Backtalk/Crosstalk: The Scholar-Activist in African Gender Studies

Gayatri Spivak, Jane Bennett, Amina Mama, and Yvette Christiansë

Backtalk Crosstalk

Backtalk/Crosstalk is a new series of dialogues initiated by the Africana Studies Program at Barnard College to set members of the Africana faculty in conversation with scholars, artists and activists. Backtalk/Crosstalk keeps in mind the gains of institutional recognition for Diaspora Studies, but asks what room remains for the impertinent, insolent and disruptive work that achieved such recognition? Backtalk/Crosstalk will move back and forth across Broadway between Barnard and Columbia. It will traverse local and transnational contexts and locations, and it will link different political, cultural and scholarly agendas and aspirations.

This year’s Backtalk/Crosstalk forum features three disruptive scholar-activists engaged in negotiating the academy and their commitments to the local struggles of women on the African continent. Gayatri Spivak is a renowned literary critic and her many commitments to social change include founding The Pares Chandra and Sivani Chakravorty Memorial Education Project to provide childhood education for the poor. Jane Bennett is Director of the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town, and has been an active member of various community organizations committed to fighting colonialism, especially as colonialism has impacted the psychological, sexual, and physical, health of women. Amina Mama is a former Director of the AGI and currently, Director of Women and Gender Studies at UC Davis. She has led numerous gender research projects across the African continent and is currently working to develop a transnational feminist project on militarism, conflict and women’s activism. Each of their presentations will focus on labors of negotiating the complexities of back-talking and cross-talking academic institutions, political structures, social inequities and feminist commitments. The forum will be moderated by award-winning poet, novelist and scholar, Yvette Christiansë, Professor of Africana Studies and English at Barnard College.