Africana Studies


Contact Us

For more information about Africana Studies at Bard College or questions about this site:

Drew Thompson
Director of Africana Studies
Tel: 845-758-6822 x4600
Office: Hopson 303
Bard College
PO Box 5000
New York 12504-5000

Upcoming Events

  • Mar
    “Black Feminist Interventions in Children's Fantasy: Recovered Histories, Literary Representation, and New Publishing Technologies,” with Zetta Elliot
    Time: 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
    Location: RKC 103
    more >

  • Apr
    Interracial Marriage and the Gendered Optics of African Nationalism in the Colonial Metropole
    Carina Ray, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University
    Time: 4:40 pm
    Location: Olin, Room 102
    more >

Past Events



  Monday, November 13, 2017
Göran Olsson’s The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Olin, Room 201  6:15 pm
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011), among other things an extraordinary feat of editing and archival research, takes up a familiar period in American history from a fresh and fascinating angle. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Swedish television journalists traveled to the United States with the intention of 'showing the country as it really is.' Some of the images and interviews they collected have been assembled by Göran Hugo Olsson into a roughly chronological collage that restores a complex human dimension to the racial history of the era.”

—A.O. Scott, New York Times' Movie Review, September 8, 2011 (Available at
Refreshments will be served. 
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program
Contact: Drew Thompson  845-758-4600
  Thursday, November 9, 2017
Chris Mburu
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights in Africa: 
Personal Reflections on 20 Years of Engagement

Olin, Room 205  5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

in conversation with

Peter Rosenblum
Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Bard College

Chris Mburu is a Kenyan lawyer and human rights professional who has worked on human rights issues across the African continent, beginning in his native Kenya and continuing with field work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Uganda, South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea and, now Rwanda, where he heads the UN human rights office. 

He is the subject of the Emmy-nominated documentary, “A Small Act” that builds on the story of his childhood to feature his work on education for poor children in Kenya. His research and advocacy have been featured in news and features around the world (as has his penchant for playing golf in conflict zones.) 

Chris will share an insider's perspective and respond to questions on events across the continent.
Sponsored by: Human Rights Project
Contact: Peter Rosenblum  845-758-6822
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
The Black Box of Police Torture
Laurence Ralph, Ph.D.
John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences Harvard University

Olin, Room 102  5:30 pm
My talk details the manhunt, arrest, and torture of a convicted cop killer named Andrew Wilson. Wilson was one of approximately 125 Black men who, between 1972 and 1991, were tortured by various means at Chicago’s Area Two police precinct. Beyond these specific dates and outside of this particular location, journalists place the total number of torture survivors at roughly 200.

Given the history of police torture in Chicago, this talk explores the twinned meanings of both the object and concept referred to as the Black Box. Doing so will reveal how the mysterious interworkings of a police torture operation somehow became accepted. Throughout this talk, the Black Box will reference the name of a torture device used to send electronic currents through a person’s body for the purpose of coercing a confession; and it will also refer to the label I give for the conventional agreement, among a group of police officers, to stop trying to understand how and why torture is taking place in their very own precinct. That is to say, during Wilson’s ordeal, the Black Box served as an implicit agreement between police officers that their activity should remain concealed. That is, in attempting to hide the grisly details of their torture operation, these officers designed for themselves a conceptual Black Box. Contained in this box were sweeping, unexamined stereotypes about good and evil, about where and how the evil people live, about the color of the skin of those evil people, and about what it is permissible to do to protect against them.
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program, Human Rights Program, Caribbean Students Organization, Black Students Organization, and Brothers at Bard; Anthropology Program
Contact: Yuka Suzuki  845-758-7219
  Tuesday, October 24, 2017
A Brilliant Genocide
followed by a panel discussion
Olin, Room 102  6:00 pm
A Brilliant Genocide is a powerful documentary exposing the true story behind the rise of the brutal warlord, Joseph Kony, and the Ugandan government's campaign against the Acholi people. This one-hour film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring:

Helen C. Epstein—author of Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror and instructor in the Human Rights program at Bard College

