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The 2023 LeBoff Public Lecture with Kara Keeling

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5 pm - 7 pm ET
8th floor commons
239 Greene Street, New York, NY 10003


"Marvels of ... Inventiveness": On Aesthetics and Governance


Hortense Spillers writes in her seminal essay Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, "In order for me to speak a truer word concerning myself, I must strip down through layers of attenuated meanings, made an excess in time, over time, assigned by a particular historical order, and there await whatever marvels of my own inventiveness." In this talk, Spillers' quote anchors Keeling's consideration of the aesthetic logics of Black film and media over the past twenty years. Keeling considers how they have transformed in ways that both respond to and invent models of governance.


Kara Keeling is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Keeling's research has focused on African American film, theories of race, sexuality, and gender in cinema, critical theory, and cultural studies. Keeling's book Queer Times, Black Futures (New York University Press, 2019) considers the promises and pitfalls of imagination, technology, futurity, and liberation as they have persisted in and through racial capitalism by exploring how the speculative fictions of cinema, music, and literature that center black existence provide scenarios wherein we might imagine alternative worlds, queer and otherwise. Keeling's first book The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007) explores the role of cinematic images in the construction and maintenance of hegemonic conceptions of the world and interrogates the complex relationships between cinematic visibility, minority politics, and the labor required to create and maintain alternative organizations of social life. Keeling is co-editor (with Josh Kun) of Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies, a collection of writings about sound and American Studies and (with Colin MacCabe and Cornel West) of a selection of writings by the late James A. Snead entitled European Pedigrees/ African Contagions: Racist Traces and Other Writing. Keeling’s essays have appeared in the journals GLQ, The Black Scholar, Women and Performance, and elsewhere.

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