Mack Lecture: Frank Wilderson, Arthur Jafa, and Saidiya Hartman in Conversation
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Mack Lecture: Frank Wilderson, Arthur Jafa, and Saidiya Hartman in Conversation

left to right: Frank Wilderson, photo: John L. Blom; Arthur Jafa, courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; Saidiya Hartman, courtesy Blue Flower Arts.

Frank B. Wilderson III is professor and chair of African American Studies and a core faculty member of the Culture & Theory PhD program at UC Irvine. An award-winning writer, Wilderson’s books include Afropessimism, Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid, and Red, White, & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms. He spent five and a half years in South Africa, where he was one of two Americans to hold elected office in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He also was a cadre in the underground. His literary awards include the American Book Award, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Creative Nonfiction, the Maya Angelou Award for Best Fiction Portraying the Black Experience in America, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. Wilderson was educated at Dartmouth College (AB Government and Philosophy), Columbia University (MFA/Fiction Writing), and UC Berkeley (PhD/Rhetoric).

Arthur Jafa is an artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer. Across three decades, Jafa has developed a dynamic practice comprising films, artefacts, and happenings that reference and question the universal and specific articulations of Black being. Underscoring the many facets of Jafa’s practice is a recurring question: how can visual media, such as objects, static and moving images, transmit the equivalent “power, beauty, and alienation” embedded within forms of Black music in US culture. Jafa has recent and forthcoming solo exhibitions of his work at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives, Galerie Rudolfinum (Prague), Moderna Museet (Stockholm); and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark). In 2019, he received the Golden Lion for the Best Participant of the 58th Venice Biennale exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times.

Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. A MacArthur Genius Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. She has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, the New Yorker and the Paris Review. She is a professor at Columbia University and lives in New York.

Since its inception, the Walker has hosted talks by artists, writers, and other great thinkers whose insights and ideas have informed our world. The Mack Lecture series explores our culture and contemporary moment through inspiring conversations and lectures aimed to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the great thought leaders of our time. This series will be hosted twice per academic semester.

  • The Mack Lecture series is made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.