Genres of the Human: on Sylvia Wynter
The Department of English at King’s College London is hosting a two-day conference on 7th and 8th June 2018 celebrating the work of the Honourable Sylvia Wynter OJ. The conference will include keynote presentations by Denise Ferreira da Silva (University of British Columbia) and Alexander G. Weheliye (Northwestern University), and a response by Paul Gilroy.
We invite contributions in the form of papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, and creative pieces that respond to or are inspired by Wynter’s oeuvre, which spans continents, genres and eras: from her work in London as a playwright and BBC commentator in the 1950s and 1960s; to her service to the first Jamaican independent government as a writer and public intellectual in the 1960s and 1970s; to her groundbreaking research into the cultural history of decolonization and the critical study of race and racism in the Americas and beyond, work which continues to be published to widespread acclaim in the present day.
Wynter’s research has become an indispensable framework for a new generation of scholars working in postcolonial and critical race studies. Katherine McKittrick’s 2016 edited collection of Wynter’s critical writing, entitled On Being Human as Praxis, and a special issue Small Axe from the same year—dedicated to the unpublished manuscript Black Metamorphosis: New Natives in a New World—have already done much in the way of asserting Wynter’s status as one of the most important and influential thinkers and public intellectuals of our time.
Yet, many questions remain regarding Wynter’s work and its meaning, import and application. This conference is therefore intended as an occasion to develop ongoing conversations about Wynter’s philosophical contributions—on race, humanness and coloniality, among others—as well as expanding attention to other parts of her career, particularly the cultural work that she undertook in London and Jamaica.
As this will be the first conference of this kind to be held in the UK, we are particularly interested in scholarship that furthers our understanding of Wynter’s time in London. During this period of her life, Wynter wrote for the BBC, acted in radio dramas, was a member of the influential and visionary Boscoe Holder Dance Company, and completed several plays, including Under the Sun, which was written for the Royal Court Theatre. While in London Wynter also began work on her highly regarded novel, The Hills of Hebron (1962), an exploration of a Jamaican community shaped by both Christian revivalism and modes of spirituality associated with African heritage.
In line with the Department’s commitment to supporting the work of postgraduate and early career researchers we are providing a number of travel grants and hosting a PGR seminar as part of the conference. Please indicate on your paper or panel submission whether you would like to be considered for a travel grant and are interested in participating in the workshop.
Please send panel/roundtable/workshop proposals of no more than 600 words, and paper abstracts of no more than 250 words along with a brief biographical note and your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1st. Additionally, please send any questions about the conference to this address. Acceptance emails will go out on May 8th. Individual papers should be fifteen to twenty minutes long. Panels should be composed of three to four papers. Roundtables might be composed of five to eight people contributing short position papers and discussion.