Mellon Grant will fund seminars on archival practices in African and African diaspora studies

Author: J.D. Warren
October 20, 2021

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has approved a grant of $225,000 to the University of California, Riverside to support a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures titled "Unarchiving Blackness: Why the Primacy of African and African Diaspora Studies Necessitates a Creative Reconsideration of Archives.” The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments.

The grant to UCR will facilitate a series of workshops and discussions from five faculty organizers in the departments of History, Archeology/Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and English about what it means for humanists to research under-represented voices, specifically African and Black voices and perspectives, within an archive constructed through various forms of antiblack and gendered violence.

Jody Benjamin, the principal investigator for the grant and an assistant professor of history at UCR, said themes will include: “The Afterlives of Slavery and Colonialism,” “Black Ecologies and Place-making,” and “Technology, Afro-futurism and Black Speculative Practices.”

“As a result of this Sawyer Seminar, researchers across the humanities will develop archival practices and ethics that can imagine thriving futures for African and Black people globally,” Benjamin said. The seminars will be conducted in partnership with the Center for Ideas and Society, Benjamin said.

CHASS Faculty leading the seminar in addition to Benjamin include Ayana Omilade Flewellen, assistant professor of anthropology; Jade Sasser, associate professor, women, gender and sexuality studies; Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi, assistant professor of history and Associate Professor of English andré carrington, who styles his name with lowercase letters.

“I commend professors Benjamin, Flewellen, Sasser, Adelusi-Adeluyi, and carrington for leading this essential reconsideration of the methods we use to perceive, catalog, and archive African and Black history, said Daryle Williams, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “‘Unarchiving Blackness’ will reshape historical narratives of the past, impact the material conditions of African and Black people in the present, and create imaginative possibilities of vibrant African and Black life for the future. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is such an important partner, and we greatly appreciate its continued support of our talented scholars and researchers within UCR’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.”