16 Jan 2024 17:00 - 18:30 Online


Part of the inReach – /ɪn riːtʃ/ project


Kelly Fagan Robinson (Department of Social Anthropology)


Cheryl Mattingly (Aarhus University, Departments of Anthropology and Philosophy & University of Southern California, Department of Anthropology)


Could an errant version of critical phenomenology help us see spaces of potentiality even in the grimmest circumstances? Could it help ‘defrost’ our understanding of a concept like stigma? Stigma theory foregrounds the work of social identity categories in creating shaming dramas. It is a very familiar – a too familiar – concept within critical theory. How to think it anew? To disturb its certainties? ‘Defrosting’ is a metaphor borrowed from Hannah Arendt. She pondered the problem that dominant political and moral concepts freeze when they become canonical. She asked: what kind of thinking is required to address this? Within the Black radical tradition, Glissant, Moten, Sharpe and others also raise Arendt’s problem, but from a more poetic direction. I suggest an errant critical phenomenology that builds upon this work but foregrounds ethnography’s ‘perplexing particulars.’ More concretely, I ask: How do African American mothers (and grandmothers) nourish personal and familial moments of potentiality that disturb normative expectations?  How do they try to combat stigma by cultivating these moments, offering elsewhere worlds that live alongside, even within, ordinary life?  My focus is on small domestic landscapes that interrupt the dominant sociopolitical order and its stigmatising gaze.

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About the inReach project

About inReach – /ɪn riːtʃ/

  1. inside the distance to which someone can stretch out their hand.
  2. within the capacity of someone to attain or achieve something
  3. (inversion of ‘outreach’) considers the expertise of those usually closed off from academic and artistic reception.

The term ‘inReach’ signifies any action which reshapes elite institutions as inclusive domains through centrally placing work by people otherwise absent in traditional arts and academic spaces. This series will critically question and therefore set to prove false the too-common trope that certain people are ‘hard to reach.’ By bringing artists, academics, and key local publics together via CRASSH, inReach will amplify the underacknowledged value of lived expertise of socially marginalised people, while also fostering ongoing debates about transience, stigma and inequality in the UK.

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk