Professor of anthropology Bayo Holsey kicks off Griot Institute spring series

Madison Weaver, Assistant News Editor

On Feb. 1, Bayo Holsey, Associate Professor of African and African-American studies and Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University, kicked off the Black Body (Re)Considered series with a presentation of her research and investigation into slave-trade narratives.

The series, presented by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies, hosts a different lecture or performance each Wednesday evening to present the campus community with interdisciplinary viewpoints of social issues.

Holsey investigates slave narratives in Ghana and other areas of West Africa where slavery and neoliberalism affect economics and policies of African nations. Additionally, she examines the slave’s body in relation to the past and present, aligning with the goals of the Black Body (Re)Considered series.

“People describe witnessing slaves being tortured, having violence inflicted upon them,” Holsey said. “To think about the role of the body in these accounts of slavery and how people in a more contemporary moment imagine the memories of slavery having an impact on their own bodies.”

Holsey’s research spans to the lasting impacts of slavery in current day, discussing how American visitation to sites in West Africa have created an industry through commemorating the slave trade.

“What I wanted to do in this piece was think about some of the narratives that have been written by visitors to such sites and to other sites in West Africa, and think about it in a broader framework of what it means to remember the slave trade,” Holsey said, connecting the past to the present.

Holsey connects her work to politics as well, which is all too relevant in America today.

“[Slave narratives] can be very powerful … if we’re overexposed to these tales of suffering and violence we can become desensitized, but … those narratives can be part of a radical tradition, an anti-racist tradition, and they can play an important role in that kind of politics, and that’s what I really want to explore,” Holsey said.

The Black Body (Re)Considered series will continue with artists and scholars of varying mediums each Wednesday night.

“It’s an honor to be here and be the first speaker. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the invitation,” Holsey said. “I hope that students and faculty and others are able to think about issues of blackness and embodiment from various interdisciplinary perspectives and that that can nourish their own intellectual trajectory and, as I’ve suggested, their politics as well.”

Nona Faustine Simmons, a photographer, will present “The Black Body as Art” on Feb. 8 in the Gallery Theater at 7 p.m. The events in the Black Body (Re)Considered series are free and open to the public.

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