November 6, 2010


(Please disseminate far and wide)

You are invited to participate in the sixth biennial conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), to be held November 3-6, 2011.


In 1954, novelist and intellectual Richard Wright published Black Power, a provocative book in which Wright offered his reflections on his travels to the Gold Coast as it was in the process of becoming the independent nation of Ghana. The term "Black Power" that Wright used to signify the possibilities of freedom and development for Africans, as well as Pan-African cultural connections, would become a familiar notion to people of African descent around the world, who identified with its potent message for liberation and cultural revitalization. In so doing, Wright opened a new chapter in the long history of political and intellectual dialogue across the African Diaspora-one that revealed both the convergences and ruptures between people of African descent on the continent and in Diaspora.

For its sixth biennial conference, to be held in Pittsburgh, ASWAD explores the theme "African Liberation and Black Power: The Challenges of Diasporic Encounters Across Time, Space and Imagination." This conference intends to appreciate the Diasporic dimensions and articulations of Black Power, with special emphasis on Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia by tracing the genealogies of the concept and challenging localized limitations of Black Power scholarship.

Though the term "Black Power" is most frequently associated with the political and cultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, the drive to valorize blackness and Africanity/Africanit´┐Ż was broadly shared throughout Africa and the African Diaspora. Black Power was a transnational phenomenon; in addition to the U.S., organizations, activists, artists, and politicians in Canada, Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Bermuda, UK, South Africa, Zaire, and elsewhere explicitly identified themselves as adhering to Black Power. Each of these local movements responded in unique ways, but remained in dialogue with peoples of African descent and other peoples seeking creative responses to oppressive regimes. At the same time, 1970s black feminist organizations such as the Combahee River Collective (USA) and the Southall Black Sisters (UK), as well as writers such as Claudia Jones, Audre Lorde and Bessie Head, openly contested the masculinist, heteronormative tendencies within Black Power. Indeed, Diasporic feminists often imagined freedom in far more expansive political and aesthetic terms than their male counterparts.

In exploring Black Power as a global phenomenon, ASWAD encourages the submission of papers that interrogate the elements that define Black Power, its multiple locations, and articulations, its gendered and sexual contours, the transnational connections that informed and nurtured it as well as global and local cultural and political projects that revitalize it in the twenty-first century. In addition, we seek to identify the antecedents of Black Power, and historicize it within the trajectories of African and African Diasporic literature, culture, media, philosophy, politics, and the academy itself, as well as its relationship to health and environmental issues. The cultural and ideological foundations of Black Power had deep roots in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and, as such, ASWAD encourages papers that excavate the origins of the cultural, intellectual, and political expressions that gave birth to the liberation struggles of the 20th century. All geographic areas will be represented, including Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Paper and panel proposals that incorporate women, gender, and sexuality as categories of analysis are encouraged.

Conference Site

The University of Pittsburgh is hosting the conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The city of Pittsburgh resonates well with the broad experience of the African Diaspora. Martin Delany, arguably the leading figure in Pan-African politics of the mid-19th century, made Pittsburgh the basis of his participation in North American conferences and his 1859 West African visit. The black community of Western Pennsylvania, including a number directly from Africa and as well as others from Virginia, the northeast U.S., and (subsequently) Alabama, has been documented recently in a major museum exhibit, "Free at Last?" supported by the University of Pittsburgh and displayed at the Heinz History Center. The Pittsburgh Courier, founded in 1907, was a leading regional and national African American newspaper for much of the 20th century.

Pittsburgh was and is a town centered on work and workers. Its commercial ties link it by river to New Orleans and by rail to New York City, Baltimore, and Chicago. Its steel, glass, and paint link it to the rest of the world. With global economic ties came global cultural ties: Pittsburgh's classical musicians of the 19th century were black; in the 20th century the city became a hub of jazz music; today it remains a center of doo-wop nostalgia. Playwright August Wilson wrote his cycle of ten plays based on Pittsburgh's Hill District; some of his plays were inspired by images of the visual artist Romare Bearden. In 2009, a magnificent August Wilson Cultural Center opened in the heart of downtown, near to the Heinz History Center. Today, African Americans are about 25% of Pittsburgh's population of 300,000, and about 20% of Allegheny County's population. Small but culturally active African communities (with the obvious overlap of the two) expand the diversity of the region.

