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Disentanglements, retours, détours: (Dis)covering and Recovering the Transatlantic Expressive Arts Archive

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Organizer: Marshall Smith

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Middle Passage-descended expressive artists including writers, musicians, and visual and performing artists forge the rhizomatic moves and diasporic ambitions, fates, and tragedies of the actors (as well as those acted upon) from the intimacy and entanglements of multiple continents. (Lowe 2015) through the triangulation of the Middle Passage. Glissant proffers the terms détour/retour as various types of movement and a way in which to engage with a search for origins and identity (Poetics of Relation). A détour is akin to subversion or errancy, whereas a retour is the point of entanglement—the knot. Revision is the obsession with a single origin but a retour is not possible for those of us who have crossed and recrossed the Atlantic.

Once this impossibility is realized by the historically alienated and fragmented subject, a diversion (détourment), or the excision of the possibility of return to a native land, becomes the primary organizing mode for a scattered diasporic people. Located within this détourment is creolization as a ligne de fuite (line of flight), which allows us to move back and forth from the specificity of our lieux de mémoires toward a relational tout-monde that makes space for additions, (re)interpretations, creolizations—a dynamic process that is always in motion, mixing and remixing fast. In fact, Glissant defines creolization as a “limitless métissage,” a diffraction that produces “unforeseeable consequences” (Poetics 34). This malleable space that exists between a détour and a retour chez Glissant contains a “formlessness, latency, mutation; une poétique de la relation”—a cross-cultural poetics that we might call diaspora. (Caribbean Discourse xii).

The overarching goal of this panel is to forge spaces of relation between various disciplines that comprise of the expressive arts of the African diaspora in the Americas in dialogue with the tout-monde. What are the cultural products that fill in breaks of history (or nonhistory) for those who have come out on this side of the Atlantic remade, remixed, anew? How does the Middle Passage descended artist respond to the various aspects of this question ‘seen’, ‘read’, and ‘performed’ through the vernacular traditions of the Black Americas born out of a fragmented history? This panel seeks to include scholars who grapple with the ways in which writers, visual artists, musicians, dancers, and other types of ‘performers’ of Middle Passage descent lean into the space of rupture, dislocation, expanse, diffraction, and relation instead of a series of constant returns to “dead-end situations”. Possible topics of exploration may include but are not limited to:

-spirit healing (praxis of communal care)
-Diasporic disruptions/ repair
-sites of memory
-critical fabulations
-embodied archives, ashes of the archive

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