Black Arts, Black Muslims: Race, Religion, and Culture

Speaker: Ellen McLarney, Ph.D., Duke University

Recent, cutting edge scholarship on Black Power and its “spiritual sister” the Black Arts Movement chronicles an important era in the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the United States. This literature, however, does not fully account for the catalytic role played by Islamic mobilization, Islamic movements, and Islamic arts in what is now known as the “civil rights era.” Islamic commitments are equated with a retrograde and reactionary black nationalism systematically understood as violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic—in short, as produced by the context they were trying to resist. A number of poets, writers, artists, musicians, and activists converted in the 1960s and 1970s bearing eloquent witness to deeper reasons for their identification with Islam, testimonies woven into an extensive body of poetry, drama, autobiographies, essays, music, and art. Black Arts, Black Muslims charts the development of an Islamically inflected arts, music, and poetics that gave expression to a black cultural sensibility, creating solidarity in a community under siege.

Ellen McLarney is the current director of Duke’s Center for Middle East Studies and the interim director for Duke’s Islamic Studies Center. Ellen’s book Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening was in 2015 published by Princeton University Press in their Muslim Politics series. An associate professor of Arabic Literature and Culture in the Department of Asian and Middle East Studies, Ellen has published in journals like Social Text, Camera Obscura, boundary2, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. A Humanities fellow at Stanford in their Department of Religious Studies and a Hurford Family Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she has also received two Fulbright awards and a number of other grants. She has a secondary appointment in Gender, Feminism, and Sexuality Studies and is co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center, the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke Middle East Studies Center. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd. parking decks. The series provides 1-hour parking vouchers to guests.