“Diasporic Blackness and Modernity” – In conversation with Maboula Soumahoro (Associate Professor, Université de Tours), Deborah Thomas (Professor, University of Pennsylvania) – 13 nov 2020

Maboula Soumahoro is an Associate Professor in American Studies at Université de Tours. Formerly, a visiting Professor at Bard College (Bard Prison Initiative) and a visiting scholar at Columbia University, her work addresses political and religious movements in the Black Diaspora, namely the Nation of Islam and Rastafarianism, in the first half of the 20th century. In this talk, she will discuss her recent book Le Triangle et l’Hexagone: essai sur une identité noire (2020) to give a reflexive account of her trajectory as a working-class scholar of Ivoirian descent, racialized as Black and of her position on racism, anti-racism, identity and belonging
in contemporary France.

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the former Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious journal American Anthropologist. Her several books, articles and films address race, postcolonialism, globalization and violence in Jamaica. Based on her latest book Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair (2019), in this presentation, she will analyze the subjective impact of politics and State violence in 20th and 21st century Jamaica so as to address post-colonialism,
imperialism as well as grassroots and party politics.


Peripheral Knowledges

“Peripheral Knowledges”, an interdisciplinary seminar, aims to combine insights from contemporary debates in critical race theory and decolonial studies on knowledge production. This research seminar replaces the “Écrire l’Histoire Depuis Les Marges” (EHDLM) – Paris Diderot seminar, an extension of the EHDLM project https://hdlm.hypotheses.org/(2013-2016) funded by the IDEX USPC, which had focused on African-American history and thought. In the period 2019-2023, the “Peripheral Knowledges” seminar will extend its purview to address questions pertaining to decolonising knowledge in global norths and souths.

Decentring Euro-American paradigms of knowledge production, “Peripheral Knowledges” engages with the critique of the Eurocentric dichotomous relation between the west and the rest, knowledge and non-knowledge, and the knowing subject and the performing object. Rooted in disparate geographical locations and academic terrains, it makes the case for reading diverse forms of postcolonial, people of colour, diasporic and minority-discourse knowledges that traditionally occupy the peripheries in university curriculum in global norths. Engaging with the diversity of genealogies of thinking, remembering, performing and producing knowledges is one of the primary objectives of the seminar.

Through a series of presentations, readings, lectures and workshops, this research seminar responds to the long-pending but urgent global demand for the establishment of a non-Eurocentric academy. Conventional academic taxonomies of history, literature, culture, aesthetics, and politics appear porous when criss-crossing lines of knowledges begin to dismantle norms and monoliths of disciplinary boundaries. “Peripheral Knowledges” signals such a move away from Eurocentric enunciation and repetition of knowledge and intellectual practices with a view to engaging with pluriversal ways of being in our world(s), thereby revisiting the question of a new universalism based on these conversations.