Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

Decolonizing the Racialized Female Subject: Black and Indigenous Self-making under Empire


A two-day Symposium at Brown University

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Imani Tafari-Ama, Friday, March 6th, 2015

Workshops and Panel: Saturday, March 7th, 2015


“One cannot “unsettle” the coloniality of power without a re-description of the human outside of the terms of our own present descriptive statement of the human.”

–Sylvia Wynter

Colonialism is a racialized and gendered project prefaced on the construction of an ahistorical subhuman “other” by way of a process that Aimé Césaire refers to as “thingification” (1955).  The continuous struggle of many people of African and Indigenous descent against the totalizing forms of colonial dehumanization has rested on the development of consciousness, epistemes, and praxes that challenge the prevailing symbolic order. This two-day symposium intends to grapple with the conceptions of freedom and humanity that emerge in Black and Indigenous women’s practices of self-making under empire.

We invite Brown graduate students and faculty to participate in working groups with one of our five invited speakers on the topic of decolonization. Participation in the workshop will be determined by a submission of a 200-word abstract on a topic relating to the symposium and the invited speakers interests, which is due on January 26th. Each participant will be asked to pre-circulate up to ten pages of a current project by February 13th (see submission information below).

The central question of the Symposium asks how might Black and Indigenous epistemological and political contestations of the human inform decolonial discourses on freedom and sovereignty? To answer this question, the Symposium focuses primarily on four themes:

1)    Processes of dehumanization through colonial and imperial violence
2)    Creations of symbolic and material space
3)    Conceptions of the human that emerge in black and indigenous women’s self-Making
4)    Spiritual and political resistance and radical knowledge production


We invite research that addresses any and/or all of these themes.


Invited Faculty

Imani Tafari Ama

University of the West Indies - Mona, Jamaica, Scholar of Gender and Development Studies, State Violence and Rastafari women; Author of Lead In the Veins: Poetic Reflections on Life, Love, and (In) Justice

Amie Breeze Harper

Critical Food Studies Scholar; Author of anthology Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health and Society-- Black Female Vegans Speak and the Sistah Vegan Project at 

Tiffany King

Georgia State University, Scholar of women and gender and sexuality Studies, Critical Geography and Settler Colonialism; Author of In the Clearing: Black Female Bodies, Space and Settler Colonial Landscapes, (Dissertation, 2013)

María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

New York University, Scholar of Latina/o cultural studies; development and globalization studies; comparative race in the Americas; 20th century revolutionary thought and literature of the Americas; Author of The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development

Kimberly TallBear

University of Texas-Austin, Scholar of Technoscience, Indigenous Studies, and Genetics; Author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science.

In your abstract submission, please include the following:


  • Your name, department and year of graduate study, and/or faculty position
  • A 200-word abstract for a 10-page paper that will be pre-circulated by February 13th
  • The guest scholar with whom you would like to work


200-word abstracts are due January 26th to [email protected]. Please list the scholar with whom you would like to work in the subject line of your submission.



The Decolonizing the Racialized Female Subject Symposium is possible through the sponsorship of the Brown Graduate International Colloquium Grant and the following departments and campus organizations: Africana Studies, Anthropology (Science and Technology Studies), Theater and Performance Studies, English, History, Modern Culture and Media, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, and the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.