Pitts Theology Library and the Institute for Signifying Scriptures (ISS) will host a two-day virtual panel discussion Nov. 3-4 on “Masquerade: Scripturalizing Modernities Through Black Flesh,” based on the digital exhibition of the same name curated by scholar Vincent Wimbush, director of ISS. The event will take place Wednesday, Nov. 3 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 4 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST.
Both the exhibition and the panel are centered on the roles of race and scripture in the construction, naturalization, and maintenance of modernities. Panelists will introduce, explore, and respond to the themes Wimbush explores in the exhibition.
“This exhibition invites the viewer to consider how we produce and make use of ‘scriptures’ understood broadly as cultural discourse and media,” Wimbush says. “This means seeing scriptures as reflective of the basic ‘play-element’ in culture, as rites, performances, and their varied veiling and unveiling operations and effects. Thus, the exhibition takes the title ‘Masquerade’ as the term that captures the phenomenon before us.”
In order to understand how reality is “masqueraded,” made up, and maintained, the exhibition takes on the phenomenon of race, racialization, and racism as arguably the most complex and persistent transporter of the modern masquerade.
Wimbush focuses particularly on late 18th century English-speaking/-writing ex-slave, Olaudah Equiano/Gustavus Vassa, whose autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African was published in 1789. Wimbush uses the narrative throughout the exhibition to stress some of the major workings and resulting implications and ramifications of the scripturalization of Black flesh for the construction of and responses to modernities, or the realities in which we all are imbedded.
“For too long simply viewed as an example of the fraught genre of (ex-) ‘slave narrative’ or ‘spiritual biography,’ The Interesting Narrative was successful beyond other such narratives for several reasons, not least because, as it was mostly directed toward abolitionist colleagues, it was so much a masquerade, a bravura performance, of modern subjectivity,” Wimbush says.
“I hope that this exhibition and its accompanying panel event will provoke further thinking and conversation about how all of us have been formed, with what consequences, and what special might be ahead for us.”
- Vincent L. Wimbush, exhibition curator and director of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures
- Kimberleigh Jordan, associate director of educational design at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion
- Miles P. Grier, assistant professor, Department of English at Queens College, City University of New York
- Jacqueline Hidalgo, chair and professor of Latina/o Studies and professor of religion at Williams College
- Rosetta E. Ross 89T 95G, professor of religion at Spelman College
- Velma Love, Story Catalysts Coaching and Consulting and adjunct faculty in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Interdenominational Theological Center
- Cécile Coquet-Mokoko, professor of U.S. Cultural History, African American Studies and Gender Studies and vice dean of the College of Humanities at Université Versailles St Quentin and IECI, Département des Langues in France
- Shay Welch, associate professor of philosophy at Spelman College
- Carolyn Jones Medine, director of the Institute for African American Studies and professor of religion at the University of Georgia
- Marla F. Frederick, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture at Candler School of Theology
- Rachel Schwaller, lecturer in the Department of History and Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas