2019 - 2020 CRG Forum Series

2019 - 2020 CRG Forum Series

Bios reflect speakers' status at the time of their presentation at the Center for Race and Gender.


Flyer for 2-19-2020 CRG Forum

Savannah Shange And The Black/Girlhood Imaginary

02.20.2020 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

In conversation with Dr. Savannah Shange (Assistant Professor in Anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz), the Black/Girlhood Imaginary working group will have an open discussion related to Black feminisms, methodologies, and Black girlhood.We theorize “Black/Girlhood Imaginary” through temporality, embodiment, performance (Taylor, 2003), and confinement. We believe that, as thriving Black feminist scholars, “Black/Girlhood Imaginary” illuminates the space, the chasm, the fissure, and the interstices of Black girlhoods. In order to continue to investigate this imaginary—this rupture birthed out of Black feminism (Collins, 1990)—we will use this conversation as an opportunity to work through our framework. We draw from Dr. Shange’s most recent article, “Black Girl Ordinary: Flesh, Carcerality, and the Refusal of Ethnography,” andher forthcoming book, Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in San Francisco (2019). Our discussion includes central questions regarding what is at stake for Black girls in a progressive era of education and what methods offer insight into their lives. More specifically, we ask questions in regard to Shange’s development of ethics and accountability when conducting an ethnography that engages Black girls. Finally, we will learn from Dr. Shange how Black girls refuse and utilize those refusals to navigate the landscapes of power relations in a dystopic progressive politic

Hosted by CRG's Research Working Group - Black/Girlhood Imaginary


Black/Girlhood Imaginary - As a Black feminist collective of doctoral students, Kenly Brown (PhD Candidate in African American and diaspora studies), Lashon Daley (PhD Candidate in performance studies), Derrika Hunt (PhD Candidate in education) critically engage theoretical frameworks and qualitative analytics to conceptualize their methodology, Black/Girlhood Imaginary (B/GI). In order to investigate this imaginary—a rupture birthed out of Black feminism (Collins, 1990)—they use B/GI as a multivalent prism that aids in recovery of the losses, the underminings, the layered violences, the joys, and the embodied experiences of Black girls. As a methodology, B/GI weaves both the fullness and fissures of Black girlhoods—opening up space for Black girls to recover their own images. In addition, B/GI operates as a creative space to work through the many facets of Black girlhood. They have shared their work at the National Women’s Studies Association conference, and have held public forums in conversation with Dr. Nikki Jones, Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox, and forthcoming with Dr. Savannah Shange. More recently their article entitled, “Disruptive Ruptures: The Necessity of Black/Girlhood Imaginary,” is currently under review.

Savannah Shange is a Black queer feminist scholar who works at the intersections of race, place, sexuality, and the state. She is assistant professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz and her research interests include gentrification, multiracial coalition, ethnographic ethics, Black femme gender, and abolition.  She earned a PhD in Africana Studies and Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a MAT from Tufts University, and a BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.  Her first book, Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Anti-Blackness and Schooling in San Francisco (Duke 2019) is an ethnography of the afterlife of slavery as lived in the Bay Area.  Previously, her research has been published in Women and PerformanceThe Black Scholar, Transforming Anthropology, and The Feminist Wire.

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Photo of Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh and Usha Iyer, CRG Forum Speakers

Choreographing Transnational Modernities: Imbrications of Race And Gender In Dance Performance And Spectatorship

02.13.2020 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh of UC Davis discusses “spectator saviorship” in relation to Iranian dance post-1979, and Usha Iyer of Stanford University analyzes the making of the first “dancing girl” of Indian cinema in the 1940s, in a program centered on transnational circuits of dance, media, gender, and performance.

Do Iranian Dancers Need Saving? Savior Spectatorship and the Production of Iranian Dancers as ‘Objects of Rescue’
Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh, UC Davis 

