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ICMuS Research Seminar Series: Professor Francesca T. Royster

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Join us for the ICMuS Research Seminar 2021/ 22 series where we are delighted to welcome Professor Francesca T. Royster.

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"Can the Black Banjo Speak?”

In this talk, I'll focus on the collaborative work of Rhiannon Giddens and her all-Black female, all banjo supergroup, Our Native Daughters. The title paraphrases Gayatri Spivak’s 1988 essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak”. I call on Spivak here to frame the ways that Giddens and her collaborators seek to reclaim and give voice to African American women’s subjectivity and storytelling through the banjo. I’m interested here in the very question of whether Black women speak their authentic stories through the banjo, and whether it will be heard by audiences they seek to reach, particularly other Black women, given its vexed history. I will explore the powerful resonances of Our Native Daughter’s engagement with Black histories of racial trauma and survival for me and my queer family as we watch the group in concert at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Professor Francesca T. Royster is a Professor of the English at DePaul University in Chicago, and received her PhD from University of California, Berkeley in English Literature in 1995. She is the author of the books Sounding Like a No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Acts in the Post-Soul Era (University of Michigan Press, 2013), and Becoming Cleopatra: The Shifting Image of an Icon (Palgrave MacMillan, 2003). She’s written scholarly work on Shakespeare, Black Lesbian Country music fans, Prince, and Fela Kuti on Broadway among other topics. Her creative work has appeared in the anthologies Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships and Identity and Queer Praxis, as well as in Feminist Studies, Slag Glass City, LA Review of Books, The Huffington Post, The Windy City Times, and Chicago Literati. She is currently completing a memoir on queer family, Fierce Love: A Journey of Black Queer Motherhood (under contract with Abrams Press) and a scholarly /creative book on country music from a Black feminist queer lens, Can’t Nobody Tell Me Nothing: The Sonic Insurgencies of Black Country (Forthcoming, University of Texas Press)/ She’s lives in Chicago with her partner Annie, her daughter Cecelia and two pups.

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