The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture

Imaginative Geographies of the Black/White Atlantic

Thursday, March 9, 2017  6:15pm Teatro, Italian Academy

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Image © British Library 1786.c.9.

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Professor Catherine Hall will deliver the annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture. From Hall's first reading of Orientalism, Edward Said’s work has acted as an inspiration and a provocation to understand the other. Her focus has been on English imperial identities in the C18 and C19. She understands the effort to enter imaginatively the states of mind that have underpinned those identities as part of the project of ‘unlearning’ modes of cultural domination. In this lecture, Hall focuses on Edward Long, C18 slave-owner, family man, creole nationalist and historian, who’s encyclopaedic History of Jamaica (1774) explicates pro-slavery politics. Long’s imagined geographies, rooted both in his lived experience and his attempted theorisations of racial difference, constituted the Atlantic as a place of white power, made productive by enslaved black labour. His politics of place fixed England, Jamaica and Africa in a fateful triangle, secured by racial binaries of ‘White’ and ‘Negro’. Those binaries could only be sustained by disavowal, that practice of knowing and not knowing the humanity of others, that remains central to an understanding of racisms in the present.   

The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture is given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003, and who was a member of the board of guarantors at the Italian Academy. Professor Said was perhaps best known for his books Orientalism, published in 1978, and Cultural Imperialism, published in 1993, both of which made major contributions to the field of cultural and postcolonial studies. The Annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture pays tribute to Professor Said by bringing to Columbia speakers who embody his beliefs and the legacy of his work.

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