Oct. 14, 1993
Vol. 13, No. 4

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    Conference: 'Black Public Sphere in Era of Reagan & Bush'

    "The Black Public Sphere in the Era of Reagan and Bush," a public conference on the ways in which political and cultural debate among African Americans took new forms and developed new forums between 1980 and 1992, will be held from Friday, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Chicago Humanities Institute, Regenstein S-118.

    Starting from the notion of a "public sphere" popularized by the work of philosopher Jurgen Habermas -- the concept of a discursive arena associated with modern forms of commerce, communication and association -- the conference will study institutions such as churches and informal economies that have characterized African Americans' experiences in the years after emancipation.

    Specifically, the conference will examine the intellectual and political issues raised by recent developments in the connections between culture and politics in the African-American community, including hip-hop culture and debates over the life of Malcolm X. The conference will explore such questions as: How is a separate discourse generated within the black public today? What are its specific forms and unique modes of communication? How is it affected by wider state policies?

    The conference will open at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 15, with "Historicizing the Black Public Sphere," which will feature Elsa Barkley Brown of the University of Michigan and Thomas Holt, the James Westfall Thompson Professor in History. Tricia Rose and Manthia Diawara, both of New York University, will speak during the 2 p.m. session, "Mediating the Black Public Sphere: Music and Film." At 5:30 p.m., a reception at the Smart Museum will feature an exhibition of photographs from Ghana, Jamaica, England and the United States by Stephen Marc of Columbia College.

    The conference will continue at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, with "Mediating the Black Public Sphere: Oral and Reading Publics," which will include papers by John Brenkman of the City University of New York and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham of the National Humanities Center. The 2:30 p.m. session, "Materializing and Institutionalizing the Black Public Sphere," will feature Michael Dawson, Associate Professor in Political Science, and Regina Austin of the University of Pennsylvania.

    Michael Hanchard of the University of Texas at Austin and Kenneth Warren, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature, will present their papers during the final session, "Theorizing the Black Public Sphere," beginning at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.

    The conference, co-sponsored by the Chicago Humanities Institute, the Workshop in African American Studies and the Center for Transcultural Studies, is free and open to the public. Registration is required, and papers are available to be read in advance. For more information, call the Chicago Humanities Institute at 702-8274.