Framing the Black Arts Movement (Sept. 30, 2011; NeMLA, March 15-18, 2012, Rochester, NY

full name / name of organization: 
Bill Waddell / Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

This session is intended to entertain (at least) two senses of the term "framing," and perhaps some tension between them. On the one hand, to frame something is to contextualize it in order to make it more readily understood, and this is something we might reasonably expect to be able to do, now more than forty years from BAM's conscious beginnings and nearly forty from its disintegration. Or apparent disintegration. To frame is also to enclose within a boundary, and BAM does seem to be a relatively tidily confined period of intense activity, having, in the lore, a traditional origin (1965) and a traditional demise (1974), both connected with actions taken by Amiri Baraka. But is the Black Arts Movement, are its principles and energies, so easily enclosed, or foreclosed?

So the general goal of this panel will be to explore and assess our current understanding of this highly visible and vocal movement, with the expectation that the process is apt to be complicated. Papers are welcome focused on topics such as these, though certainly not limited to this list: the work of any of BAM's major figures, within the usual parameters of the movement or since or both; the legacy (or legacies) of a Black Aesthetic; controversies that seemed to split the movement (e.g. Baraka vs. Ishmael Reed) and perhaps the endurance of similar controversies; models or lessons from BAM for community-based, social-activist cultural production in other contexts; the application to BAM of critical lenses that have become prominent since the 70s (e.g. postcolonial studies).