Because of Iranian state-implemented restrictions on public dance performance, effective since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, diasporic spaces are often constructed as offering Iranian dancers the unconditional freedom to fully realize themselves as artists. In this narrative, Iranian dancers gain agential freedom – a dancer’s subjecthood – only through non-Iranian spaces. In turn, I argue that this account constructs Iranian dancers as what transnational feminist scholar Inderpal Grewal calls “objects of rescue.” I draw critical parallels between the militaristic imperative to “save” Muslim women at the start of the US-led War on Terror and the racialize discursive frameworks that position Iranian dancers as needing to be saved from the Iranian state, their families, or from Islam. Drawing on my larger book project, the presentation focuses specifically on dancer-choreographer Afshin Ghaffarian, who was granted asylum in France in 2009. I analyze the French reception of Ghaffarian’s live performances and the transnational reception of the American-produced biographical dramatic film, Desert Dancer (2014), a fictionalized account of Ghaffarian’s life as an aspiring dancer in Iran and his defection to Paris. In the case of Ghaffarian, the (neo)colonial formations of the male Middle Eastern body as always already feminized vis-à-vis Euro-American masculinities are enhanced by heteronormative perceptions of the male dancing body as queer or gender deviant. While Ghaffarian’s subject position as an Iranian male might construct him within Euro-American geopolitical paradigms as a prototypical terrorist threat, his position as a dancer (working in a medium paradoxically understood as an essentially human yet often gendered endeavor) prompts liberal human rights frameworks to establish Ghaffarian as an object of rescue. I develop a theory of what I call savior spectatorship, a multi-modal looking practice wherein discourses and images (static and moving) construct Iranian dancers as victims and their Euro-American audiences as compassionate saviors. As a pervasive form of twenty-first century cosmopolitan subject formation, I suggest that savior spectatorship is produced and sustained through historical and contemporary sociopolitical power relations and (neo)colonial saving enterprises. My theorizations of savior spectatorship complicate prevalent assumptions that hold active spectatorship and kinesthetic empathy as inherently politically progressive acts of engagement with dance performance. Instead, I interrogate how dance becomes a barometer with which to measure modernity, freedom, and humanity, and how savior spectatorship of Iranian dancers constructs a model of Iranianness that fits all too neatly within Euro-American geopolitical paradigms that position Iran as backward and pre-modern.

Choreographing Corporeal Histories: Azurie, the Indo-German, Indo-Pakistani Dancing Girl
Usha Iyer, Stanford University

A woman to whom the famed Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz said “your mourners will find even your grave empty as you’ll come out of it to dance,” Azurie, little known today, has been described as the first dancing star of Indian cinema, one of its earliest “sex symbols,” and a founding figure in institutionalizing classical dance in post-Partition Pakistan. Born in 1907 in Bangalore to a German father and a Hindu Brahmin mother (her caste status foregrounded in Azurie’s accounts), Annette Gueizielor was re-christened Azurie by the Bombay film industry in the 1940s. This paper reconstructs Azurie’s clandestine training in “Eastern” dances through secret trips to movie halls and film studios, her production of a dancing girl persona in popular Hindi cinema of the 1940s, the persistent eroticization of this figure, her later role as cultural ambassador in Pakistan, her international dance ballet tours, and an eventual life of penury as she lived out her last days in a shabby hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

This narrative of a figure considered marginal to the history of South Asian cinemas – both, the generic character of the dancing girl, and the particular star text of Azurie – highlights resistance to contemporary gender norms, the articulation by film dance of persistent tensions around public female performance, and the socio-historical contexts in which the voices of female pioneers in the realm of entertainment are produced and circulated. As a mixed-race woman who emigrated from India to Pakistan, from screen to stage, dexterously managing her star text between being a sex symbol and an English-Bengali-Urdu magazine columnist demanding respect and funding for Indian/Hindu and later Pakistani/Muslim dance forms, Azurie helps us advance new histories of the female body in South Asian film and dance, corporeal histories forged relationally across axes of race, caste, class, and religion. Recuperating her role as a choreographer of new mobilities throws light on cosmopolitan, transnational dance networks that intersected with nationalist projects of modernity in South Asia during this period.

Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh is a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in UC Davis’s Department of Asian American Studies. From 2016 – 2018, Heather was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies at Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from UC Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Heather’s research, which extends upon two decades as a dancer-choreographer among Iranian American communities, examines the lives and artistic works of immigrant and diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists residing in North America and Western Europe. Her current book project investigates how global War on Terror biopolitics construct Iranian dancers as neoliberal subjects of freedom. Upcoming publications include essays in the anthologies The Futures of Dance Studies (Univ. of Wisconsin Press) and Performing Iran: Cultural Identity and Theatrical Performance (I.B. Tauris Press). www.heatherrastovac.com.

Usha Iyer is Assistant Professor in the Film and Media Studies program, Department of Art and Art History, at Stanford University. Her forthcoming book, Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Popular Hindi Cinema (Oxford University Press), examines the role of dance in the construction of female stardom in Hindi cinema from the 1930s to the 1990s. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Camera Obscura, The Oxford Handbook of Film Theory, South Asian Popular Culture, Women Film Pioneers Project, among others.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Choreographing Transnational Modernities"

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Flyer for 12-5-2019 CRG Forum

How I Write

12.09.2019 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Get inspired for end-of-the-term writing with reflections and advice from Christian Paiz, assistant professor of Ethnic Studies; Carolyn Smith, UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow; and Rachel Lim, graduate student in Ethnic Studies.


