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Dr. Homi Bhaba to Give Keynote on Systemic and Traumatic Racism

Keynote with Dr. Homi Bhaba Systemic Racism and Traumatic Racism: The Long and the Short of It...


Lara Sheehi, George Washington University

Derek Hook, Duquesne University

Sheldon George, Simmons University

September 17, 2021

7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Cost: Free This event is free and open to the public. You do not need to register for the conference to attend but you do need to register for the free event.

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The keynote address at Psychology & the Other 2021 will explore the dynamic relations between systemic and traumatic racism by drawing on politics, poetics, and psychoanalysis. It is also being offered as a Psychological Humanities and Ethics Lecture at Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development and is free and open to the public.

The rapid passage from the pandemic to the BLM protests, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, staged a confrontation between the racialized politics of public health and police death in the US and across the world. The disproportionate deaths of Black and ethnic peoples in the grip of the virus, and at the hands of the police, has been largely attributed to the long history of systemic racism prevalent, without adequate reform or repair, across state institutions.

The BLM protests introduce a new understanding of racial injustice and the temporality violence -and resistance- that is as traumatic as it is systemic - and although the two are related, they have different modalities of affect, agency, and antagonism. Systemic racism is often given a numerical or statistical reality -the danger to life- whereas traumatic racism is an on-going, iterative, contingent danger to living itself.

The temporality of ‘traumatic’ racism is more sudden than systemic, more precarious than predictable, more individuated than institutionalized, more street-side than court-side. “Look a Negro….!” Fanon’s foundational narrative of the psycho-affective drama of racial assault is, in Homi K. Bhabha's view, an instance of traumatic racism which, the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, say is a form of racism that happens not everywhere but anywhere, today in Boston but not tomorrow in Chicago……

About Homi K. Bhaba

Homi K. Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the English and Comparative Literature Departments at Harvard University. He was founding director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University from 2011-2019 and director of the Harvard Humanities Center from 2005-2011. From 2008-2019, he held the inaugural position of Senior Adviser on the Humanities to the President and Provost at Harvard University and from 2005-2008 served as Senior Adviser in the Humanities at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Bhabha is the author of numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, contemporary art, and cosmopolitanism. His works include Nation and Narration and The Location of Culture, which was reprinted as a Routledge Classic in 2004. His next book will be published by the University of Chicago Press. Bhabha has written on contemporary art for Artforum and has written a range of essays on William Kentridge, Anish Kapoor, Taryn Simon, and Mathew Barney, amongst others. He is a member of the Academic Committee for the Shanghai Power Station of Art, advisor on the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (CMAP) project at the Museum of Modern Art New York, and Curator in Residence of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Bhabha served on jury for the 53 rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and the 2018 Sharjah Biennial. In 2019, he was honored by the Institute of Contemporary Art in London for his influential work in studies of colonialism, postcolonialism, and globalization.

With the support of the Volkswagen and Mellon Foundations, Bhabha is leading a research project on the Global Humanities. In 1997 he was profiled by Newsweek as one of “100 Americans for the Next Century.” He holds honorary degrees from Université Paris 8, University College London, and the Free University Berlin. In 2012 he was awarded the Government of India’s Padma Bhushan Presidential Award in the field of literature and education and received the Humboldt Research Prize in 2015. In 2018 Bhabha received an honorary doctorate at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa.

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