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Hampshire to Host National Symposium on Black Aesthetics

Event will examine artistic and social-political themes across disciplines such as African American studies, literature, and philosophy, across media such as architecture, painting, and sound

The burst of new thought on black aesthetics, incited in part by the tragic deaths, incarceration, and inequality of black people today and their response in resistance, is the focus of a public symposium taking place this weekend, March 31—April 1, at Hampshire College.

Professor Deb Goffe
Deborah Goffe, Hampshire assistant professor of modern/contemporary dance, is a presenter at the symposium.

Hampshire Professor Monique Roelofs is co-organizing the two-day "Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Black Aesthetics" with Michael Kelly, University of North Carolina Charlotte professor and president of the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation, to investigate this historically underexplored area of inquiry and practice. “We understand aesthetics to be critical thinking about art, culture, design, and nature, often in relation to social, political, and moral issues,” the organizers write in the symposium’s accompanying materials. “The aim here is for aesthetics to provide bridges among disciplines and art practices.”

The symposium will examine the artistic and social-political issues raised in important recent texts on black aesthetics from a variety of disciplines—for example, African American studies, comparative literature, philosophy, and cultural studies—and reflecting a range of art mediums, from poetry, music, and the visual arts to architecture and popular culture.

The event features five panels and 15 distinguished speakers from across the country, followed by a roundtable for attendees, all designed to delve into questions, models, and directions in this vibrant field of inquiry.

Presentations will be moderated by Hampshire and Five College faculty. Among Friday’s speakers:

  • Amy Abugo Ongiri (film studies, Lawrence College): “Seeing Black: Visual Culture and the Black Arts Movement”
  • GerShun Avilez (English and comparative literature, UNC Chapel Hill): “Queerness and the Black Radical Imaginary”
  • Mabel O. Wilson (architecture, Columbia University): “Notes of Virginia Statehouse: Race and Nation in Jefferson’s America”
  • Caitlin Cherry (artist, Brooklyn): “Black Military Aesthetics”
  • Paul C. Taylor (philosophy and African American studies, Penn State): “‘Kindness and Good Usage’: Ambivalence, Africanism, and the Dialectics of Appropriation”
  • Phillip Brian Harper (English & social and cultural analysis, NYU): “Knowing It When We See It: On Blackness and Anti-Representational Aesthetics”
  • Kevin Quashie (Africana studies, Smith College): “Aesthetics in Terrible Times”

Among Saturday’s speakers:

  • Daphne Lamothe (Africana studies, Smith College): “Black Aesthetics and the Event of the Self”
  • Meleko Mokgosi (art, New York University): “Black Skin, Black Paint”
  • Deborah Goffe (modern/contemporary dance, Hampshire College): “See Me Here: Asserting Identity as Choreographic Strategy”
  • Anthony Cokes (modern culture and music, Brown University): “‘pause’ (2004) a double reframing of text by james snead vs. notes on ‘pause: Coda (Hidden Track),’ 2004)”

For the full schedule, visit

The event is part of the "Questioning Aesthetics Symposium" series, seven of which have been held to date. It is funded in part by the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation, established in 2014 to explore, cultivate, and sustain transdisciplinary research in aesthetics and educate the public as well as members of the academic community and the art world about the importance and relevance of this research.

Following are the symposium’s cosponsors:

Hampshire College
Humanities; Studio Arts; Dance; Film, Photo, and Video; Architecture, Art History, and Architectural Theory; Institute for Curatorial Practice; Ethics and the Common Good; President’s Office; Dean of Faculty Office; Dean of Students’ Office; Office of the Dean of Multicultural Education and Inclusion; Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies; Cognitive Science; Critical Social Inquiry; Interdisciplinary Arts


The Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation

The American Society for Aesthetics

Five Colleges
Five College Lecture Fund; Five College Dance

Amherst College
English; Music; Philosophy

Mount Holyoke College

Smith College
Art; Africana Studies; English; Philosophy

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Afro-American Studies; English; History of Art and Architecture; Philosophy

Questioning Aesthetics Symposium
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