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Tutor: Rebecca Stone

In Wayward Lives, Saidiya Hartman seeks to “illuminate the radical imagination and everyday anarchy of ordinary colored girls, which has not only been overlooked, but is nearly unimaginable.” To do so, Hartman uses a methodology (first developed in her ground-breaking article, “Venus in Two Acts”) called “critical fabulation”, in which she combines archival research with speculative and fictional narratives. This approach is both theoretically and methodologically grounded in Black feminist approaches to the archive, most notably in the reading of sources “along the bias grain” (Marisa Fuentes), and in the analysis of the lives of Black women through an “intersectional” lens (Kimberlé Crenshaw).

Seminar Questions

  • What is an “intersectional” approach, and why is it necessary to understand the oppression and lived experiences of black women?
  • What are the methodological challenges faced by scholars writing about Black women? How does Hartman approach the archive?
  • How useful is Hartman’s methodology of “critical fabulation” to a historian?
  • How does our understanding of modern history change if Black women are placed at the centre of the story?

Core readings:

Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (2019)

Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, Stanford Law Review 43: 6 (1991), pp. 1241-1299.

Recommended Reading

The Combahee River Collective Statement (1977)

Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality (Polity Press, 2020)

Saidiya Hartman, ‘Venus in Two Acts’, Small Axe 26:12 (2008), pp. 1-14

Marisa Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)

Further readings:

Mia Bay, To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells (New York: 2009)

Elsa Barkley Brown, ‘Negotiating and Transforming the Public Sphere: African American Political Life in the Transition from Slavery to Freedom,’ Public Culture 7:1 (1994), pp: 107–146.

Elsa Barkley Brown, “‘What Has Happened Here’: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics,” Feminist Studies 18:2 (1992), pp. 295–312.

Ira Berlin, The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (New York: 2011)

Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Angela Davis, “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves.” The Black Scholar 3:4 (1971), pp. 2–15.

Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class (Random House, 1981)

Paula Giddings, ‘Missing in Action: Ida B. Wells, the NAACP and the Historical Record’, Meridians (1:2), pp. 1-17.

Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge: 2008)

James Grossman, Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration (Chicago: 1989)

Steven Hahn, The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom (Harvard: 2009)

Darlene Clark Hine, ‘Black Professionals and Race Consciousness: Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, 1890-1950’, Journal of American History 89:4 (2003), pp. 1279-1294.

bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (London: Pluto, 1982).

Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith (eds), All the women are White, all the Blacks are men, but some of us are brave: Black women's studies (Old Westbury, N.Y.: Feminist Press, 1982).

Desmond King and Stephen Tuck, ‘De-Centring the South: America’s Nationwide White Supremacist Order after Reconstruction’, Past & Present 194 (2007), pp. 213-253

Danielle L. McGuire, At the dark end of the street: black women, rape, and resistance—a new history of the civil rights movement from Rosa Parks to the rise of black power (New York: Vintage Books, 2011).

Jennifer Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

Nell Irvin Painter, Southern History Across the Colour Line (Chapel Hill: 2002)

Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis, The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South (New York: 2019)

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (ed.), How we get free: black feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

Christopher Waldrep, African Americans Confront Lynching: Strategies of Resistance from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era (2009)

Barbara Y. Welke, ‘When All the Women Were White, and All the Blacks Were Men: Gender, Class, Race, and the Road to Plessy, 1855-1914’, Law and History Review 13:2 (1995), pp. 261-316.

Emily West, “Reflections on the History and Historians of the black woman’s role in the community of slaves: enslaved women and intimate partner sexual violence”, American Nineteenth Century History, 19:1 (2018): pp. 1-21.

White, Deborah Gray, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985).

Kidada Williams, They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I (New York: 2012)