Call for Papers: 2018 Black New England Conference
Express Your Self: Identity, Style and Adornment
October 19-20, 2018
at the University of New Hampshire
12th ANNUAL BLACK NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE and Awards Dinner
“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.
Presenters may also wish to unpack ways in which cultural movements—such as the Black Power, Black Arts, and Black Lives Matter Movements; Hip Hop and Rap Culture; Ballroom, House Systems, and the Garden Community—establish and regulate collective identity, influence mainstream culture, and provide numerous points of departure for exploring societal beliefs and values.
The Black New England Conference is accepting abstracts for 10- to 15-minute presentations that examine any number of questions related to African American style. Presentations should deepen an understanding and appreciation for African American cultural traditions and promote critical engagement. Although abstracts on any aspect of African American style will be considered, we are especially interested in receiving abstracts that speak to the following themes:
- The Social Brain and the Creation of Black Identities
Sociological and/or cognitive approaches to the social brain, African American style, and the creation of Black identity.
- Heads up: It’s all about the Hair
The artistic, economic, and political histories of black hair
- African American Cool: Commodification, Eraser & Appropriation
How/why is African American style commodified? What is the affect of this commodification on African Americans? In what ways is African American style imagined as transcending racial specificity.
- Say It Loud: Vogue, Ball, Garden & Underground Cultures
Examinations of various queer cultures and styles and their movement into mainstream American culture
- Strange Fruit: Interpreting anti-Black violence through artist expressions
- The Souls of Black Folks: Stepping Forward, Redrawing Boundaries
Where do we go from here?
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.
Submit an Abstract
For consideration, please submit the title of the proposed presentation, an abstract, and a brief biography (the title, abstract, and bio should be in one document and not exceed one page). Please send to abstracts to JerriAnne.Boggis@unh.edu.
Deadline for Submission: July 30, 2018
Notification of Acceptance: August 15, 2018
For More Information
View Past Conferences