As part of its annual lecture series, the African Diaspora Cluster organized the Inaugural M. Jacqui Alexander Lecture in African Diaspora Studies on Thursday. Prof. Faith Smith (AAAS, ENG) held a talk titled, “After the Dance: Performing Sovereignty in the Caribbean,” which is drawn from her upcoming book, “Strolling in the Ruins: The Caribbean’s Non-Sovereign Modern in the Early 20th Century.” 

In his brief introduction to the event, Associate Prof. Chad Williams (AAAS) explained that the African Diaspora Cluster was originally established “as a hiring initiative to attract scholars of African diaspora studies” to Brandeis. The cluster is a group of professors and fellows seeking to “grow the department and enhance intellectual unity here at Brandeis around the teaching and study of peoples of African descent,” he said. 

Today, seeking more than just to hire distinguished and vibrant faculty, the African Diaspora Cluster hosts discussions, reading groups and events.

Following this introduction, Prof. Carina Ray (AAAS) honored Prof. M. Jaqui Alexander, the professor who the lecture series was named after, who was sitting in the audience. The event marked Alexander’s return following her years as an assistant professor of Sociology at Brandeis in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Alexander is an “incisive and influential theorist of transnational feminism, whose work has transformed how we think about heterosexuality, the nation and nation building, the state, citizenship and coloniality and postcoloniality in the Caribbean,” Ray said.

Ray explained that this work is not only well respected by a plethora of scholars across the globe, ranging from rural America to the Netherlands, but also that “in naming this annual lecture series after her, we both honor her work and remain inspired, provoked and challenged by it.” 

In welcoming Smith to the stage, Ray acknowledged Smith’s intellectual curiosity, personal generosity and “ability to see and cultivate the best in those around her.” Ray added that in Smith’s upcoming book, she discusses “the period just before the beginning of the first World War, when the fantastical resolutions of the fiction and their complex responses to photography show Caribbean people measuring the growing imperial interest of the USA.”

As Smith read her excerpt, she touched on topics such as anglophone Caribbean history, imperialism and sexual identities inscribed in colonial and post-colonial law.  

Smith also discussed her experience working in the AAAS department. “To get to dream alongside these colleagues is a blessing, and there are students who tell us everyday that what has come before and what prevails now can always be reimagined,” she said.