Flyer for 11-17-2019 CRG Forum

Water and War: Environmental Justice In Flint, Detroit, and Northern California

11.07.2019| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Beth Rose Middleton Manning of UC Davis presents “Currents of Resistance: Water Quality/Quantity Struggles in Indigenous Northern California Homelands,” and Michael Mascarenhas of ESPM offers “Thirsty for Environmental Justice: Flint, Detroit, and the War over Michigan’s Water.”

Currents of Resistance: Water Quality/Quantity Struggles in Indigenous Northern California Homelands
Beth Rose Middleton Manning, UC Davis

The current matrix of water management and conveyance in California is built on a system of institutionalized exclusion that was solidified in the early to mid-20th century. Tribal members throughout California have long fought for recognition of their responsibilities to water, which include but are not limited to their rights to water. The work to reclaim lands through the Stewardship Council process, to fight for adequate flows and fish passage in the face of dams, and to change water quality regulations to recognize the depth and breadth of tribal water uses exemplifies decolonization–with all its attendant challenges to reform a system that historically excluded California Indians from decision-making on a resource that is central to the continuation of nations and communities.

Thirsty for Environmental Justice. Flint, Detroit, and the War over Michigan’s Water
Michael Mascarenhas, ESPM, UC Berkeley

The hard, and pressing, questions about the responsibilities of sociologists, social scientists, and academics to speak with society, as a whole, as well as how to create more spaces for rigorous academic work that is of interest to wider publics was recently raised at this year’s American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting.[1] I want to extend this claim and probblematize the words, language, and symbols—the discourse—we use to describe, understand, and theorize environmental justice in Flint and Detroit, and other spaces of color in which these crimes of neoliberal lunacy take place. I suggest contemporary framings of environmental racism evidenced in government reports, newspapers, and academic journals have been insufficient in explaining the social experiences and conditions of those living without access to safe and secure water access. What makes critical environmental justice “critical” is a commitment to equity and empowerment for those disadvantaged and dispossessed by the structures of environmental injustice. Today I feel the discursive bandwidth of environmental justice has lost its intellectual, theoretical, and social movement footings rooted in black radical and anti-racist traditions. We have invoked an arsenal of language, metrics, and measures to better articulate the conditions with which people of color suffer in this country but we have not mobilized the means to empower non-white efforts from this form of racial inequity and white supremacy. 

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Flyer for 10-24-2019 CRG Forum

Carceral (Im)Mobilities: Architectures Of The Migrant Camp, The Refugee Camp, and The Labor Camp

10.24.2019 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Berkeley architectural historians Desiree ValadaresLaura Belik, and Heba Al-Najabaoffer papers on camps in Brazil, Syria, and Canada to explore how camp “architectures” have operated to shape, detain, and enable forms of movement.

As places of exception and mass incarceration, the camp constitutes a space set apart outside the boundaries of legal and civil rights. Camps are intimately related to the era of colonization and its attendant processes of invasion, occupation, disruption and relocation. They are nodes of state power and spatial manifestation of a society that periodically splinters into distinct categories based on belonging or non-belonging. This panel, comprised of architectural historians, centers its focus on the space of the camp to explore how its ‘architectures’ – the camps themselves, their spatial layout, infrastructure systems and camp-thinking – have operated to shape, detain and enable particular forms of movement. We show how models of encampment travel and shift between states by tracing the confinement of camp dwellers as diverse as drought migrants (Brazil), Syrian refugees (Jordan) and so-called “enemy aliens” of Japanese ancestry (Canada) in the 20th and 21st centuries. Paying attention to the complex mobilities involved in the carceral experience, we broach dichotomies of permanence and temporality, material and immaterial and mobility and stasis. Collectively, we aim to challenge dominant narratives of ‘crisis,’ ‘victims’ and ‘bare life’ by exploring the ways in which camps are transformed, materially and immaterially, through various forms of agency – dissent, resistance, transgression, activism, or submission and dependence – by the bodies that inhabit them.