Western Pennsylvania was a key battleground in the 2008 presidential election, and went solidly for Obama. Based on his campaign experience, President Obama chose to hold the 2009 G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, to highlight the success of the city in navigating the economic and social problems of our era.

For the conference, sessions will be held in the elegantly refurbished University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus; hotels are within walking distance. On Saturday night of the conference, the annual Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar will take place in the Carnegie Music Hall; the Carnegie Museum exhibit on the work of "Teenie" Harris, the famed Pittsburgh Courier photographer, opens at the beginning of the ASWAD conference-both venues are next to the Pitt campus. We also hope to have an event at the August Wilson Center.


Please send a two-page abstract (for either a single presentation or a panel) and a one-page CV (or multiple one-page CV's) by MARCH 15, 2011. They can be sent prior to submitting the registration fee, and are to be sent electronically via email attachment to:

Other queries (but not abstracts; please send all abstracts to SAME EMAIL ADDRESS) can be addressed to:

Leslie M. Alexander, Conference Co-Chair
Associate Professor
371 Dulles Hall
230 West 17th Avenue
Department of History
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43210

We intend to post papers on our website, and some may be selected for publication. If you do not wish your paper to appear in either format, please clearly indicate such. Completed materials should be submitted in publishable form prior to the first week in October, 2011.

Please do not delay in submitting your abstracts!

Conference Registration Fees

ASWAD Members:

Academics and Professionals (General Membership) based in North America and Europe: US $75

Retired Academics and Professionals (General Membership) based in North America and Europe: US $50

Academics and Professionals (General Membership) based elsewhere: US $25

Students: no registration fee required

Non-ASWAD Members:

Academics and Professionals based in North America and Europe: US $140

Retired Academics and Professionals based in North America and Europe: US $80

Academics and Professionals based elsewhere: US $50

Students: no registration fee required

Conference Registration, Information & ASWAD Membership

On-line conference registration is available at:

ASWAD members and conference participants will receive regular updates on the conference via email. Information on the conference and ASWAD can also be found on the ASWAD website and should be consulted periodically for updates. You may start or renew your membership for 2011 by following instructions posted on the site.


The Holiday Inn will serve as the main host hotel, although most of the sessions will be held at the University Club of the University of Pittsburgh. A block of rooms has been reserved, but availability will diminish quickly. Information on the Holiday Inn, as well as alternative hotels, is provided below; when making reservations, simply indicate that you are an ASWAD conference participant to get the special rate:

Holiday Inn - Pittsburgh University Center
125 rooms
$124 + tax
$10 a day parking
Reservations must be received by 10/14/2011

Hampton Inn Oakland
50 rooms
$129.00 + tax
Includes a hot breakfast
$14 a day parking
Reservations must be received by 10/06/2011

Courtyard by Marriott Shadyside/Oakland

30 rooms
$134.00 + tax
$17.88 Valet parking a day
Reservations must be received by 10/06/2011

Wyndham Hotel Pittsburgh University Place
75 rooms
$125 + tax
$17.00 a day parking
Reservations must be received by 10/01/2011
Pittsburgh Athletic Association
15 rooms
Prices vary
Reservations must be received by 10/06/2011

Residence Inn by Marriott Pittsburgh University/Medical Center
30 rooms
$119.00 + tax
$13.50 a day parking
Reservations must be received by 10/13/2011

See you in Pittsburgh!


Abena Busia

Leslie Alexander
Michael Gomez

Committee Co-Chairs
Brenda Berrian
Patrick Manning

Committee Members (from 5 Pittsburgh-area institutions)
Joseph Adjaye
Jerome Branche
Joe Coohill
Yolanda Covington
Seymour Drescher
Veronica Dristas
Larry Feick
Edda Fields-Black
Joshua Forrest
Laurence Glasco
Shelome Gooden
Robert Hill
Katharine Jones
Ottie Lee
Robert Maxon
Lara Putnam
Jean-Jacques Sene
Rebecca Shumway
Joe Trotter

Leslie M. Alexander
Jean Allman
Hilary Beckles
Jerome Branche
Abena Busia
Kim D. Butler
Carol Boyce Davies
Jualynne E. Dodson
Chouki El Hamel
Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe
Francis Abiola Irele
Fatimah Jackson
Mona Lima
Patrick Manning
Erik McDuffie
Wania Sant'Anna
Kelvin A. Santiago-Valles
Verene A. Shepherd
Elisee Soumonni
Filomina Steady
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