University of Paris Diderot, amphitheater Buffon
Sciences Po Paris (TBC)
University of Chicago Center in Paris.
In mid-November 2017, the University of Chicago, in partnership with the University Paris Diderot and the University Paris Sorbonne, will organize in Paris a three day colloquium entitled « The Black Metropolis, between Past and Future: Race, Urban Planning and Afro-American Culture in Chicago ». This title refers to St Clair Drake and Horace Cayton’s ground breaking study published in 1945, Black Metropolis. A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City.
The colloquium will celebrate the centenary of the “Great Migration” and explore the social and cultural life of Chicago South Side and West Side from the end of the Thirties—marked by the cultural zenith of Bronzeville neighborhood and a series of measures for the Black community inspired by the New Deal—to the present, characterized by numerous private and public initiatives in favor of an urban renewal (Rebuild Foundation; The Arts Incubator; the renaissance of the South Side Art Community Center; the future opening of the Barack Obama Presidential Center, etc).
Since the beginning of the 20th Century, and more specifically, after the « Great Migration » with its peak in 1917, Chicago has been considered the « Black Metropolis » of the United States of America. The South Side and later the West Side, are the two emblematic Afro-American neighborhoods of the capital of the Middle West. With these neighborhoods are always associated the negative images of the « Black Ghetto »: the setting and perpetuation of urban racial segregation; precarious living conditions, especially in terms of housing and jobs; violence resulting from the illegal economy controlled by the gangs… However, if the representation of the South Side and the West Side of Chicago was limited to this depiction of the socio-economic and political difficulties of the Afro-American community, the portrait would not be complete. As a matter of fact, the « Black Metropolis » also distinguishes itself and since its origin, by an intense intellectual and artistic life. Chicago, with New York, contributed more than any other American city to the rise and influence of Afro-American culture in the United States and its spreading to the rest of the world.
The international and interdisciplinary colloquium « The Black Metropolis, between Past and Future: Race, Urban Planning and Afro-American Culture in Chicago » would like to be a reevaluation of the contribution of the South Side and the West side to the definition and the evolution of the Afro-American identity since the beginning of the 20th Century until contemporary times. The three day colloquium will be organized around four main topics: street; housing; the social-political world and its cultural expressions; real and virtual community places (churches, clubs, cultural centers, social medias).
For each of these main topics, the purpose of the colloquium will be twofold: to provide an assessment of the most recent scholarly works on the South Side and the West Side inscribed in the long tradition of the University of Chicago School of Sociology; and to open the study of the Afro-American community in Chicago to new fields of inquiry by encouraging, in a interdisciplinary mode, the dialogue between American and French scholars, doctoral students and experienced researchers.
We expect that this interdisciplinary approach applied to the four topics previously mentioned (street, housing, the socio-political world and its expressions, real and virtual community places) will bring new light or, at least, contribute to bring new light on some of the following questions: Is there a permanence, evolution or gradual disappearance of the racial segregation in Chicago and in the United States in general? Does the access to elite or political positions, such as the Mayor of Chicago or the President of the United States, which in the past were forbidden to Afro-Americans, modify the image and the situation of the Afro-American community in the US? Why does violence reappear recurrently in South Side and West Side neighborhoods? How did Afro-American Art participate and continue to participate in the definition and the making of the Afro-American identity through time? Does this Art constitute the foundations of an identity for the Afro-American community both on a local and a national level? What kind of links does Afro-American Art maintain, implicitly or explicitly, with African culture, the culture of the South of the United States, other minorities’ cultures in the United States, main stream American culture and the European artistic traditions? What role did the concepts of “color line” and “double consciousness”, formulated by W. E. B. Du Bois, play in the Afro-American artistic production in Chicago? To which audience is Afro-American Art directed? How can we understand its success (especially when we think about Blues and Jazz) beyond the Afro-American community? These are some of the questions that will be addressed during the colloquium.
The purpose of this colloquium will be to participate in the ongoing reflection on the South Side and the West Side by trying to better understand how each of their dimensions (racial, spatial, socio-political and artistic) contribute to the definition of Chicago as the « Black Metropolis » and, more broadly, of an African-American cultural identity in the United States. In this perspective, the colloquium would like to be a reevaluation of The Chicago Renaissance versus The Harlem Renaissance.
The three-day colloquium will take place at the University of Paris Diderot in the amphitheater Buffon (120 seats), 15 rue Hélène Briand in the 13th arrondissement, Sciences Po Paris (TBC) and at the University of Chicago Center in Paris.
We expect an audience of students and faculty in American History and Visual Arts as well as the general public of the several exhibitions and events on the South Side which will be taking place concurrently in Paris.
The colloquium will indeed be part of a larger manifestation entitled « Chicago, the Black Metropolis » involving French and American cultural institutions.
Among the institutions which have already been contacted are:
Le Théâtre de la Ville (TBC): special performance by Mike Reed & guests.
Fondation des Etats-Unis at the Cité Internationale (TBC): screening of three documentaries on Black Chicago (Maxwell Street by Marvin Newman and Yasuhiro Ishimoto; We All We Got by Carlos Javier Ortiz and Shadowgram by Augusto Cotento).
Les Douches La Gallerie in collaboration with Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York) and Stephen Daiter Gallery (Chicago): Photo exhibition “Black Chicago” with photographs by Tom Arndt, Marvin Newman, Wayne Miller, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Carlos Javier Ortiz and vintage photographs from the South Side Studios (Private Collections).
The University of Paris Diderot Library: an exhibition entitled « Chicago, the Black Metropolis, from the past to the future » featuring maps, books, photographs on the South Side and the West Side of Chicago.
The following institutions have been or will be contacted in order to support the project “Chicago, the Black Metropolis”: Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, le Consulat de France à Chicago, Terra Foundation for American Art (Paris and Chicago), The Black Metropolis Research Consortium, The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Center in Paris, Université Paris Diderot, Université Paris Sorbonne, Institut des Amériques, The Embassy of the United States of America in France, la Fondation des Etats-Unis, le Comité Paris-Chicago.