rebels killed as many as sixty whites and destroyed many thousands of pounds worth of property. During the suppression of the revolt over five hundred black men and women were killed in battle, executed, or committed suicide. Another 500 were transported from the island for life. Colonists valued the total cost to the island at nearly a quarter of a million pounds. “Whether we consider the extent and secrecy of its plan, the multitude of the conspirators, and the difficulty of opposing its eruptions in such a variety of places at once,” wrote planter-historian Edward Long in his 1774 History of Jamaica, this revolt was “more formidable than any hitherto known in the West Indies.”