Lawrence Kiwanuka Nsereko—Ugandan journalist and instructor at Dutchess County Community College

Zachariah Mampilly—Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana and International Studies at Vassar College, author of Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War and co-author of Africa Uprising! Popular Politics and Unarmed Resistance

John Ryle—writer, anthropologist, and specialist in Eastern Africa, Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, and co-founder of the Rift Valley Institute, a Kenya-based organization working in Eastern Africa to bring local knowledge to bear on development

Pizza and drinks will be served.
Sponsored by: Global and International Studies Program, Africana Studies Program, and Rift Valley Institute; Human Rights Program
Contact: Helen Epstein  845-758-7203
  Monday, October 23, 2017
Göran Olsson’s Concerning Violence
Olin, Room 201  6:15 pm
Concerning Violence (2014) is both an archive-driven documentary covering the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the Third World, as well as an exploration into the mechanisms of decolonization through text from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon’s landmark book, written over 50 years ago, is still a major tool for understanding and illuminating the neocolonialism happening today, as well as the violence and reactions against it. (Excerpt from:
Refreshments will be served.
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program
Contact: Drew Thompson  845-758-4600
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Shooting the Enemy
Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin
Olin, Room 102  5:00 pm

"When I started college in the early 1980s, I really wanted to learn how shoot, light, and, especially, develop 35mm B&W film. I took an evening class, and began to photograph whatever was around me. At that time, I was hanging out with a mobile d.j. crew, based on Long Island, where I lived. So, much of what I shot was of them.

"Eventually, though, I gave up photography, put my negatives in a bag, and began to write, ultimately growing to be a print and radio journalist with a focus on hip-hop.

"Those d.j.s, however, went on to become hip-hop legends Public Enemy and, their history-making production arm, the Bomb Squad. My photos—some of the only photo-documents of them during that period—soon were enlisted into the service of documentaries for the BBC, MTV, VH-1, and other productions. As well, a number of them were recently acquired as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture's permanent collection.

"This year is the 30th anniversary of Public Enemy's debut, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. In 2018, it will be three decades since the release of their landmark It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

"Since I lived through, worked during, and documented the rise of hip-hop culture as a media professional—and this even earlier era with my camera—I’m bringing the entirety of what I've seen to Bard College, doing so in the spirit of openness and learning."

Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin, publishes the blog Media Assassin at There he writes about race, politics, and culture, much as he does for VIBE, The Source, The Village Voice, and other publications, and has been doing so for over twenty years.
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program; American Studies Program; Dean of Inclusive Excellence; Division of Social Studies; Experimental Humanities Program
Contact: Christian Crouch  845-758-6874
  Wednesday, October 11, 2017
School Choice?
Mary Pattillo
Harold Washington Professor of Sociology & African American Studies
Northwestern University

Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium  4:00 pm
School choice is promoted as one strategy to improve educational outcomes for African Americans. Key themes in Black school choice politics are empowerment, control, and agency.
Using qualitative interviews with poor and working-class Black parents in Chicago, Pattillo explored: how do these themes characterize the experiences of low-income African American parents tasked with putting their children in schools?
Also, what kind of political positions emerge from parents’ everyday experiences given the ubiquitous language of school choice?
Parents’ stories convey limited and weak empowerment, limited individual agency, and no control.   What should we learn?
Mary Patillo is the author of Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class and Black on the Block: the Politics of Race and Class in the City; she co-edited Imprisoning America: the Social Effects of Mass Incarceration.

Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program; Sociology Program
Contact: Joel Perlmann  845-758-7667
Monday, September 18, 2017
“Never Catch Me”: False Endings in Black Music from the Soul Era to the Present
Emily Lordi, Associate Professor of English
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

RKC 103  6:15 pm
Often invoked but seldom defined, the word “soul” occupies a central yet slippery place in the African American cultural tradition. Is it a musical genre? A racial essence? A spiritual quality? I believe it is none of the above, exactly, but instead a story about black experience that we can read through generations of musical practice. In the late-1960s, soul emerged as a name for the social and aesthetic grace wrought from racialized pressure—what black people earned by surviving the historical and daily trials of white supremacy. One of the musical manifestations of this concept, I suggest, was the “false ending,” the practice of bringing a song to its close only to strike it back up for another chorus or two. This strategy structurally enacted—and, thanks to its evident roots in gospel music, helped to render sacred— soul’s message of black group resilience. 

