Authored by Oge Ibida ’21 in “Black Faculty and Imagining Black Studies“
last updated 02.09.2021
Sometime in July of 2018, the Africana faculty took a trip to Washington, D.C. and sat together to share a meal at the POV Rooftop. This photograph is particularly unique because we see them socializing outside of the classroom and enjoying themselves outside of Davidson. The faculty went on a trip to DC where they attended museums and ultimately expanded their imaginations of Africana. Throughout my exhibition, a theme that arises is the significance of leaving the physical space of Davidson College and North Carolina to discover the meaning of Black study. The faculty trip to D.C. was key to uncovering the next steps for the department as well as how it can best suit Davidson College. In this photograph, they are smiling and posing when Dr. Bowles takes a group selfie, however, the analysis of the picture seeks to explore beyond the choreographed smiles and poses.
The menu book is labeled “POV” which guides us about the name of the restaurant. In this case, “POV” symbolizes a ‘point of view’ which helps to speculate the various backgrounds that shape the department. POV helps us to understand the politics/aesthetics of Africana because we are able to see how Africana is shaped by ideological differences. In particular, Kelly comes from the Education Department, Martí from Sociology, Bertholf from English, Weimers from History, Fache from French, and Bowles from Anthropology. Since Africana faculty come from different backgrounds and have ideological differences, how might they have imagined Africana differently?
Their choreographed smiles mask the ideological differences and possible tension that typically occurs within a department. Through understanding the “politics of the table,” we can see the meal table as a political site that builds community. The table serves as an object that brings the faculty together despite their ideological differences.
Having ideological differences in the department is healthy and is what allows for a multilingual approach to Africana Diaspora. Brent Hayes Edwards’s (2004) notion of “decalage” in Uses of Diaspora explains how different political and ideological differences help push Africana forward. Edwards argues that despite members of the Black diaspora sharing similar conditions of oppression, they often find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum. As a result, there is an anticipation of epistemological differences that may emerge when discussing the visions of an Africana department (Edwards, 2004, 65). Some scholars may argue that not having a common vision for Africana can be detrimental. However, Edwards argues that the differing political differences is normal and a defining aesthetic of Africana Studies.