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Memory, performance and the future: A different conversation

The interdisciplinary conference ‘Memory & Performance in African-Atlantic Futures’ brings together artists, curators, academics and activists to discuss current trends in performance practices in the African diaspora, including Britain. More specifically, the three days of discussions will focus on the ways in which contemporary performance practices in Britain and the African diaspora at large are generating and reflecting new ideas about social, political and artistic futures for Black communities.

A specific question has become an urgent one in recent times: the use of performance as a tool in anti-racist intervention and activism. Given the obstacles faced by traditional activism and more ‘direct’ methods of contestation, performance artists in the African diaspora are increasingly turning to:

  1. artistic forms for opening up so-called ‘archived’ or ‘closed’ histories of racist violence.

  2. performance as intervention, perceiving the myriad ways in which the stage in a broad sense (theatre, performing arts, activism, the museum, and so on) is brokering new relationships between the field of Justice and imagined Black social futures

Emphasising memory as a way of conceptualising the future, this conference breaks new ground in the conversation around cultural memory in the African diaspora. It takes a necessary step outside the dominant frames of ‘memory studies’ (trauma, mourning, and so on) in order to look at ‘memory work’ from a new perspective, that is, the vital links between memory, performance and social futures. It also seeks to foreground memory practices and ways of remembering that are neglected in the Western academy.

The keynote speakers are leading artists, curators and scholars from the UK and wider African diaspora. They are Lubaina Himid (2017 Turner Prize winner), Louise Bernard (a Yorkshire native and a lead curator of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC), Chokri Ben Chikha (Belgian scholar and performance artist whose work interrogates Belgium’s human zoos), Tavia Nyong’o (Professor of Performance Studies at Yale), and Adam Sitze (Professor of Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College). Other relevant artists under discussion or present at the conference include Rommi Smith and renowned Canadian performance artist Camille Turner. The organisers see this event as the start of a vibrant discussion within Britain and Europe, leading to further artistic events, partnerships and engagement with African diaspora communities within Britain and in Europe more widely.

The conference is being held at the Leeds University Business School from the 31st of August to the 2nd of September, 2018. Contact details:www.africanatlantic.netTwitter: @afroatlanticfuturesOrganiser: Dr. Jason Allen-Paisant (


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