Im Rahmen des Research Colloquium American Studies finden im November zwei Gastvorträge statt, zu denen herzlich eingeladen wird. Beide Vorträge finden vormittags ab 10:15 Uhr in der Bismarckstraße 1 in Raum C301 statt.
7. November: Prof. Dr. Birgit Däwes über „Indigenous Futurities in Unexpected Places: Museums – Memory – (and Martians)“
21. November: Prof. Dr. Laura Bieger über „Reimagining, Repurposing, Reckoning: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and the Aesthetics of Infrastructure“
This talk is part of a larger research project on the Underground Railroad—a clandestine infrastructure created in a collective act of civil disobedience that enslaved persons of African descent used to escape from bondage in the Plantation South, and that became an important platform in the fight against anti-Black racism after the Civil War. My aim is to reassess the aesthetic and imaginary components of the Underground Railroad: How was it driven by a ‘radical imaginary’ (Castoriadis) that brought forth an alternative infrastructure? How did this new infrastructure, which was not an infrastructure of extraction but of liberation, make creative use of elements, processes, and terminology of a given infrastructure of colonialization, with the purpose and effect of undermining it?
Drawing on an understanding of ‘people’ and ‘language as infrastructure’ (Simone, Larkin, Kristeva), my overarching claim is that examining the aesthetic and imaginative components of the Underground Railroad can help us understand how its resistance function has changed: The transformation from flight network to a web of memorial sites was linked to artistic endeavors that both explore these components and exploit them for political ends. In this talk, I draw on my work on engaged literature and relational aesthetics to think about how Colson Whitehead’s prizewinning novel The Underground Railroad (2016) contributes to a collective effort of using this repurposed infrastructure to mobilize the reading public against anti-black racism in the U.S. today.