Reflections on ‘Moments of Becoming: Genealogies of Black Diaspora Feminism’
On 8th February 2018, The Center for Gender Studies hosted a talk with Dr. Nydia Swaby. Titled Moments of Becoming: Genealogies of Black Diaspora Feminism, Dr. Swaby discussed her research into black diaspora feminism with an emphasis on black British feminist. For Dr. Swaby, Black diaspora feminism is a necessary site for collective consciousness, resistance, and solidarity. Foregrounding the post-colonial migrant experience, Swaby expresses the significance of the diaspora journey (mentally, socially, and physically) to self-identification and consciousness, and the ways in which the creation of a new socio-political diasporic identity emerges.
Throughout Dr. Swaby’s presentation, black consciousness and diaspora solidarity became the overarching themes. Black British feminist identities materialized through social, political and psychic reactions to and consequences of colonialism, migration, and settlement in connection to race, gender, and nation. Using archival materials and ethnography, Dr. Swaby also drew on literature of British feminists and scholars such as Charting the Journey: Writings by Black and Third World Women, edited by Shabnam Grewal and So You Think I’m a Mule, a poem by Jackie Kay. Dr Swaby emphasized the importance of conceptualizing the diaspora as a socio-political identity and as a site for radical knowledge production.
Although I understand the need to strengthen black diaspora feminism and black diasporic consciousness as a metaphysical space, as I reflect on Dr. Swaby’s presentation, I question my position within that space as a black diasporic subject. When I think of the journey any diasporic or oppressed individual has taken, I think of historic lineages and geographical connections. For example, as a Black American woman, due to American slavery and other colonial and capitalist historical events that occurred within the States, I feel I am mentally and socially limited in my ability to expand my connection beyond the States as it is difficult to identify with much else outside of that framework. This is equally true for my relationship with the black diaspora. Most of the time I feel I’m floating without a destination: however, Dr. Swaby’s discussion encouraged me to reimagine and reexamine how I define my own diaspora identity through solidarity across transnational black and brown communities. The significance of the journey, and how the voyage plays a role in defining diaspora home and space from the socio-political perspective to the mental physical and spiritual. As diaspora subjects take the journey and locate their home(s), mentally and/or physically, they shake the meanings behind national identity, belonging, and home.
Ultimately, Dr. Swaby’s message to diasporic subjects is the journey to self-realization has the power to challenge, reclaim, and resist the ways in which nationality, society, and home are defined and the importance of the collective consciousness and diasporic unity. The diaspora’s home is subjectively determined through social experiences and cultural connections but also through the varying journeys we take or the legacy of the journey under which we live that awakens our consciousness and allowing us to create and imagine across the diasporic experience with the potential to build solidarity. It is in these spaces that collective black diasporic consciousness is awakened and a community is found.
By Tiffany Johnson[i]
[i] MA Migration and Diaspora Studies