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✦ The Sojourner Project

A Black Studies Mobile Academy initiated by the Practicing Refusal Collective

About The Project

The Sojourner Project is a mobile Black Studies academy initiated by the Practicing Refusal Collective, an international Black feminist forum of artists and scholars dedicated to initiating dialogues on blackness, anti-black violence and black futurity in the twenty-first century.

Structured as a mobile academy that intentionally aims to exceed the literal and figurative walls of the university, The Sojourner Project convenes transnational and diasporic gatherings in which conversations, workshops and art activations create multi-directional encounters with histories of struggle and practices of refusal that have emerged in different black communities. The intention of each convening is to respond to the cultural, intellectual, political, and social landscapes of African and African diasporic localities through collaborative engagements between members of the Practicing Refusal Collective and resident artists, scholars and community and cultural workers. Our goal is a dialogue on national and regional inflections of anti-blackness (including black-on-black violence and Afrophobia), the resulting formations of black precarity and fungibility, and the possibilities for creating alternative futures. Our dialogues seek to formulate critical toolkits for exploring the role of Black Studies in creating intellectual frameworks for black communities to mobilize in the struggle for social transformation.

The first international convening of The Sojourner Project was held in Paris in 2018 and hosted by the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination at the Paris Global Center at Reid Hall. The Sojourner Project Paris: Dialogues on Black Precarity, Fungibility and Futurity featured panel discussions, a film screening, a poetry reading and collaborative working group sessions. The event welcomed over three hundred participants and was jointly funded by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Columbia Center for the Study of Social Difference, The Institute for Gender Studies, and The Institute for Ideas and Imagination.

The Sojourner Project South Africa was scheduled to launch in 2020 as a dual-city programme in Durban and Johannesburg. Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and following extensive engagement with local partners and communities, the envisioned program of diasporic exchanges, screenings, performances and workshops has now been reimagined as an interactive, online, community-based Black Studies curriculum. With the support of a team of designers convened by Nontsikelelo Mutiti, The Sojourner Project South Africa will convene virtually via thesojournerproject.org from November 2020 through Spring 2021. The website will support a series of scheduled activations including listening sessions, screenings, pop-up learning modules and workshops, hosted by members of the Practising Refusal Collective and collaborating artists, collectives, curators and scholars from Durban, Johannesburg and across the continent and diaspora.


Partners

The Sojourner Project - South Africa is presented by the Practicing Refusal Collective in partnership with Art for Humanity (AFH), Durban University of Technology, Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), University of Johannesburg, The Black Visualities Initiative at the Cogut Humanities Institute at Brown University, and the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration at Yale University.


The Practicing Refusal Collective

Formed in 2015 by Professors Tina Campt and Saidiya Hartman, the Practicing Refusal Collective (PR Collective) is an international Black feminist forum dedicated to initiating new dialogues on blackness, anti-black violence, and black futurity in the twenty-first century.

The Collective comprises sixteen members from multiple disciplines of the humanities, including two Columbia faculty, four Barnard faculty, and ten additional members from nine universities in the US and Canada.

The group’s point of departure is a set of overlapping interests and investments in theorizing black agency in the face of contemporary circumstances of imperilled blackness and vulnerable black bodies. The public events and working group sessions hosted by the Collective have created a cutting-edge platform for thinking through refusal as a generative rubric for understanding everyday practices of struggle, often obscured by an emphasis on collective acts of resistance. Convened in response to the proliferating forms of violence facing black populations in the US and in the African diaspora, the mission of the PR Collective is to articulate black feminist strategies for addressing the precarious state of black communities resulting from policies that treat black bodies as disposable and expendable – a state of duress we describe as black fungibility. The ‘practice of refusal’ referenced in the group’s title names its rejection of this current status quo as liveable. It is a refusal to accept black precarity as inevitable, and a refusal to embrace the terms of diminished subjecthood through which black subjects are presented. We seek instead to develop strategies for confronting black fungibility and creating alternative possibilities for living otherwise.

In 2018, the Collective launched an ambitious program of transnational conversations under the title The Sojourner Project. The Sojourner Project expands the conversations begun by the PR Collective by creating multi-directional dialogues in a range of sites in Africa and its diasporas with local artists, activists, scholars and thought leaders working to develop their own strategies for addressing black precarity, fungibility, and anti-black violence.

Members

  • Rizvana Bradley
  • Dionne Brand
  • Tina Campt
  • Denise Ferreira da Silva
  • Kaiama L. Glover
  • Saidiya Hartman
  • Arthur Jafa
  • Tavia Nyong'o
  • Darieck Scott
  • Christina Sharpe
  • Maboula Soumahoro
  • Deborah A. Thomas
  • Françoise Vergès
  • Alexander G. Weheliye
  • Mabel O. Wilson
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