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Prof. examines African Diaspora

Irena Zajickova | Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Studies show that the traditional mappings of the African Diaspora are open to a redrawing said Hortense Spillers, an English professor at Vanderbilt.

Spillers’ work seeks to trace the path of the African Diaspora, the migration of African families to places around the world, such as the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East.

Spillers, who spoke as part of the Provost’s Distinguished Women’s Lecture series Tuesday, said she visited seven of the Diaspora’s most representative cities-New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Paris, London, and Kingston, Jamaica – to retrace the migration.

In each location, she toured monuments and representations of Diasporic culture, including a slavery museum in London, the Heidelberg Project in Detroit and an exhibition of contemporary African artists at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Spillers said she utilized the sites to explore a graceful way to express black culture’s spatial dimensions.

She said she hopes she can return to all the locations covered in her study but will need to visit more sites for her project to be as thorough and complete as possible.

“In order for this project to be definitive you’d have to visit many more cities,” she said. “Seven [cities] may be representative but it is hardly enough.”

Students who attended the event said they were impressed with Spiller’s extensive knowledge on the subject.

“I thought that the idea of studying the African Diaspora through the use of art was really interesting,” sophomore Abbey Moon said. “Professor Spillers was really knowledgeable about all her subject matter and seemed really passionate about her studies.”

There are other events on campus that the University has scheduled to coincide with Spiller’s lecture which are taking place now, including the “Afro-Latino/as and the Americas” art exhibition which is on display in McKenna Hall through Oct. 15 and the “Blacks, Arts and the Americas” lecture and gallery walk at the Snite Museum which ends today.

The lecture was sponsored by the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the First Year of Studies department and the College of Arts and Letters.