Conference on Racialization and Publicness in Africa and the African Diaspora
African Studies Centre and St Antony’s College, University of Oxford
June 27-28, 2019
Conference Convener: Professor Wale Adebanwi
Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, Director, African Studies Centre, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
Chair: Dr. Charles Asher Small, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP)
Notions of Diaspora and Homeland: The Impact of the Contemporary Emergence of Racism(s), Antisemitism(s), Nationalism(s) and White Supremacy in the Age of Globalization
Recent scholarly and policy studies and surveys indicate that forms of racism(s), antisemitism(s), as well as increased notions of xenophobia are increasing, particularly in Europe and the Americas. Some argue that these processes affect the very notion of diaspora communities and that of homeland in society. This interdisciplinary panel aims to examine socio-economic, political, historical and cultural processes, in the age of globalization, that impact notions diaspora and homeland. Attention will be placed on the re-emergence of white supremacy – which has a long history of impacting African and Jewish diaspora communities – and how this manifests of hatred impacts society in general, as well as, how it challenges and shapes notions of diaspora, homeland and integration at the local and global levels. Contemporary issues, such as the refusal of contemporary reactionary social movements to recognize the legitimacy of the Other within society will be examined from various perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds.
Lawrence Amsel, MD MPH, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University
Homeland and Diaspora Models for an Authentic Dual Identity
Since the beginning of the slave trade African men and women have had to struggle with the internal duality of the memory of the Homeland and the lived reality of the involuntary African Diaspora. Yet only in recent decades has this struggle emerged from its inward facing and internal status to an outward facing Publicness, a social and political joining of the categories of Africa and the African Diaspora. In parallel, but rarely converging process, Jews have dealt with their Diaspora for an extended period, but only recently, with the establishment of a Jewish Homeland, has the bifurcation of Homeland Israel and Diaspora Israel come into a potentially conflicted and dichotomized rivalry for identity. This paper will examine how the tentative synergies have emerged in each of these peoples’ experience, and what they can begin to learn from each other regarding memory of homeland and aspirations for the future.
Professor Harold V. Bennett, Morehouse College, Chair, Martin Luther King, Jr., Endowed Professor in Religion
A Hermeneutical Tool for Reimagining the Other in White Supremacists Religion and Religiosity in the African Diaspora
The Hebrew Bible (hereafter cited as HB) or the Protestant First Testament (hereafter cited as PFT) is essential to religion, religiosity, and moral philosophizing in the African Diaspora in the West in general and the American south, in particular. Judaism and Protestant Christianity share beliefs about the sacredness of this document. It, too, is essential to mention that the HB/PFT contains a plethora of information about different social subgroups with whom individuals and the entire biblical community interacted and classified as “the Other.” Since Judaism and Protestant Christianity are the prominent faith traditions in America, this collection of texts is a major source of ideas about morality and ethnic groups in areas where African and Israeli communities are in diaspora. The present article, therefore, delineates a framework for viewing texts in the HB/PFT that enhances the ability of non-mainstream theologians and social ethicists to situate, evaluate, and rehabilitate White Supremacists notions about African-American males in the African Diaspora. A central premise of this essay is that texts and terms in the HB are objects, that is hard data, which are bankrupt without an interpreter. The hope is that this essay offers an approach or a hermeneutic for viewing “the Other” in the HB/PFT that positions select faith traditions to dismantle problematic notions of “the Other” and racial stereotypes of marginalized social subgroups, and promote respect for individuality and cultural diversity and in the African and Israeli Diaspora in the contemporary world.
Ansel Brown, J.D. Assistant Clinical Professor, Director of the University Honors Program, North Carolina Central University
Zionism and Pan-Africanism: A Common Journey to Recapture Ethnic Self-Realization
The 20th century witnessed a unique moment in history where African and Jewish communities around the world experienced parallel movements of national emancipation and reconstitution in their historic homelands. Jewish communities emerged from 2000 years of exile, expulsions, oppression, and genocidal Antisemitism to be reestablished as a sovereign Jewish nation in the state of Israel. African communities emerged from centuries of slavery, colonialism, murderous brutality, and institutional racism to be reestablished as a fully sovereign people with full civil and political rights. The subjugation of both diasporic communities was consistently prefaced by a pervasive demonization that culminated in the grossest of crimes against humanity in recorded history. What are the parallels between the psychoses that fueled this demonization and subjugation of African and Jewish communities? What common cords of resilience and mutual inspiration fueled the liberation of both groups? What common lessons and strategic partnerships will catapult the modern progenies of Zionism and Pan-Africanism to greater levels of self-realization and contribution to human progress in the 21st century?
