Scholar Fierce: Why go to the African Literature Association Conference

As I look forward to my next project, I am curious about the ways that it bears implications for fields I hadn’t carefully considered. For instance, literature written by Blacks in America has always had a specific national context, but that has never meant that it did not have transnational implications, settings, or influence. We can start with Phyllis Wheatley and go from there.

One of the reasons why I though that the African Literature Association would be a good place to think through my ideas about African American sf is because African sf is incredibly creative. It thinks through alternative futures, pasts and presents in a way that I find incredibly exciting.

I was overjoyed to find multiple science fiction panels on the program. I was also pleased to see those panels full. The particular utility of that should not be underestimated. Much of the thinking at conferences happens during questions & answers, while you’re listening to other papers, and while you’re chatting about what you’ve heard. Not all exchanges are equal and not all exchanges occur at the same time. There may be a time lag on Twitter, for example. Or, one may email someone as part of an ongoing exchange begun at the conference. In other words, new thought thrives on exchange but there are multiple ways of creating the possibility for exchange.

I was at the ALA mostly to listen and to think. I was not really present to contribute with knowledge. I planned to contribute with questions and curiosity.

I learned a great deal about African sf. The term does not quite fit. It assumes a neatness of categorization that does not function particularly well in an African literary context. I also began to understand a little bit more about the multiple purposes of question & answer time. It is, for instance, not merely a way to gain clarity but it is also a way to think through an idea with a speaker. This is not always the case but the latter should usually wait until one has a private audience with the speaker.

More on ALA…..

About TAPPhD

Therí A. Pickens received her undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University (P'05) and her PhD in Comparative Literature from UCLA (2010). Her research focuses on Arab American and African American literatures and cultures, Disability Studies, philosophy, and literary theory. She recently published her first book, New Body Politics (Routledge, 2014), which investigates the role of the material body in constructing social and political critique. Her critical work has appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly, Al-Jadid, Journal of Canadian Literature, Al-Raida, and, the ground-breaking collection, Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English at Bates College. She is also a creative writer. Her poetry has appeared in Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Save the Date, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Her drama has been performed at the NJ State Theater. She offers courses on Arab American and African American literature. In her introductory courses, she seeks to provide students with information and skills that will enable and empower them to critically and constructively engage difficult topics like race, sexuality, gender, disability, and class. In her upper division courses, she pushes students to synthesize their knowledge from other classes and expand their critical thinking repertoires.
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