#BLM: Technologies of Public Protest

Video recordings of the symposium proceedings are available at the CDSC YouTube channel.

Since the summer of 2013, #BlackLivesMatter has linked myriad, loosely affiliated protests against pervasive anti-Black violence in the United States. Shortly after George Zimmerman’s acquittal, Alicia Garza originated the phrase on Facebook with her affirmation, “Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter.” The hashtag has since served as a banner uniting condemnations of extrajudicial violence against Black people. According to the movement’s website, #BlackLivesMatter makes a unique contribution to the history of Black activism because it affirms “the lives of Black queer folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” The formulation of a Black Nationalist movement founded on gender and sexual variance breaks new ground for civil rights protests. At the same time, the echo of W.E.B. DuBois’s masterpiece The Souls of Black Folk implies a need to reconsider histories of public protest with an eye toward various embodied practices. The official website asks us to imagine a new future continuous with past lives.

What new kinds of pleasure or pain might we learn to recognize if we account for the richness of Black material life? And what do those material lives have to do with the virtual spaces we create with media technologies? This symposium will explore the relationship between material Black life and the virtual spaces that have situated contemporary resistance to abiding forms of racism within the landscape of mass media. Like any mass movement, #BlackLivesMatter organizes a virtual public that is as much imagined as manifested in local protests. Yet more than most, #BlackLivesMatter calls attention to the materiality of precarious life. The iconographic status of Eric Garner’s breath, Michael Brown’s hands, and Trayvon Martin’s hoodie sets the stage for considering less visible but equally central aspects of Black embodiment.

Featured Speakers: Bergis Jules (UC Riverside), TreaAndrea Russworm (UMass Amherst), and Teresa Zackodnik (U Alberta)

Join us at the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, 4th floor Holland Library

Friday, October 7th, 9:30am-4:30pm

Symposium Schedule

Morning Session
9:30am: Coffee
9:45am: Opening remarks & welcome
10:00am: Teresa Zackodnik, “Intense Continuities”: Media Technologies of Black Protest
11:15am: Bergis Jules, The Ethics of Documenting Social Movements

Lunch Break 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Afternoon Session
1:45pm: TreaAndrea Russworm, Race, Technology, and the Problem of Recognition
3:00pm: Roundtable featuring speakers with Thabiti Lewis
4:15pm: Closing remarks & acknowledgements

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