Humanities Now Archive

Willie James Jennings , "To Build a Sad Land: Coloniality, Racial Reasoning, and the Imagined Built Environment of Christian Zionism"

At the place where a Christian doctrine of salvation joins nationalism and private property, we meet the workings of Christian Zionism. As a form of political theology, it presents a particular configuration of the body, the building, and design calibrated to enact human participation in divine providence and sovereignty on the ground. It also creates the Jewish and the Palestinian subject, each constituted within a colonial plantation vision of existence. Yet the sad land Christian Zionism creates participates in the logics of territoriality and coloniality that shape the tragedies of our current built environments. Drawing on work from his forthcoming two-volume work on the Christian doctrine of creation, and specifically volume two on race, theology, and the built environment, Dr. Jennings in this lecture explores the challenges of thinking life between territoriality, racial existence, and a religious imagination calibrated through ownership.

Willie James Jennings is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at the Yale Divinity School. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Yale 2010) was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, the largest prize for a theological work in North America. His most recent book examines the problems of theological education within Western education: After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging (Eerdmans, 2020). Jennings is now working on a major monograph provisionally entitled Unfolding the World: Recasting a Christian Doctrine of Creation as well as a finishing a book of poetry entitled The Time of Possession. Writing in the areas of liberation theologies, cultural identities, and anthropology, Jennings has authored more than forty scholarly essays and nearly two dozen reviews, as well as essays on academic administration and blog posts for Religion Dispatches. Jennings is an ordained Baptist minister.

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Method and Decolonizing Praxis in Literary Studies, "A colloquium on vital books in the humanities"

The theoretical underpinnings and praxis of literary studies have come under scrutiny in influential books published in recent years. Focusing on two such books, this event appraises the state of criticism, its value and suppositions, and future directions. Panelists discuss the significance of Jonathan Kramnick’s Criticism and Truth (Chicago 2023), and Decolonizing the English Literary Curriculum (Cambridge 2023), edited by Ato Quayson and Ankhi Mukherjee, while pursuing productive lines of inquiry beyond the texts. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear and engage leading scholars of literary criticism, including Ankhi Mukherjee, Ato Quayson, Debjani Ganguly, Elaine Scarry, Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Joe Cleary, Jonathan Kramnick, and Paul Saint-Amour.


12:15 LUNCH
(for those who RSVP by March 23)

Joe Cleary, Yale University
Debjani Ganguly, University of Virginia
Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Johns Hopkins University
Moderated by Priyasha Mukhopadhyay, Yale University

Ankhi Mukherjee, University of Oxford
Paul Saint-Amour, University of Pennsylvania
Elaine Scarry, Harvard University
Moderated by Anastasia Eccles, Yale University

Jonathan Kramnick, Yale University
Ato Quayson, Stanford University
Ankhi Mukherjee, University of Oxford
Moderated by Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Johns Hopkins University


Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, "Unlearning Together at the Thresholds of Museums"
 Ariella Aïsha Azoulay

Ariella Azoulay engages with the museum as a world-destroying technology and addresses the impossibility of decolonizing colonial museums without decolonizing the world, with a special focus on the destruction of the Jewish Muslim world.

The day before Azoulay’s lecture, she will join us for a screening of her film The World Like a Jewel in the Hand—Unlearning Imperial Plunder II. The screening will take place on Wednesday, March 6, at 4:30 pm, in Alice Cinema (L01). Learn more about the screening here.

Ariella Aïsha Azoulay is Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature at Brown University, as well as a film essayist and curator of archives and exhibitions. She is the author of several books, including The Jewelers of the Ummah (Verso); La résistance des bijoux (Rot-Bo-Krik); Potential History—Unlearning Imperialism (Verso); Civil Imagination: The Political Ontology of Photography (Verso); The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books); and From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947–1950 (Pluto Press). Azoulay is also known for her film essays: The World Like a Jewel in the Hand (2023); Un-documented: Unlearning Imperial Plunder (2019); and Civil Alliances, Palestine, 47–48 (2012). Her exhibition credits include Errata (Fundació Tàpies, 2019; HKW, Berlin, 2020) and The Natural Violence of Rape (Berlin Biennale, 2022).


Mark Anthony Neal, "The Love Languages of Black Fatherhood"
Mark Anthony Neal

Thirty years ago, Gary Chapman posited the idea of the “Five Love Languages” – “Words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch.” When we think of Black men—Black fathers—we rarely think in terms of “love languages,” but rather that of established stereotypes, absence, and shame. In this talk Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal documents how the shifting presentation of men in a patriarchal society has forced Black men to play catch-up each time the goal post of cultural expectations moves. Using historical context, personal reflection and data, Neal argues that American culture does not have enough language to adequately understand or describe Black fatherhood.

Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African & African American Studies at Duke University. He is the author of several books including the recent Black Ephemera: The Crisis and Challenge of the Music Archive (NYU) as well co-editor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, now in its third edition. For the past 13 years, Neal has hosted the Webby-nominated video-podcast Left of Black.

Lady Jaydee and Chigozie Obioma, "Conversation and musical performance"
Lady Jaydee and Chigozie Obioma

The music of Tanzania’s “Queen of Bongo Flava,” Lady Jaydee, has long inspired the literary work of Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma. In this inaugural Humanities Now event, we bring together in conversation the novelist and the singer—Chigozie and Jide—to reflect on the landscape of African music and literature. 


Lady Jaydeeborn Judith Mbibo in Tanzania, is widely known as the “Queen of Bongo Flava”—the East African modern pop genre. Jide, as most of her fans call her, has released nine studio albums, with the latest—Love Sentence—released in 2023. She has won more than thirty local and international awards: multiple Kilimanjaro Tanzania Music Awards (KTMA) for best female artist, an M-Net Award for best female artist of the year, and a BBC Radio Music Award for best song of the year for “Distance.” Lady Jaydee holds the East African record for the fastest-selling album, selling nearly one million copies within a few days of the album’s release. She has performed in Tanzania, across Africa, and around the world, including at Nelson Mandela’s ninetieth birthday in 2008. Currently, she stars as a coach on the inaugural season of The Voice Africa, a Pan-African edition of the reality TV singing competition.

Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His two novels, The Fishermen (2015) and An Orchestra of Minorities (2019), were shortlisted for the Booker Prize and have been translated into thirty languages. He has received the 2016 L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction, the prestigious Internationaler Literaturpreis, the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer prize for fiction, an NAACP Image Award and has been nominated for two dozen prizes for fiction. He is the James E. Ryan Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the program director of the Oxbelly Writers Retreat. He is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University. His third novel, The Road to the Country, will be published in June 2024.

Sponsored by Council on African Studies, Whitney Humanities Center, and Yale Schwarzman Center