Erased Traces, Hidden Histories: Concentration Camps in Northeast Brazil 1915/1932
Laura Belik, Architecture, PhD program

At the turn of the twentieth century, Northeast Brazil suffered three of the most severe drought periods ever registered, popularly known as the Terrible Years (1877/1915/1932). Extensive literaturehas been written about the topic and most specifically about the life of the retirantes , migrant families that worked as stockgrowers and farmers, now trying to escape the inland areas towards the coast and capital cities of the region. These groups were classified as flagelados (flagellated people) by the authorities. As a response to this state of emergency, and pressure by local elites, seven Concentration Camps were built and managed by the government in the state of Ceará in 1915, and again in 1932, at the height of the drought periods. Masked through humanitarian rhetoric as places for quarantine and distribution of work, the Camps only lasted through the drought periods, and were strategically situated in close proximity to railroad stations in the inlands of the state or outskirts of the capital city Fortaleza. Essentially they were zones of isolation and intense policing, with extremely high death rates related to famine and disease outbreaks due to overcrowding. Over the course of just one year (1932-33), the camps sheltered over 150,000 people (Rios, 2014). Although considered a pivotal moment in Brazilian consciousness, and despite being an important part of Ceará’s history which configured urban and social dynamics and established early relations of power and exclusion in Fortaleza, today the Concentration Camps have been almost forgotten. Their visibility and historicity have been strategically hidden or not emphasized, and on both local and national levels, few people know about these scarcely documented spaces. Out of seven Camps that were built, currently only one remains partially standing, serving as a symbol of resistance. At the moment Campo do Patu is the subject of a landmarking process by the Secretariat of State. Issues of preservation also raise questions related memory and memorialization, and the politics behind the Camps both when they were in use, and also how they have been perceived afterwards. My project is working to change that, by uncovering the history of the Concentration Camps as an emergency law, and how they were weaponized by the Brazilian government, evidencing the role of the built environment in debates of social and political order.

Caravans in the Desert: The Case of Za’atari Refugee Camp in the region of the Syrian Badia
Heba Al-Najada, Architecture, PhD program

In the wake of the Syrian civil war, this presentation investigates how practices of humanitarian-aid, in which, Syrians are hosted in refugee camps set up by the UNHCR in Jordan’s eastern desert, are overlaid with, Arabo-Islamic histories of migration. First, I look at universal caravans laid and never bolted to the semi-arid stony land of Za’atari refugee camp. Under the volcanic sun of the Syrian Badia (desert), the repetitive caravans appear as dots in the expansive scale of the world’s largest camp. This apocalyptic image emerges, not only, in Syrians fleeing destruction, but within the larger colonial history of the ruination of the Arab world. Inaugurated by the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the carving out of post-colonial states, the climatic borders of the Syrian desert that stretches between present-day Syria, Jordan, and Iraq were sliced up by political borders. Second, I consider Za’atari in the context of its other hosts: the Jordanian Bedouin tribes. Based on ethnographic and archival research, I engage with, the memory of the Syrian desert ‘outside’ the camp. I also return to medieval cartographies, the Islamic concept of Hijra (migration) and the recurring theme of movement in the Arab world (Al-Idrissi, 1154; Ibn Khaldun, 1377; Zaman, 2015). I do this to map: 1) dismemberment of community through the humanitarian logic of temporary caravans in fixed humanitarian space 2) movement of Syrians from the camp to the desert 2) spaces of refugee/host engagement scattered in the landscape of the desert. Finally, the juxtaposition of UN caravans with Arabo-Islamic traditions and Levantine histories of migration offers a counter-image to universal images of Syrians as victims cramped in humanitarian caravans through mapping spaces in which the inhospitable desert is made habitable. It also expands our understanding of dispossession outside the economy of territorial and material possession and the logic of human rights and humanitarian aid. As people move, they travel, transgress, cross and transcend borders (national, material and subjective).

“Idling No More”: Reading Japanese Canadian World War II Road Camps Alongside Specters of Indigeneity on the Hope-Princeton Highway in British Columbia, Canada
Desiree Valadares,  Architecture, PhD program

This paper uses a critical indigenous studies and legal geographic lens to study the forced displacement of Japanese Canadians and the residual landscape of World War II confinement sites situated on unceded lands in Interior British Columbia, Canada. I engage with the theme of mobility and movement in relation to settler colonialism by contextualizing Canada’s longstanding complicity in the wartime removal of members of the Austro-Hungarian empire (Ukrainian Canadians) during World War I under the Defense of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act. During World War II, this emergency law was reinstated to forcibly remove, confine and disperse “enemy aliens” including Japanese Canadians in addition to conscientious objectors such as the Doukhobors (a sect of Russian dissenters) and their children. I focus specifically on a seemingly ordinary highway route in Canada’s westernmost province that connects the town of Hope to the Town of Princeton known as the Hope-Princeton Highway. This route was constructed by “able-bodied” men of Japanese ancestry, many of whom were Canadian citizens, during their confinement in a network of temporary “road camps” within close proximity to Tashme Internment Camp, from 1942-1945. These men traversed the remnants of a Gold Rush trail and manually carved out an 89-mile pioneer road for the Hope-Princeton Highway using just picks and shovels. Combining archival research with ethnographic fieldwork, I show how forced labor, histories of family separation and wartime incarceration are represented through commemorative community museums, informal archaeology/gardening and a recent Highway Legacy Signage initiative in Interior British Columbia. I argue that the current treatment of the residual landscape of World War II confinement sites reveals the ways in which settler colonialism, carcerality and racial capitalism intersect and are subsequently obscured through histories of transportation and infrastructure building, tourism promotion and selective commemoration. I draw on scholars Razack, Kobayashi and Oikawa’s methodology of “unmapping,” to further situate highway construction projects in the province of British Columbia alongside longer histories of Coast Salish territorial disputes, land dispossession and forced removal. This, I argue, reveals deeply intertwined conditions of what appear to be seemingly discrete racial and colonial processes.

