Anthony Appiah presented a calm, unassuming figure as he stood in front of those gathered at Villa La Pietra Monday to deliver his talk on identity. Appiah began by breaking down our idea of identity into three categories: Nationality, Race and Culture. Appiah examined the idea of nationality as a form of identity, looking at the concept of the nation and what it represents. Soon, it became clear that even our idea of what a nation should be is primarily a social construct, so fluid and arbitrary that a concrete definition of identity based on nationality is essentially impossible. Appiah looked at some important interpretations of what a state is through history: it has often been founded on the idea of a group of people with a shared sense of ancestry who care about that ancestry, people who share a genetic heritage. However, if we look at the sort of nation that that definition connotes, it is one known as a Romantic State, something along the lines of Benito Mussolini’s ideal Italy. A Romantic State would be one where people share a single consciousness and have no disagreements. To refute this idea, Appiah looked at many nations in Africa, such as Ghana, where despite not having a shared ancestry, (Ghana is composed of many different tribes), a national consciousness is forming nonetheless, as a product of the people of Ghana living together and working together to govern their nation–for evidence of the emergence of this national consciousness, Appiah cites the example of how people from Ghana have adopted kente cloth as the national cloth despite the fact that it is only truly native to one or two of the tribes that make up Ghana. Appiah ended his discussion on nationality by highlighting the importance of the Liberal State: a state where the people may not share the same ideas and same will, but do have a willingness to compromise with one another, to find a middle ground in an effort to move forward. Appiah pointed out that, because there is no definite national essence, a nation represents a medley of cultures and identities, meaning that we need a state where different people are capable of coming together and finding common ground. Read more
“Beauty is personal and political; it can be read both aesthetically and within the context of cultural studies.” – Deborah Willis
Proud recipient of MacArthur Genius Award and Guggenheim Fellowship, curator and author of multiple books including Posing Beauty (2009) and Reflections In Black (2000), Deborah Willis is a contemporary African-American artist, photographer, and educator. She is currently Professor of Photography and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University. She has also taught a seminar entitled “Beauty Matters” at Harvard University. Willis has pursued a dual professional career as an art photographer and as one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography. She has also curated multiple exhibitions promoting African-American culture and heritage. Read more
Join us for Dialogues by Anthony Appiah, Deborah Willis and Jack Halberstam challenging our assumptions about identity and the consequences of these for society and politics.
Video created by NYU Florence student Arthur de Oliveira.
March 13 6:00pm Mistaken Identities: Culture, Color, Country, Creed – Anthony Appiah
March 14 6:00pm Posing Beauty – Deborah Willis
March 15 6:00pm Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Guide to Gender Variance – Jack Halberstam
RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Truthfully, I have a very boring bucket list. Actually, I have a non-existent bucket list. There are only a few things that I want to accomplish before my death, and since these things are so few I never felt the need to list them. These wishes are more like pipe dreams – things I passionately want but would never expect to actually happen…until one actually did.
I have always been fascinated with African-American history in the US. My lullabies were negro spirituals. My cartoons were 90s sitcoms with all Black casts. My bedtime stories were newspaper articles about the Civil Rights Movement. I had the urge to march before I could walk. So when the opportunity arrived to meet Angela Davis, I stopped rushing to my Italian class and decided that I would be a little late.
A day before the iconic Angela Davis and feminist thinker Gina Dent spoke to the New York University Florence community about systemic racism within American institutions, two NYU Florence students organized a series of panels to discuss how race and gender impact the representations and interactions of Black women globally. The event was entitled the “Black Femininity Series.” Six Black women, leaders in their respective fields, shared their experiences and reflected on how they combat the prejudices they face that affect their professional relationships and self-perceptions.
I was one of the organizers of the event alongside my friend and colleague Rahni Davis. Rahni and I are young Black women ourselves, passionate about diversity, promoting more nuanced representations of Black women and their role in society, and bringing this diverse conversation to the global forum in Florence, Italy. On a cold October evening together we jotted down a proposal for the Black Femininity Series in the basement of Rahni’s home stay. The idea ascended to heights we never anticipated. Read more
Black Femininity Panelist Rachel Wang is sharing with the NYU Florence community access to her incredible work with the project 1000 Londoners, produced under her film production company Chocolate Films.
To Wang, this work is a source of inspiration and shines light on the extraordinary black women that exist in our world today.
1000 Londoners Trailer
Saran Kaba Jones is the Founder and CEO of FACE Africa, a community development organization working to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and services in rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Since launching FACE Africa in January 2009, the organization has funded over 50 projects and reached 25,000 people in rural Liberia. Prior to founding FACE Africa, Ms. Jones worked at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and as an Investment Project Manager for the Singapore Economic Development Board. She is currently a Board Member of the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group West/Central Africa and is also a member of the U.S. State Department’s International Information Programs. She has been listed by The Guardian as one of Africa’s 25 Top Women Achievers, by Forbes magazine as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa and by Black Enterprise as one of 10 International Women of Power. Saran is a frequent speaker on topics including water infrastructure, entrepreneurship and gender equality and has served on panels at the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, MIT, the London School of Economics, and the African Union. Read more
Zerlina Maxwell is a TV political analyst, speaker, and writer. She has a law degree from Rutgers Law School and a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University. Her writing focuses on national politics, candidates, and specific policy and cultural issues including race, feminism, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. She has consulted with the United States Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations. Maxwell has succeeded in leveraging her voice on social media: she has been profiled in The New York Times as a top political Twitter voice to follow during the 2012 election season and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the best Twitter feeds in 2014. In 2015, Maxwell was one of five journalists invited to travel on Air Force One with President Obama on his trip to Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Maxwell has hosted live political and celebrity interviews for The Huffington Post and her writing has appeared in New York Daily News, The Washington Post, JET, Marie Claire and CNN.com. Maxwell was a frequent fill in host for ‘Make It Plain’ with Mark Thompson on Sirius XM Progress and also a democratic commentator on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. She most recently served as the Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Rachel Wang is a Black British filmmaker, producer and entrepreneur. She won the award for Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 Black British Business Awards and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Middlesex University. Wang developed her video production company, Chocolate Films, 15 years ago to produce documentaries and film content. Clients include Buckingham Palace (Royal Collection), Jeep, Arup, Museum of London and the Bargello Museum (Florence). Chocolate Films also serves as a social enterprise that outreaches to disadvantaged young people and adults of diverse community groups and deprived backgrounds with film-making workshops in animation, drama and documentary and community public engagement programs.
Wang is passionate about promoting diversity in the media. Her first cinema film, Afro-Saxons, was a feature-length observational documentary that followed five Afro-Caribbean salons as they competed for the biggest hair competition in the UK. In a review by The Guardian the movie was herald for the “unpretentious way” it describes the “creativity and entrepreneurialism in modern Britain, and it’s impossible to watch it without a smile on your face.” Afro-Saxons was re-released in 2015 as part of the British Film Institute’s ‘Britain on Film’ season. Currently, Wang serves as the Creative Director of the award winning web-series 1000 Londoners which was born from her desire to create a digital portrait of London to showcase the eclectic tapestry of Londoners though a diverse collection of 1,000 short documentaries. These three-minute short films are published online and shown in cinemas with the support of the British Film Institute and Film London. The project intends to “insight into the lives of 1000 people who consider themselves to be Londoners, taking in all ages, religions, race, income, interests and opinions.”
Come to our Black Femininity Series panel on “Black Women on the Screen” and hear Rachel discuss her experience as a Black women in the media and film production industries!