The “Afterlives of Liberation” seminar at Rutgers University, New Brunswick considers the fraught afterlives of the racial liberation struggles of the post-1968 era in three spheres: 1) the academy, through the establishment, proliferation, and evolution of Black and ethnic studies departments and programs, as well as those in Native/Indigenous, Latinx/Chicanx, Asian American, and Arab American studies fields, 2) the arts and culture, through engagements with artist and cultural producers who express commitments to antiracist liberation, and 3) activism and organizing, specifically that which addresses the “unfinished business” of liberation, such as movements of prison abolition, indigenous sovereignty, and environmental justice which situate their work within transnational contexts of race and empire.
Through inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration between scholars, activists, and artists, our seminar will ask and explore a series of questions throughout the year: Does liberation remain an animating and meaningful force in antiracist thought and movements today in the spaces of the academy, the arts, and activism? How is liberation defined in these spaces, and what frameworks are utilized to express its meanings? What purposes, if any, do post-1968 understandings and histories of Third World liberation serve in contemporary movements for racial and social justice? Further, how do notions of liberation figure in contemporary social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter or #noDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline), and in what ways has the term been used/misused in liberal discourses of race and rights? How do contemporary scholars, artists, and activists who advance antiracist frameworks conceive of liberation? What visions, expressions, and desires animate these afterlives of liberation, and how are such afterlives articulated and disarticulated in contemporary understandings of antiracist praxis? Ultimately, our seminar asks: What does racial liberation look like in the 21st century, and what will it take to achieve it?