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IHGMS Current Five College Working Group (2020-2021) "Race and Representations"


The 2020-2021 Five College Working Group explores the topic of “Race and Representations.” Project organizers are Stephen Clingman, Distinguished Professor in the Department of English, and Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


After the recent killing of George Floyd, questions of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States have convulsed the country. Yet these questions have been on the agenda for a long time—as long ago as the founding of the country and the Civil War. Whether it concerns voting rights or disparities in education, employment, housing, health, and a host of other areas, there can be no doubt that race plays a prominent part. Among the more alarming patterns at the moment are rising forms of militant white supremacy. At the same time, anti-Black racism is connected with racisms and discriminations of other kinds—sometimes overlapping, sometimes taking on their own forms—whether these concern Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-Asian and anti-Chinese rhetoric, or anti-Latinx manifestations (the ‘border wall’ and the treatment of refugee families). At the same time there are disturbing trends on the global front, where racial and ethnic animosities are prominent in locations ranging from Europe to Myanmar to India. ‘Strong-man’ leaders base a good part of their appeal on hatreds of the other. The truth of the matter is that the history of the globe is inseparable from questions of race and racism, not least because of a colonial legacy from which we are still trying to emerge.


The seminar will explore manifestations of race and racism as they vary through time and space. Particularly welcome are perspectives that explore the role of white supremacy and colonialism in the past and present. Though there will inevitably be a strong focus on the USA, we are keen to consider other settings as well. As for the question of ‘representation,’ this has two dimensions. One is the way different racial groups are represented in the social order—whether it concerns suffering inordinately from the COVID pandemic or under-representation in positions of authority. The other concerns representation as a matter of public discourse: how different groups are imaged in everything ranging from cultural forms (literature, film, television) to academic research and analysis.


Working Group Participants:


Gülru Çakmak 

Associate Professor of Nineteenth-Century European Art, Graduate Program Director, Department of the History of Art and Architecture,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: Ottoman and French painting and visual culture in the second half of the nineteenth century 


Adam Dahl
Assistant Professor Department of Political Science,
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Project: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Problem of World Democracy

Cat Dawson 

Research Associate, Department of Art,
Smith College 

Project: American art between 1968-1973


Rebecca Dingo 

Associate Professor, Department of English,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: The racial and geopolitical history of dominant methods used in US feminist rhetorical studies


Rachel E. Green 

Assistant Professor, Program in Comparative Literature,
Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures,
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Project: Liberal empathy across Israel/Palestine, the Arab Gulf, and the broader Arabic-speaking world  

Anne E. Kerth 

Assistant Professor, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: The lives and labors of enslaved and free African-American artisans in nineteenth-century South Carolina


Agustin Lao-Montes 

Associate Professor, Sociology and Afro-American Studies,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: Black Lives Matters Movements in Brazil, Colombia, and the U.S. in the context of the current Pandemic

Toussaint Losier 

Assistant Professor, W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: James (Yaki) Sayles on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth 


Svati Shah
Associate Professor, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: India's LGBTQI movements and it's shift toward anti-democratic governance 


Banu Subramaniam 

Professor & Chair, Dept. of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, 

University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: The Racial Politics of COVID-19 


Corine Tachtiris 

Assistant Professor of Translation Studies, Program in Comparative Literature,
University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Project: Translation and the designation of racial identities