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Black Production and The Space of the University

Sat, Mar 30, 2019    10am

They say that freedom is a constant struggle. They say that freedom is a constant struggle. They say that freedom is a constant struggle, O Lord, we’ve struggled so long we must be free.
—Angela Davis reciting part of a “Freedom Song” while delivering the Birkbeck Annual Law Lecture: ‘Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Closures and Continuities’ (London, 25 October 2013).

This one-day symposium aims to provide a space for historical, methodological, and theoretical discussions that examine the relationship between black production and the space of the University, including paper presentations by five current university students and one recent graduate, organized into two panels, Rereading/Rewriting/Reinventing the Canon and Black Space-Making in and against ‘The Master’s House’, with moderation by V. Mitch McEwen and Justin Garrett Moore respectively, and a keynote presentation by Toni L. Griffin responded to by Mario Gooden.

The space of the University has long been a charged and contingent domain. As both material realities and sites for the production and dissemination of various forms of knowledge, the University has been the subject of ongoing and recent debates around topics ranging from terms of access and the rights of students to the multiple forms of violence enacted on campuses across the country. In the midst of these debates, students are implored to, nonetheless, perform and produce. Black students who dare to pursue “higher education,” accepting an invitation from an institution to do so, are critically aware of their fraught and shifting status and of the high stakes of their work, particularly in relation to black identities and communities.

Pursuing disciplines that have, as scholar Craig Wilkins puts it, “both a systemic and specific resistance” to blackness, black students exercise particular forms of freedom and resistance within the university. Rather than focus on this work as solely marginal or subversive, we ask: what happens when we think, act and produce beyond an assumed “from below” posture? What does it look like to engage a broader set of positions, such as the within, alongside, in-between and on top of, while interrogating what it means to be free and produce freely in these spaces? Rather than focus exclusively on the fleeting and transitory nature of fugitivity, a key conceptual framework for black studies today, we seek to examine a broader scope of resistant and liberatory practices. As scholars and producers of the built environment specifically, we ask, what are the outlines of staying, of enduring, of dwelling in? What might it mean to dwell in contradiction, beyond binaries, and between disciplines, as human bodies working to make sense of our own labor within the space of the University—free, perhaps, but at what cost?

Free and open to the public with RSVP
Organized by the Black Student Alliance + GSAPP

Schedule 10:00am - 4:30pm

Opening Remarks
Ife Vanable, Elleza Kelley, Armon White (MSHP ‘18, MSRED '19)

Rereading/Rewriting/Reinventing the Canon

Todd Levon Brown, The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York
The Racialized Production and Perception of Architectural Space and Tools for its Critical Evaluation
Christina Schaller, Rhode Island School of Design
Remixing and Reframing Disciplinarity
Malcolm Rio, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Reframing Architectural Subjectivity through the Black Intellectual Tradition

Response by V. Mitch McEwen, Princeton University School of Architecture

Black Space-Making in and against 'The Master’s House’

Gabriel Soomar, University of Miami
The Legacy of Carnival as a Lens for Spatial Mobility
Charlette Caldwell, Columbia University
The Lowliest Type?: The Historiography of the Shotgun House
Sophonie Milande Joseph, Columbia University
Posali Case Study: A Black Feminist Analysis of Sustainability Planning in Ayiti

Response by Justin Garrett Moore, Columbia University GSAPP

Keynote by Toni L. Griffin, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Response by Mario Gooden, Columbia University GSAPP

Closing Remarks
Ife Vanable, Elleza Kelley