Valerie Ann Johnson, Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director, Africana Women’s Studies and the Honors Program, Bennett College, North Carolina
The African in the American: Sites of Memory-Contested Histories
The United States is experiencing another round of social, cultural, economic, and political upheaval. Proponents of a national identity based on the ideology of white supremacy are utilizing public spaces to propagate a narrative of US history that positions the United States as a “white” nation. This directly contradicts the enormous influence those of African descent have had in the US historically and contemporarily. The intentional use of antisemitic rhetoric and actions, and various misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-people of color activities undergirds attempts to erase in the public space those who represent non-white narratives. The current public contestation regarding Confederate monuments is actually a struggle for national identity based on the particular racialized identity of whiteness. This would place those identified as non-whites (e.g. African descended people, Jews, other people of color, certain immigrant groups) in permanent positions of inferiority and servitude, negating the agency of these groups of people in creating the US as a sovereign nation. In this paper, I focus my discussion on examples of “sites of memory” that illustrate how the African presence in the US is both revealed and occluded. I also discuss the intersectional link between antisemitism, misogyny, and an anti-African/Black ideology whose proponents seek to dominate public spaces. I approach this discussion from a Black/African feminist perspective informed by recent participation in an ISGAP seminar on critical antisemitism studies.
Dr. Carlton Long, ISGAP, Lawrence Long and Co. Educational Consulting
The Impact of Racial Formation on Afro-Religious Imagery and Hierarchy in Cuba and the United States
The centuries-old fabrication of the “race” idea has served multiple economic, political and social functions in the history and longevity of imperialism in Western society. Afro-diasporic peoples and communities in Cuba and the United States have encountered, endured and survived not only these functions, but also their current intrusions into psychological, artistic and religious spaces. To unpack the layered artistic and liturgical representations is to begin to access explicit and implicit meanings, many of which either reify the race concept, in Cuba and the United States, or potentially liberate, theologically and otherwise, “raced” individuals from it.
Professor Katya Gibel Mevorach, Anthropology Department Chair, American Studies Concentration, Grinnell College
Racecraft and an Expulsion from Diaspora
Focus on ways discourses of racism, antisemitism and nationalism have re-scripted Jewish diversity into an ahistorical whiteness and obfuscated the “double consciousness” which registered the resonance between Jewish and African diasporas among elite African and African American intellectuals until 1967. Indeed, a late 20th century appropriation and banalization of the concept “diaspora” recast it as an all-inclusive concept that whited-out Jews not only from their own history, but also erased the utility of the concept in thinking through the intersecting and similar experiences of racialization which mark the diaspora experience of both Jews and people of African descent.
Professor Yossi Shain, Tel Aviv University
The Legacy of Babylonian Exiles in Contemporary Diaspora Affairs: Jews and Blacks in our Time
The Jewish story of exile in Babylon in the 6th Century BC has become an important metaphor in the history of the African American Diaspora and the struggle against slavery. It is now on display for n various fashions in the African American national museum in Washington DC. While the Jewish Diaspora began as a nationalist and concrete concept, the idea of displacement and return shifted over the years towards a larger ethos of liberation. This ethos was building bridges between Jews and African Americans during the 1960, but the alliance broke up with the understanding that American Jews now support a concrete Jewish State. Attacks in the African American community (and elsewhere) on Israel and Zionism were framed in the language of Apartheid, while Jews consider the bashing of Israel and Zionism as new forms of antisemitism. How this all came about? Can the tensions about what Diaspora constitutes and what’s its obligation can be reconciled with the liberation theology that grew out of the Babylonian exile?
Dr. Charles Asher Small, Executive Director, ISGAP
Contemporary Discourse of Homeland and Its Impact on African and Jewish Diaspora Communities in Europe and North America
Racism(s) and antisemitism(s) are highly complex and, at times, perplexing forms of hatred. It spans history and has infected many societies, religious and philosophical movements, and even civilizations. Manifestations of racism(s) and antisemitism(s) emerge in numerous ideologically‐based narratives and in the constructed identities of belonging and otherness. As manifestations of racism(s) and antisemitism(s) are increasing in contemporary Europe and North America, along social movements that adhere to nationalist and xenophobic ideologies, this paper will examine how racist and antisemitic discourse, pertaining to Israel and Africa or notions of “ homeland’, affect Jewish and African communities in the diaspora. Analysis will also focus on the impact on notions of integration, otherness, and citizenship.