Call for Papers: 2018 Black New England Conference (CLOSED)
Express Your Self: Identity, Style and Adornment
October 19-20, 2018
at the University of New Hampshire
12th ANNUAL BLACK NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE
“The will to adorn is the second most notable characteristic in Negro expression. Perhaps his idea of ornament does not attempt to meet conventional standards, but it satisfies the soul of its creator.” — Zora Neale Hurston
Style—whether expressed through art, music, literature, performance, speech, or bodily adornment—operates as a visible and tangible marker of identity and group affiliation. African American style has functioned as an effective means of communication during social interactions, and has influenced how African Americans create identities for themselves and how they express their identities to others. Additionally, although there is no one way to be “authentically” African American, there are numerous aesthetic choices that have overlapped and intertwined, forming a framework for understanding linkages between the individual self and the individual self’s position within social structures, especially those organized around notions of kinship, economic empowerment, religion, and politics.
Historically, a “Black aesthetic” in the U.S. was developed in a contentious relationship with European-American culture, as descendants of enslaved people in the U.S. worked to create and maintain their own traditions while facing racial discrimination. Today, African American style and that of the African Diaspora has become a significant part of American and indeed global culture; there is no denying the pervasive cultural appropriation of the aesthetic and performative practices of Black culture in popular culture. Even so, African American style remains a distinct cultural phenomenon.
Style can subvert social constraints such as gender norms and socioeconomic stratification. Style can present a problematic dichotomy between necessary self-expression and societal judgment. Style can conceal or celebrate one's interior self.
In exploring the traditions, artistry, and social histories that have shaped different forms of African American style, this conference will offer opportunities for presenters to explore the historical and present impact of various forms of artistic expression on the development of African American identities and cultural production, as well as how the embodiment of aesthetic expressions serves as a point of reflection for social issues today.
This conference is for anyone who wants to explore the significance of individual and collective style as more than just a social and climatological necessity. It will be an animated and vibrant celebration of the human drive to define and redefine what it means to be human.
The Black New England Conference, now in its 12th year, is an annual 2-day gathering where academics, artists, activists, and community members share insights and research on Black experiences, past and present, in New England and beyond. The Conference is both an academic conference and a celebration of Black life and history.