by Mariela Méndez, July 9th 2020
A memory can be consuming. A memory can occupy space. A casual conversation about a past experience of an elite institution can fill the space, the space becomes elite, for a select few, how a few are selected; a sense of ownership spills out and over, our space, our diversity, our university, ours. – Sara Ahmed, The Uses of Use
Two scholars whose work has become more and more central to my teaching and scholarship use the image of the table, or tables, to speak to the long and pervasive act of silencing the voices of women of color within academic environments and within scholarly output. In Living a Feminist Life, feminist writer and scholar Sara Ahmed makes a point of showing us how universities “accommodate” certain bodies and not others. Lélia Gonzalez, a Brazilian scholar whose work is foundational for the field of Afro-Brazilian studies—and Afro-Latin American studies more broadly thanks to her coinage of the category/concept amefricanidade—opens her essay “Racismo e sexismo na cultura brasileira” (“Racism and Sexism in Brazilian Culture”), originally published in 1983, with an anecdote/epigraph describing a party organized by white people to celebrate the publication of a book about people of color.