Sabbatical Notes from Ibrahim Sundiata

February 16th, 2012

Ibrahim Sundiata, Professor of African and Afro-American Studies and History, is on sabbatical this year and sends greetings from Melbourne along with the following note about his current projects:

Greetings from Melbourne.  This is a short run-down of my current projects…

I have an ongoing project which will continue through the 2012 election cycle: Not Out of Dixie: Obama and the Crisis of Identity Politics. The book, which focuses on racial, ethnic, religious and sexual identity, has involved me in several conferences.

In August 2011, I presented a paper at the University of Legon in Ghana on the fluidity of identity in the “Black Atlantic.”  I focused on Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in sub-Saharan Africa. It is, in the North American gaze, part of a Black World.  In the eyes of many of its intellectuals, it is part of a wider Latin ecumene. Millions of people in the Atlantic region speak Spanish and are of African descent. Where do they belong in our view of the racialized (or even “post-racial) world of Obama’s America?

In October 2011, I was invited to Princeton to speak on one aspect of the work — “The Vagaries of Latin Indentity in the Era of Brown Obama.”  The paper was devoted to a discussion of the ways in which a bifurcated racial system (Black/White) had been historically manipulated so as to minimize number of Blacks. Most of the Africans in the Atlantic Slave Trade went to Latin America, but disappear in North American discourse into a homogeneous Latino identity.  What does this mean for politics in the US where “Hispanics/Latinos” are now counted as the largest minority group?

I came to Melbourne in February 2012 to present a paper at a conference “After Homosexuality” sponsored by Latrobe University and the University of Victoria.  The conference was called to mark the fortieth anniversary of Dennis Altman’s 1972 work “Homosexuality and Oppression.”  In that seminal work sought to look at the various “radicalism” of the 1960s (the Black Panthers, feminism, anti-militarism) and see if a New Left sensibility had been built. I was invited to give a paper and to chair a panel.  The paper “Obama and the Politics of ‘Black Homophobia” is an exploration of the ways in which various strands of Obama supporters diverge on the issue of LGBT rights. This issue has taken on a special importance since various right-wing evangelical groups have made significant inroads both in the African-American community and in Africa.

Also, I have agreed to be on the Faculty Advisory Board of Brandeis Hadassah. I have a chapter on Obama and the Jewish community in Jews, Race, Color, the product of a 2010 conference at Ben Gurion University in Israel where I gave a keynote.

Sundiata is the Samuel and Augusta Spector Professor of History.

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