By Heather Marks

This is our CALL FOR PAPERS for our return conference, On Whose Terms?: 10 Years On in Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts. 

The conference will be taking place on the 22nd-23rd March 2018, at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.

The 2008 landmark conference ‘On Whose Terms?: Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts focused upon local, international and transnational engagements with Black British literature and the Arts, to trace the multiple – real and imaginary – routes through its production, reception and cultural politics. It created a meeting point for prominent and emerging scholars, writers and practitioners, young people and the general public for exploring the impact of this field, both at home and abroad.

We are calling for papers for our 2018 return conference, On Whose Terms?: Ten Years On in Critical Negotiations in Black British Literature and the Arts. This conference aims to chart what has happened throughout the past decade – reclamations of cultural histories have expanded and revised our horizons, while recent cultural/technological changes have also propelled new mechanisms of success, as well as marginalization, invisibility and exclusion. This return conference offers a vibrant arena for critically engaging with Black British politics and the aesthetic practices that respond to today’s local and global challenges.

We are encouraging fresh discourses in this field, and welcome proposals from a broad spectrum of areas – drama, poetry, prose, performance, film, visual arts, music, curating, publishing, arts management and history. Areas of discussion might connect with the following ideas:

(i) Sites and Sights – The Digital Medium

In the past decade, digital media has given rise to new creative strategies and produced an array of sites and sights that enable interactive aesthetic practices. As digitization made possible various forms of participatory intervention, it has also reinforced socio-political barriers and cultural boundaries in the public sphere. Which role does the digital medium play in the production, circulation and consumption of Black British literature and the arts, and which new sites and sights of creative interaction does it open up?

(ii) Decolonising the Curricula

As the consequences of Britain’s colonial legacy continues to contour and influence contemporary British culture, challenges to the traditional verities of educational and public institutions have gathered apace. Campaigns such as ‘Why isn’t my professor black?’ and ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ have foregrounded the momentum for change. Neo-millennial generations demand a wider and more inclusive curriculum, and diversification of the teaching demographic. How is the tradition of the white interpreter problematised in, and by, Black British writing? What pedagogies and curricula exert a decolonising dynamic?

(iii) Historicising the Field

Imtiaz Habib (2008) has reflected, ‘to collect scattered, fragmented, and historically disregarded records of black people from four centuries back, and to talk about them with authority and coherence consistently, is a daunting task.’ The genre of historical fiction has taken a new turn in Black British writing and film-making over the past decade, alongside the visibilities created in the historical retrievals in Britain’s national archives and broadcasting. How does the model of ‘re-memory’ and the ‘imaginary’ of literary genres engage with history and heritage in a British context?

(iv) Economies of Cultural Visibility: the ‘Value’ of Black British Literature

Cultural visibility and authority in the public sphere fundamentally rely on the attribution of value. Value, however, is a fraught term that involves creative quality as much as it does economic interests. While Black British literature and the arts are certainly not independent from the logic of the market, they also find ways to assert their difference from it. Wherein lies the value of Black British literature and the arts and on whose terms is value attributed in the ‘global alterity industries’ (Huggan 2001)?

(v) New Subjectivities: Mixedness, Post-humanism and Afro-futures

At a time when the western humanist project has come under considerable pressure, Black British literature and the arts offer a vibrant arena for critically engaging with concepts of the human, life and subjectivity. How do creative and critical writers present new, possible post-human conceptions of black subjectivity? How do the arts and its possibilities for imaginative self-fashioning, radically reconfigure understandings of mixed and multi-ethnic experiences? Which creative strategies redraw the boundaries between human and the non-human agents, and how does this post-human project affect the modelling of Afro-futures and new, non-Eurocentric temporalities?

(vi) Sexual Textual Practices

The meta-context of hetero-normativity and hegemonic whiteness has been challenged both creatively and critically through the increasing body of work representing black LGBTQI+ experiences in British culture. What continuities can be mapped when we consider work produced ‘within a history of exclusion and non-white racialization…both within and outside canonical genealogies.’(Ferguson, 2004)? How do we evaluate an aesthetic legacy of Black British LGBTQI+ perspectives – whether or not these are centralised in individual texts, or are by people who might not personally identify as such? To what degree is textual experimentation a means of reclaiming perspectives previously submerged in culture (and historically persecuted)?

(vii) Holding Environments: Publishing, Archiving, Revivals

Bearing in mind Hall’s factors of ‘innovation and constraint’ (1996) that surround cultural genesis and production, across the interactive British arts sector (in literature, film, television, theatre, museums, and publishing), black writers and performers in Britain can still find their lives and experiences— if represented at all— primarily filtered through the dominance of white editors, publishers, directors, screenwriters, programmers, commissioning agents, reviewers and pundits. Has Black British heritage now become a permanent feature of public spaces and cultural records? Are there revivals of work? What are the classics? How can the legacies of activist artists, black presses and cultural networks be maintained?

We want your voices, so please send your abstract (250 words) and a bio (50 words) by 31st May 2017 to: OnWhoseTerms10YearsOn@gold.ac.uk 

Here’s a sneak peak of our lineup – speakers, panels, contributors, convenors and events – to get you hyped for what’s going to be an exciting and inspiring event!

Confirmed Keynotes:

Carole Boyce Davies (giving the Professor Stuart Hall Memorial Address)

Fred D’Aguiar

John McLeod

Jackie Kay in conversation with Blake Morrison

Specialist Panellists:

Pedagogy and Decolonising the Curricula: Joan Anim-Addo (Goldsmiths, University of London), Nathaniel Tobias-Coleman (Birmingham City University), Malachi McIntosh (Goldsmiths, University of London), and Maria Lima (Geneseo, New York).

Archiving and Longevity: Sandra Shakespeare (National Archives), S.I Martin (National Archives), Munira Mohamed (Black Cultural Archives), and Sarah White (George Padmore Institute).

Publishing and Prizes: Susheila Nasta (Wasafiri), Kadija Sesay (SABLE), Bernadine Evaristo (Brunel African Poetry Prize), Margaret Busby (S.I. Leeds Prize), and Pauline Walker (Alfred Fagon Award).

Poetics and Performance: Winsome Pinnock (The Principles of Cartography, 2017), Dorothea Smartt (Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings On, 2014), Sacha Wares, and Roy Williams (Days of Significance, 2007).

Events and Exhibitions: 

We will have performances and readings by Patience Agbabi (Telling Tales, 2014), SuAndi (The Story of M, 2017), Jay Bernard (The Red and Yellow Nothing, 2016), Kei Miller (Augustown, 2016), and Courttia Newland ( The Gospel According to Cane, 2013).

The National Museum of Caribbean Heritage will be exhibiting their community project, and there will also be exhibitions by Eye 2 Eye Productions, Ronnie McGrath, and CEN8.


National Black Arts Alliance    Oberon Books                        Norwich Writers’ Centre

New Beacon Books                     Pearson Publishing              Peepal Tree Press

Words of Colour                          Arvon                                      Runnymede Trust


Deirdre Osborne, (Goldsmiths University of London)

Birgit Neumann, (University of Dusseldorf, Germany)

In partnership with:

Kei Miller, (University of Exeter)

Catherine Robson, (New York University, London)

SEND YOUR ABSTRACTS (250 words) AND A BIO (50 words) BY 31ST MAY 2017 TO: OnWhoseTerms10YearsOn@gold.ac.uk 

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