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Borderlines Seminar: Being a ‘Mixed-Race’ Brown Scholar of Black Writing: Learning Embodied Anti-Racism Through Scholarship and Praxis (Online with Dr Leila Kamali)

When: Thursday, July 11, 2024, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Where: Online: Microsoft Teams Link: (Meeting ID: 388 878 544 079 and Passcode: zXrVrP)

Speaker: Dr Leila Kamali

This is a talk organized by Borderlines – An Interdisciplinary Research Collective committed to social justice, radical, experimental and innovative methodologies and interdisciplinary pedagogies and alternative conceptual paradigms. The group aims to bring together diverse scholars resisting strict definition of fields and disciplines but thriving through differences and alternative vantage points. Committed to decolonizing of praxis and the problematization of the ‘normative’ through critical enquiry, it seeks to thwart the margins, peripheries, boundaries and notions of alterity,

The speaker's depiction of "The Talk"

This talk is a reflection on the relationship between my personal identity as a Brown person of mixed ethnicity, my research in African American and Black British literature, and the lessons I have learned for my anti-racist praxis. One of my major current research areas is on the work of African American author John Edgar Wideman. Both Wideman and my father, who is from Afghanistan, have travelled the path of the ‘model minority’. The model minority is someone who is ‘picked’ as an exception within white supremacy, and functions as a figure that can be used to ‘prove’ a cynical claim that the racist system is working well.

The model minority, as well as their descendants, may have inclinations towards a cosmopolitan or hybrid identity, invoking what Homi Bhabha termed a ‘Third Space’; their life experience and cultural experience lends itself to that kind of location. My choice to immerse myself in both African American and Black British writing as a research area has always felt like a fit with my understanding of myself as a cosmopolitan person.

While the celebration of the hybrid and cosmopolitan identity was very much the tone of the 1990s, in the public arena as well as in scholarship, the mood of the current times is different. This is a time to listen more attentively to our own personal relationship to our ancestries, and to take responsibility for our own individual role in racism and the colonial structuring of relations.

I look at how I continue this journey with an eye to cultural responsibility (rather than appropriation), and to anti-racist allyship to Black people, while also honouring my hybrid realities. In truth, what I have found emerges most strongly is my own voice, which embodies all my inheritances and influences. From a place of reaching toward cultural humility and honesty, I am now offering teaching to others, on a course in Anti-Racism for Non-Black People of Colour.

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