Elsa Rakoto, Nyansapo Festival, Paris, 2017. Courtesy Mwasi.
‘There is no ontological home for Black women in “womanhood”; we must refuse this category and be fugitives: “We who become together”’ – Hartman, Lose Your Mother
Nydia A. Swaby leads a roundtable with Ama Josephine Budge, Rita Gayle and Azeezat Johnson, discussing their respective engagements with contemporary Black feminist politics, Saidiya Hartman’s work and the concept of fugitivity in relation to Black feminism. Their conversation is followed by a live video conversation with Saidiya Hartman.
A catalyst for this roundtable is the concept of fugitivity and the possibility of a feminism that refuses the category of gender altogether. Rather than seeking inclusion in gender relations that cannot account for Black women’s myriad experiences, Fugitive Feminism
instead embraces a transgressive category of the fugitive – one who flees domination and joins with others to collectively construct a new liberation politics.
Ama Josephine Budge is a writer, artist, curator and pleasure activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism in order to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental revolutions and queered identities. PhD candidate in Psychosocial Studies with Dr Gail Lewis at Birkbeck, University of London. She is convenor of the anti-conference I/Mages of Tomorrow, co-founder of queer black collective The Batty Mama and initiator of pleasure collective Self Love and Ecstasy. Budge has been published across news platforms, art journals and feminist periodicals.
Rita Gayle is a PhD Researcher at the University of Birmingham investigating how millennial Black British feminists are working collectively as a strategy to counteract their exclusion from the creative and cultural industries. Rita is funded by an AHRC DTP Midland 3 Cities Research Studentship Award. She has previously worked as a newsgatherer for BBC News and as an independent filmmaker.
Azeezat Johnson is a social geographer at Queen Mary University of London, interested in conversations on Black and Muslim geographies, which push against the racialisation of Black bodies as Other to a neutralised White Self. Her PhD research explored the performance of identity in relation to different objects, bodies, gazes and spaces through the clothing practices of Black Muslim women in Britain. Azeezat is currently co-editing the forthcoming publication The Fire Now: anti-racist scholarship in times of explicit racial violence, due November 2018.
Nydia A. Swaby is a historian and ethnographer working at the intersection of black feminist theory, migration and diaspora studies, and queer of colour critique. She is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, University of London, where she obtained her PhD from the Centre for Gender Studies. Prior to enrolling at SOAS, Nydia worked at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Nydia is a member of the editorial collective for the journal Feminist Review.
Saidiya Hartman's major fields of interest are African American and American literature and cultural history, slavery, law and literature and performance studies. Hartman received her BA from Wesleyan University and PhD from Yale University. She is on the editorial board of the journal Callaloo and has been a Fulbright, Rockefeller, Whitney J Oates and University of California President's Fellow. She is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route.