Configurations of Empire is an interdisciplinary reading group for researchers and postgraduate students that explores the conditions of life, labour, and belonging under contemporary formations of capitalism. It runs in parallel from two sites: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership at King’s College London. We meet regularly to discuss readings from the latest scholarship in critical race, feminist, queer, postcolonial, Marxist, disability, and decolonial theory. These parallel reading groups have culminated in a yearly conference in which both groups come together to share how our mutual readings have informed our research.
Paul Gilroy, Professor of American and English Literature at King’s, was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April 2018 – a prestigious recognition of his work as a cultural historian, critical race theorist and thinker who has shaped black diaspora studies. Founded in 1780, the Academy has a stellar list of former members including Benjamin Franklin (1781), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924) and Martin Luther King, Jr (1966). Here, Paul speaks to PhD researcher Rachel Bolle-Debessay about receiving this award.
Rachel Bolle-Debessay (RBD): Thanks so much for talking to us, Paul! Our trigger for this interview was your election as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. So could you begin at this point – what does this mean for you and the nature of the scholarship that you undertake?
Paul Gilroy (PG): I was humbled and amazed. I’d say that being taken seriously is the best feeling an academic can have. I worked in the US for some years and one of my responsibilities as a teacher and researcher lay in the field of African American Studies. As an outsider, I faced a significant amount of hostility especially when my work was perceived as interrupting the standard cultural nationalist approaches that have defined that enterprise.
So this award cheered me up. It made me feel that in spite of the antipathy I had endured, the work I’d done had acquired its own life and some people had found it useful. It’s absolutely fine if they use it as something to disagree with and sharpen their intellectual claws upon. It makes me feel that I haven’t wasted my time.
Featured image: Living With AIDS (1987-1999), Gay Men’s Health Crisis records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library.
by Dan Udy, LAHP/ AHRC PhD researcher working on “Going Viral: Queer (Re)Mediations in the YouTube Decade”
When Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard began filming interviews for the ACT UP Oral History Project in 2002, the history of HIV/AIDS activism was largely consigned to videotape. Having aligned with the emergence of handheld camcorders, it was the first political movement to be documented on video and from within its ranks: amateur recordings, artist tapes, and independent TV productions all formed a staggering cultural archive that tracked how marginalized communities took healthcare, research, and advocacy into their own hands during the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
by Carleigh Morgan, PhD Candidate in English Research, Christine Okoth, LAHP funded PhD candidate in Contemporary American Literature, and Bryony White, LAHP funded PhD candidate in Performance Studies
In response to the results of the US presidential election, staff and students of the King’s English Department hosted a Trump Teach-In on 23rd November 2016. The workshop consisted of brief talks and activities, many of which were student-led and all of which offered a multitude of different perspectives on an event that will have lasting global repercussions.