After discussing false endings in the work of Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye, I will suggest this device finds its contemporary counterpart in two recent music videos: Flying Lotus (and Kendrick Lamar)’s “Never Catch Me,” which begins with a false ending by staging the death and resurrection of two black children; and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, which likewise begins with a suicidal swan-dive that initiates the visual album’s healing journey. To trace this device through the Black Lives Matter era is to see how what scholars call “post-soul aesthetics” are in fact haunted by the “false ending” that is the supposed death of soul itself—and, more to the point, by the persistent need for the models soul offers for translating black loss into what theorist Fred Moten calls a “will to proceed” against intractable odds.
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program; American Studies Program; Ethnomusicology; Literature Program
Contact: Peter L'Official  845-758-7556
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Middle Eastern Studies 
Open House 
Kline, Faculty Dining Room  5:00 pm
Come celebrate the end of the year with fellow MESers. Meet faculty, hear about exciting new courses, study abroad programs, senior projects, and a number of incredible iniatives MES students are working on. Snacks will be served. All are welcome.
Sponsored by: Middle Eastern Studies Program
Contact: Dina Ramadan  845-758-7506
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Black Power on the Inside: African Americans and Africa in the Radical 1980s
Dr. Benjamin A. Talton
Associate Professor, Temple University

Olin, Room 102  5:30 pm

The 1980s was the highpoint of African American political power and direct political engagement with Africa.    A small group of African American lawmakers in the 1980s brought the radical activism of the 1960s and early 1970s to Congress.  Through their protests, legislation and coalition building African Americans achieved their greatest influence on U.S. foreign policy in U.S. history.  Within this brief political moment, their efforts helped transform the relationship between the United States and Africa.  ​
Sponsored by: Africana Studies Program; Historical Studies Program
Contact: Tabetha Ewing  845-758-6822
Friday, March 31, 2017
A Reading by Dawn Lundy Martin
The author of Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life reads from her poems
Bard Hall, Bard College Campus  5:00 pm
At 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 31, in Bard Hall, the John Ashbery Poetry Series presents a reading by Dawn Lundy Martin.

The activist poet and editor, winner of the Cave Canem Prize and Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry, and cofounder of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh is also the author of such books as A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering, Discipline, and the forthcoming Good Stock Strange Blood.

Introduced by Ann Lauterbach and followed by a conversation and Q&A, the reading is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.

"Every time I read Good Stock Strange Blood, a new, deepened book awaits me. Which is to say, it’s got trap doors, trick sleeves; it takes swerves, detours, and dives. Dawn Lundy Martin’s poems read like a real-time excavation of what poetry can and can't do; how the past is never past; how to stand in the blur, the 'griefmouth' of personal and collective pain and somehow—against all odds—make thought, make fury, make song. We need this resilience, this bloody reckoning, this wit and nuance, now." —Maggie Nelson

"A relentless pressure placed on the body that is fetishized, shackled, split, strangled, beaten, hated, compressed, trashed, drowned, measured, mirrored, dragged, discarded, disappeared, opened, punctured, displayed, encased. The question of 'what allows the body to survive' is at the heart of Good Stock Strange Blood. If there's an answer in this book to that question, then perhaps it has to do with how we confront and give words and breath and sound and silence to a life of meticulously drawn images that are ghostly, brutal, and vivifying." —Daniel Borzutzky
Sponsored by: John Ashbery Poetry Series
Contact: Micaela Morrissette  845-758-7054
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Brazilian Dance Workshop
Hosted by Brazilian Dance Club
Campus Center, Multipurpose Room  4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Come learn how to do Brazilian Dance or continue to learn if you came to our workshop last weekend!  We are going to go over many styles of Brazilian Dance including samba and Afro-Brazilian! No experience necessary!
Contact: Sophia Lopez  510-333-8433