BEST - Black European Studies

BEST - Black European Studies

Johann-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Randolph Ochsmann (Mainz); Sara Lennox (Amherst); Fatima El-Tayeb (San Diego); Peggy Piesche (Mainz/Berlin)
Johann-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
From - Until
10.11.2005 - 13.11.2005
Breger, Claudia

This interdisciplinary conference is the first scholarly investigation of the African diaspora as an aspect of intra-European history. Organized in connection with a multi-year, international research project on Black Europeans co-sponsored the Universities of Mainz and Massachusetts and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the conference will endeavor to further scholarly exchange on the centuries-old history of Black Europeans, to encourage interdisciplinary contacts among scholars hitherto working in isolation, and to advance the development of new theoretical and methodological tools to understand the African diaspora within Europe.

Since the nineteen-eighties newly-emergent Black movements in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands have inspired scholarly investigations into the unknown history of Black Europeans particularly within the humanities. However, such research has taken place in scholarly and discursive isolation. Scarcely any European country is aware of the existence of indigenous Black minorities, and academic exchange has been possible only in connection with U.S. diaspora studies. Yet seen from the perspective of U.S. diaspora studies, the European experience is often represented as a deviation from the central question of the transatlantic slave trade central to the U.S. experience. However, from a Black European vantage point, the Black diasporic experience reveals both differences, a consequence of differing national histories, and also important commonalities, drawing into question the conceptualization of the Black European experience as "deviation" and also defining colonialism as central to intra-European history.

This interdisciplinary conference will facilitate cross-disciplinary discussion of previous scholarly research but will above all promote the development of new theoretical perspectives on Black Europe that might potentially also inform both academic and political discourse. The conference organizers also plan to initiate subsequent working groups focused on articipants’ thematic, regional, and (inter)disciplinary interests.

The conference will have three important functions. It will enable direct exchange among scholars working in the area of Black European history; it will encourage the formation of on-going scholarly networks focused on particular research questions; and it will also help to make Black Europeans and their history visible beyond the bounds of academic discourse.

Since this conference is explicitly intended for scholars who work on the relatively new topic “Black Europe,” the organizers of the conference especially call upon young scholars to present their work for discussion within this forum.

In the course of the conference participants will decide upon research emphases that will inform subsequent collaboration. Conference participants will be asked to submit position papers outlining their research areas and emphases. Those position papers will be collected in a reader that will be distributed before the conference in order to facilitate intensive discussion of the topics addressed.

Workshop topics include:

1. Representing Black European history
2. Networking strategies: international (political) organizations
3. Racism and the academy
4. Black European Studies curricula
5. Empirical research: subjects and objects

Other potential research questions:

How have Black Europeans conceived themselves historically?

Do they understand themselves as black, de-localized Africans and/or as part of an international community?

What is their relationship to Africa and to other parts of the African diaspora?

What is their relationship to other ethnic minorities in Europe?

What is the relationship of categories like nation, gender, class, and racialization to the category Black Europe?

European unity and its expansion—European creation myths

(Self)representation of Black Europeans as indigenous or “other”?

Black European self-articulation in political and other forms of representation

A Black European Research perspective: counter-history and/or academic discourse?

Possibilities and limitations of the appropriation of transatlantic research methodologies

Position papers may address Europe as a whole or specific European countries. All disciplines are welcome at this interdisciplinary conference.

Please submit a one to two page abstract on your specific research project that also explains its relationship to your larger research interests. You should also submit potential questions for the workshop of your choice. Please send a short CV as well. The deadline for proposals is 15 May 2005. Please send your proposal to

You will receive a written confirmation of your participation after 30 May 2005. A three to five page position paper for the reader will be due on 4 September 2005 at the latest. The complete reader will be mailed to you after 30 September. BEST will pay travel costs as well as room and board during the conference for all those chosen to participate.


Contact (announcement)

Phone: (413) 545-6678
Fax: (413) 545-6995

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