5 Questions: Dr. Simone Browne, Associate Professor, African and African Diaspora Studies

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Today we share with you an interview with Dr. Simone Browne, Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies department and affiliate faculty member of the American Studies department. Dr. Browne and American Studies senior Rebecca Bielamowicz discussed teaching in the public school system, black feminist thought, the politics of creative expression, and her new book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2015). And, you’re in luck: the conversation was so engaging that we expanded it beyond our usual five questions. Read on for a fascinating discussion!

 

What is your scholarly background and how does it motivate your teaching and research?

Oh that’s a good question – nice – and I like that you put teaching first because that’s so important to me. So my scholarly background, I grew up in Toronto and I went to school at the University of Toronto for undergrad, master’s degree, and PhD. In between that I got a teaching degree, and so I actually have background teaching kindergarten and the second grade as well, too. And so one of the things that was important in my graduate studies was that in the program that – so I’m a sociologist, but the program that I was in was sociology and equity studies, and so it wasn’t like an add on, it was something that was really important to the department’s political project, and I think that comes in to how I think about how we can see the world sociologically, it’s also about equity as well, so I think that kind of influences my teaching.

After I did the teaching degree, I wanted to go into a master’s in education in the field of education. I was interested in pursuing those issues around social justice and equity in the public school system and so – but when I went there, sometimes you get a little sidetracked with some things, and I was kind of interested in those same things but as well as a cultural studies approach to looking at sociology and so that’s how I ended up in more of the, I guess more of the academic track as opposed to public schooling.

How was teaching the younger kids?

It’s hard. That was the hardest job I’ve ever had. A different type of hard because you’re on every day, there’s so much prep work to do, of course there are always, and I’m sure it’s changed a lot now where it’s been ramped up, but there’s always these metrics and benchmarks and testing and everything that you have to do. There’s oftentimes that you have to create spaces for them to learn through play or other things, and so it was tough, I’ll tell you that. My mother was a teacher, so I have a great – she was actually teaching at the same school as me for one time – but it was a great appreciation for the labor that they do. It’s no joke. They are really putting it in and they’re often not given the respect they deserve and the schools are not given the money they need. It is the toughest job but so important. And they’re great – to see the students, some of them are finished with university now, you know, that was such a long time ago.

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Announcement: INGZ Gallery Show “In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes”

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On Thursday in GWB 2.204 beginning at 5:00 PM and running until 6:30 PM, there will be a gallery talk and reception for In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes, a show curated by Rebecca Giordano on behalf of the INGZ curatorial collective, of which our own Natalie Zelt is a member. Featuring “selections from four comic series by the first African American woman cartoonist, Jackie Ormes,” the show tracks the cartoonist’s career “beginning in 1937 in the Pittsburgh Courier,” and displays a selection of her “irreverent and witty comics tackling major cultural events in newspaper comics that centralized the experience of African American women. From the House of Unamerican Activities to segregated train cars that enabled the Great Migration, Ormes’ vivacious and intellectual characters countered pervasive stereotypes with images of stylish, self-driven, and savvy women of color.” We spoke to Giordano about the thoughtful and exciting show earlier this week, and will run that interview in the next few days.

Announcement: Fall Soiree highlights faculty and graduate research

"Acer japonicum Vitifolium JPG1fu" by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Acer_japonicum_Vitifolium_JPG1fu.jpg#/media/File:Acer_japonicum_Vitifolium_JPG1fu.jpg

“Acer japonicum Vitifolium JPG1fu” by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The department is launching a few new events this fall that we hope you’ll join us for! The first is a Fall Soiree: today, on the fourth floor of Burdine from 4:00 – 6:30pm, Dr. Shirley Thompson and Ph.D. candidate Elissa Underwood will be giving short talks about their research, followed by discussion and food and drinks.

Shirley Thompson: #BlackLivesMatter and My Year of Economic Thinking

During this past year, as a widespread, coordinated resistance to anti-Black state violence crystallized in various US locales and on social media, I was able to embark on a systematic study of economic theory and methods for my project on Black Americans and the problem of property and ownership. I will discuss the implications for my work of both this formal study and a newly invigorated insistence on the value of black life.

Elissa Underwood:  Pop-Up Prison Kitchens: A Food-Based Challenge to the Prison Industrial Complex

I will be discussing non-traditional prison cookery and exploring its role as a counter-narrative to the personal and structural misery experienced by incarcerated individuals.

Should be a great conversation!