Summer Research Dispatches: Malika Imhotep at the International School for Decolonial Black Feminism

17 Aug, 2017

Summer Research Dispatches: Malika Imhotep at the International School for Decolonial Black Feminism

We were thrilled to offer six BCNM graduate students stipends to pursue their research over the summer of 2017. Below, Malika Imhotep shares how she studied "Batekoo" and decolonizing black feminism in Brazil.

“Ao reivindicarmos nossa diferença enquanto mulheres negras, enquanto amfricanas, saabemos bem o quento trazemos em nos as marcas da exploração econômica e da subordinação racial e sexual. Por isso mesmo, trazemos conosco a marca da libertação de todos e de todas. Portanto, nosso lema deve ser: organização já!” - Leila Gonzalez

Cachoiera, Bahia, Brazil taught me the importance of an emobodied research praxis. Lectures by Gina Dent, Angela Davis, and Ochy Curiel at the International School for Decolonial Black Feminism brought home the importance of a rigorous interrogation of institutional common sense.

I embarked on my journey to Brazil as a burgeoning black feminist scholar with ears, eyes, and heart open to the African/Black diaspora. In dialogue with sister-scholars, activist and elders in the area that received the largest percentage of enslaved African’s during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, my black feminist canon was broadened. One particularly salient offering was Leila Gonzalez’ theory of “amefricanidade.” Coined in the 1980s amefricanidade undoes colonial logics by thinking from within African and indigenous epistemologies of selfhood and resistance. In short, Gonzalez’ work is a testament to the fact that Transnational Black Feminism has always known diaspora studies to be a political project.

In the space of the lecture series I learned the importance of translation as radical tool for diasporic engagement. Gina Dent mentioned the necessity of learning a language in its idiom. Meaning, that diasporic consciousness and any effective decolonial work requires an intimacy of language. My interest in performance studies and new media led me to think of the idiom of the body and how that information is spread globally. The second to last night of my stay in Bahia I had the opportunity to dance in community. Watching and learning Afro-Brazilian social dance (that I had previously seen online via music videos) with my colleagues gifted me the insight needed to really comprehend “Batekoo” the viral party/queer afro-Brazilian social movement I had travel in search of. While I was unable to attend the exact party/movement due to scheduling conflicts, I garnered an understanding of why certain types of movement carried political implications in the Brazilian context. From Samba de Roda to Bonde das Marvavilhas, the percison of afro-brazilian social dance communicates a historical lineage of, marginalization, sexualization, resistance and cultural survivals. This paired with my introduction to a community of young afro-brazilian feminist using social media and film to advance an understanding a beleza negra (black beauty) left me with lots to think about and a knew site from which to explore my research questions about black femme performance aesthetics and erotic autonomy in slavery’s wake.