“K(no)w Where to Go”

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One can measure very neatly the white American’s distance from his conscience—from himself—by observing the distance between White America and Black America. One has only to ask oneself who established this distance, who is this distance designed to protect, and from what is this distance designed to offer protection?
-James Baldwin, 19655

I’m shocked, too.
I’m supposed to be locked up, too.
You escape what I’ve escaped…
You’d be in Paris getting f***ed up, too.
-Jay Z, 20116

Monica Miller has recently been award a Lehigh University Faculty Research Grant (Research and Graduate Studies) to conduct fieldwork on the topic of “K(no)w Where to Go: Diasporic Transatlantic Commuters and Escaping the Permanence of “American” Racism” which explores the social, cultural, economic and geographic options of African American expatriates living in Europe – a part of a larger book project she’s working on entitled, New Black Godz: Distinct Bodies, Religions of Distinction.

This work contributes to ongoing discussion of social difference, transatlantic commuting and diaspora and diasporic travel, more generally. Among other issues, Miller is exploring questions such as, “what happens when one person’s escape is another’s surrender?” and “how do we explore and chart diasporic travel and movement without positing ahistorical points of origin? – a query born and initially posed in the first Culture on the Edge working group at the University of Alabama and one to which we continue to explore in our ongoing conversations and collaborations about identity, historicization, and operational acts of identification. Overall, Miller’s project explores the lives and “diasporic” tactics of historical figures such as James Baldwin and contemporary celebrities like Jay Z, Kanye West as well as understudied and less-well known African American expatriates living in France and Germany in particular.

Miller will begin this work in mid May where she’ll be a Visiting Scholar in Residence at The Hanover Institute of Philosophical Research at the kind invitation of the Head of Institute, Dr. Dr. Jürgen Manemann from May 22-June 01. She’ll deliver a public lecture at the Institute on May 28. From there, she’ll participate in and deliver a paper at the international “James Baldwin: Transatlantic Commuter Conference” (Montpellier, France) from June 5-7 at Universite Paul Valery where she’ll present on, “‘Ni**as in Paris’?: Diasporic Travels and the Omnipresence of American Racism.” She’ll conclude fieldwork in France and Germany until the end of June.

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