Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research
at Columbia University

In the Same Boats: Toward an Intellectual Cartography of the Afro-Atlantic

WORKSHOP at 4-6pm on 01 Dec 2016
⌖ Butler Studio (208b), Columbia University

This work of multimodal scholarship consists of a series of interactive maps that trace the movement of seminal intellectuals of Africa, the Caribbean and the wider Americas throughout the Atlantic world. The objective of this project is to chart the extent to which Caribbean, US-American, Latino, European, and African cultural actors have been in both punctual and sustained conversation with one another: attending the same conferences, publishing with the same journals and presses, active in the same political groups, elbow-to-elbow in the same Parisian cafés and on the same planes---literally and metaphorically in the same boats---as they circulate throughout the diverse spaces of the Americas, Africa, and Europe. By rendering visually the points of spatio-temporal and textual intersection among these figures, In the Same Boats will provide a rich, open-access platform from which to explore the emergence, so often overlapping, of key black Atlantic literary, cultural and political constructs.

One of the greatest challenges for postcolonial scholars of Africa and its diasporas is that of thoroughly accounting for the historical and theoretical overlaps among intellectuals in the various linguo-national groupings in these regions. Despite the oft-expressed aim of transcending borders, the study of Global South intellectual production has been stubbornly balkanized, its limits and contours largely determined by the elsewheres of Empire. Scholars often find themselves in the difficult position of negotiating nation-language frontiers that are the persistent legacies of colonialism, and pushing against the implicitly Euro-centric foundations of contemporary university training. While these phenomena are being challenged increasingly by interventions from various individual scholars, the Afro-Atlantic’s partitioning within the academy into Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanophone, and Lusophone spaces persists, and is very much at odds with its shared socio-cultural and historical realities.

In the Same Boats is an ambitious effort to counter the monolingualism and attendant border-drawing that too often keep Caribbeanist, Latin-Americanist, Africanist, and Afro-Americanist scholars from engaging in transnational and transcolonial dialogue. The project has been conceived, in its most fully realized form, as an ongoing collaborative venture – an invitation of sorts that will provide scholars with the opportunity both to participate in the development of a unique platform and to imagine research projects and pedagogical initiatives that cross the geo-political borders separating the various nations of Africa and the Americas. Specifically, the project makes use of a customized content management system and embedded map- and timeline-making tool to generate multiple individual maps produced on a common template by specialists of the different linguistic regions of the Afro-Atlantic world. These individually generated maps (of which particular nodal points will function as portals leading to archival and critical content) can be layered and combined, thereby charting an increasingly comprehensive physical and conceptual cartography. The result will be a dramatic visual representation of the rhizomatic trajectories that undergird Afro-Atlantic intellectual contributions over time and across space.

Join us on Thursday, 1 December, 4-6PM at the Studio@Butler for an information session and workshop. We will lay out the back-end of the project and outline the necessary steps toward placing a given writer-artist-historian-anthropologist-political-figure on the map. And bring your data!

RSVP requested but not required: