UPDATE: [International] Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts

full name / name of organization: 
Mark Stein
contact email: 

On Whose Terms?
Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts

Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
March 13 to 14, 2008
This conference focuses upon local, international and transnational
engagements with Black British literature and the arts â€" in relation to its
production, reception and cultural position. Through the multiple
disciplines of the arts, it creates a meeting point for prominent and
emerging scholars, writers and practitioners in order to explore the impact
of this field, both at home and abroad. The context is one of critical
investigation and celebration; a journey along diasporic and aesthetic routes.

Andrea Levy interviewed by Blake Morrison
Kwame Kwei-Armah in conversation with Britain’s key Black directors
Malorie Blackman leading a forum on young people’s writing and writing for
young people with Deptford Secondary School pupils
Malika Booker performing her acclaimed one-woman show Unplanned

A History of Black Theatre in Britain (Victoria and Albert Museum),
Man-Royal, Whickers and Zamis: New Work by Ajamu

Hilary Carty, Joan Anim-Addo, Diane Abbott MP, R. Victoria Arana, Neil
Astley, Simon Gikandi, Gabriele Griffin, Les Back, Margaret Busby,
Bénédicte Ledent, Valerie Mason-John, Susheila Nasta, Nii Parkes, Lyn
Innes, Kadija Sesay, SuAndi OBE, Mark McWatt, Sukhdev Sandhu, Michael
Buffong, Indhu Rubasingham, James Hogan, David Dabydeen.
Deirdre Osborne (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Mark Stein (University of Muenster, Germany)
Godfrey Brandt (Birkbeck, University of London)
http://OnWhoseTerms.org OnWhoseTerms@gold.ac.uk
We invite papers across a broad spectrum of interests: drama, poetry,
prose, performance, film, visual arts, curating, arts management and
history. Areas of discussion might connect with the following ideas:

(i) At home and abroad â€" sights and sites of reception Critical engagements
with Black British literature and the arts differ according to political
and geographical contexts. Many artists and writers themselves embrace
diasporic and transnational identities and aesthetics. What are the
consequences of this multiple reception and affiliation? How is an
indigenous notion of Black British culture affected? Which critical
vocabularies are employed, which critical agendas enacted when discussing
Black British cultural production? On whose terms is Black British cultural
production created, distributed and evaluated?

(ii) Securing credentials Chris Ofili has been accused of “playing to the
audience” (and to the judges) thereby securing his credentials as a “black
artist”. In contrast, some writers and practitioners steer clear of the
term and face the charge of effacing their black heritage as they encounter
mainstream and commercial success. What is the relationship between
mainstream acceptance and opportunities for producing radical black-centred

(iii) Historicising the field Black writers have been published in Britain
over the past three centuries â€" although there is no extant evidence of
this in drama before the twentieth century. What are the lines of descent
and tradition that connect writers and performers across time and place?
What were the formative conditions of production and reception for early
black writers and artists in Britain? What part do contemporary historical
novels, poetry, visual arts, or drama play in retrieving and reviving past
times, to recirculate and celebrate marginalised voices?

(iv) Publishing Black presses have played a vital role in getting black
writers into print. Small presses such as New Beacon Books, Karnak House,
Bogle L’Ouverture, Peepal Tree, Mango and X-Press (to name a few) have
devoted themselves to fostering black people’s writing. Wasafiri, Calabash,
SABLElitmag and Third Text have also played a crucial part in providing a
platform for writers, securing audiences and engaging with new work. Other
non-specialist presses too, such as Sheba Feminist Press, Virago, Oberon,
Methuen and Nick Hern Books have been instrumental in publishing poetry,
novels and plays by black writers. How is sustainability a factor today and
what interventions are being made in the light of Danuta Keane’s Arts
Council-funded reports into publishing In Full Colour and Free Verse?

(v) Celebrate or segregate â€" the problematics of a Black British canon?
When Marsha Hunt instituted the SAGA Prize for Black British-born writers
in 1995, this registered both indigenous black people’s literary output and
the fact that it was not yet a customary inclusion in the national cultural
landscape. If the canon is key to artistic longevity and revival of work,
what part does canonisation play for Black British literature and the arts?

(vi) Arts bodies, cultural policy and education Challenges to
publicly-funded educational and arts bodies raise questions about the
criteria for and beneficiaries of subsidy. Can policy initiatives and
educational programmes reshape the cultural industries? What kinds of
pedagogical approaches have been developed in disseminating and teaching
Black British literature and the arts both inside and beyond the UK? How do
they impact upon experiences of multiculturalism and Black artistic
production, here and elsewhere, and how do they shape understandings of
Black British culture?

(vii) Textual/Sexual Practices Articulations of gay, lesbian and
trans-gender experiences have regularly side-lined the perspectives of
black people. Black sexual-gender politics have also contended with
feminism’s inadequacies. How are socio-sexual categories negotiated and
represented across forms, disciplines and sites of writing and performance?
Who are the boundary breakers? Which aesthetic principles are at work?

(viii) Carnival and Spectacle The Notting Hill Carnival has developed from
a small, community-based event, (celebrating still-retained links to
Caribbean culture), into a key feature on the London calendar, showcasing
the presence of the Caribbean diaspora. Over recent decades, establishment
anxieties regarding public control, media representations and political
agendas of inclusion and multiculturalism have exacted an increasingly
distorting process upon the Carnival’s future and integrity. Where is
Carnival placed within contemporary British culture? Papers and visual
materials are welcomed which cover any aspect of Carnival anywhere in the
UK and its history up to now.

Final Call for Papers

Please send your abstract (250 words) and a short bio to:
OnWhoseTerms_at_gold.ac.uk DEADLINE: December 15, 2007

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Received on Sat Sep 22 2007 - 13:38:09 EDT