Laura Belik is a PhD Student in Architecture- History, Theory and Society at UC Berkeley. Laura holds an MA in Design Studies from Parsons- The New School (New York) and a BA in Architecture and Urban Planning from Escola da Cidade (São Paulo- Brazil). Her main research interests are urbanism, politics of space, urban democracy and Latin America. Laura’s current work is related to the urban and constructed environment and its influence in social and political life. Currently, Laura is looking at a case study in Northeast Brazil, dealing with issues of land distribution, migration, isolation, spatial inequality and the utopias behind the politics of the built environment.

Heba Al-Najada has received her undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Jordan and her masters degree in Urban Design from the University of Sheffield. She worked in Palestinian informal camps before starting her PhD in Architecture History at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation research looks at the different spaces in which Syrian refugees are hosted in present-day Jordan, and their relation to, the politics of humanitarianism, the longer histories of the Middle East (most specifically the Levant), and the concept of migration (hijra). She is a 4th year PhD candidate at UC Berkeley’s Architectural History program with an outside focus in urban anthropology and the anthropology of Islam and the Middle-East. Her dissertation fieldwork has been funded by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective and the Institute of International Studies, the Global Metropolitan Studies, the Human Rights Center, and the Center of Middle-Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.

Desiree Valadares is a landscape architect / landscape historian studying historic preservation (U.S.) and heritage conservation (Canada) law as it intertwines with redress, reconciliation and recognition politics in the Hawai’ian archipelago, the Aleutian Island Chain and Southeast Alaska and the unceded lands in Canada’s westernmost province: British Columbia. She is a 5th year PhD candidate at UC Berkeley’s Architectural History program with outside fields in comparative ethnic studies and legal history.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Carceral (Im)Mobilities: Architectures Of The Migrant Camp, The Refugee Camp, And The Labor Camp""

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Flyer for 10-17-2019 CRG Forum

Amplifying Memory Through Many Minds: Performance and Cultural Belongings

10.17.2019| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall 

Alutiiq choreographer and performer Tanya Lukin Linklater shares her work and discusses the museum as performance space with TDPS scholars Bélgica del Río and Jeni(f)fer Tamayo

Lukin Linklater will contextualize her practice in performance alongside and in relation to Indigenous objects or cultural belongings as gestures towards repatriation. She will speak to her thinking, writing and embodied responses to Alutiiq sewing bags from Kodiak Island, her homelands. The Alutiiq sewing bags are a part of the Alaska Commercial Collection at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology and were acquired in the early 20th century. 


Tanya Lukin Linklater’s performances in museums, videos and installations have been exhibited in Canada, the United States and abroad. Her work centres Indigenous knowledge production in and through orality, conversation and embodied practices, including dance. She considers That which sustains us a conceptual and affective line within her work. While reckoning with histories that affect Indigenous peoples’ lives, lands and ideas, she investigates insistence. She considers the ways in which Indigenous ideas inhabit or interrupt museum spaces, and the relationships between live performance and museum collections made up of Indigenous objects or cultural belongings.

She has shown work at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Art Gallery of Ontario, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Remai Modern, Art Gallery of Alberta, and elsewhere.

Tanya studied at University of Alberta (M.Ed.) and Stanford University (A.B. Honours). She is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. In 2018 she was the inaugural recipient of the Wanda Koop Research Fund administered by Canadian Art. Tanya originates from the Native Villages of Afognak and Port Lions in southwestern Alaska and is based in northern Ontario, Canada. 


Flyer for 9-12-2019 CRG Forum

Book Talk: Fearing The Black Body

09.12.2019 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Join us for the first CRG Thursday Forum as author Sabrina Strings of UC Irvine discusses her new book, Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia, with the Henderson Center’s Savala Trepczynski

Event co-sponsored by the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley Law.

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