The racially motivated riots in France during the fall of 2005 proved that despite its homogenous image, racial tensions are alive and well in Europe. The newly emerging field of Black European Studies is beginning to examine these racial tensions by studying the history and the current experience of blacks in the culture of Europe.
“It’s important to really shine the spotlight on this area of study that is as legitimate as studying the American black experience – to look at that experience globally,” said Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, professor of African American and Diaspora Studies and French. She and Lucius Outlaw, professor of philosophy and associate provost for undergraduate education, co-directed the 2007-2008 Fellows Program at the Vanderbilt University Robert Penn Warren Center “Conceptualizing Diaspora, Reconceptualizing Europe: Black Europe, or Diaspora Studies in Europe.”
The fellows group will present the premiere of the short documentary film highlighting their study of “Black Europe, or Diaspora Studies In/On Europe” on Wednesday, March 18, at 5 p.m., in the auditorium of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. The viewing is free and open to the public.
The 10-minute film is the capstone project of the yearlong fellowship program. Weekly meetings and lectures by visiting speakers were recorded by documentary filmmaker Lyle Jackson, and were compiled into a short, educational film that the fellowship participants hope will continue to provoke discussion and research into the topic. Outlaw and Sharpley-Whiting will be at the premiere to introduce the film and discuss it afterwards.
“I think this discussion is important because the concept of black Europeans is a relatively new concept, because race is an issue that’s very contested in Europe – in Germany in particular the word is, well, verboten. In France, people don’t typically recognize ‘race,'” says Sharpley-Whiting. “So the idea that people would identify themselves as black French, black Germans or black Europeans is radically different given particularly the French position that everyone is simply French.”
A central feature of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the annual Fellows Program attracts faculty members representing a diverse range of interests. The theme for the Fellows Program arises from the strengths and interests of university faculty members, as well as from important social, political and cultural events.
The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities promotes interdisciplinary research and study in the humanities, social sciences, and, when appropriate, natural sciences. For more information about the Warren Center, visit http://www.vanderbilt.edu/rpw_center/center.htm.
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