Black German Women, the Matrilineal Diaspora and Audre Lorde
In contemplating historical and socio-political developments within the Black Diaspora in Europe it is pertinent to seek a conceptual frame of analysis that also entails the ideologies, experiences, strivings and accomplishments of Black women across the continent. Any discussion of the concept of Diaspora, and in particular the Black Diaspora, necessitates a clear understanding of the concept of its theoretical meaning and how it can be employed. Jacqueline Nassy Brown (1998: 291) aptly states: “There is no actual space that one could call the African/Black Diaspora”. It is not a geographical location where one can travel to or depart from. It is a space that is imagined and non-tangible. And yet, this ‘imagined’, non- tangible space has been utilised as a point of departure from which processes of identity formation, consciousness-raising and political mobilisation have emerged for Black people across the globe. However, well known theorists and storytellers of the Black Diaspora such as W.E.B Du Bois and Paul Gilroy, both prominent scholars who have made wide-reaching contributions to this field of study, have omitted or, rather overlooked for the most part the gendered aspect of the Black diasporic experience. This presentation explores the theoretical concept of the matrilineal Diaspora (Chinosole 1990) as it applies to African-descended females1 within the German-speaking context. Further, I will engage with it in examining the emergence of Black consciousness, politicised mobilisation and identity formation of Black females. Central to the analysis of the Black diasporic formation in Germany is the presence and work of the late activist, poet, lesbian warrior, mother and scholar Audre Lorde.
I argue that the concept of the matrilineal Diaspora is important to the examination and discussion of the Black Diaspora in Germany in that the crucial developments within this node of the Diaspora were forged, propelled ahead and maintained to a great degree by queer and cis-gendered Black German female activists, who drew tremendous inspiration from the work and legacy of Audre Lorde.
Note: Throughout this presentation my use of the term ‘female’ refers to cis-gender individuals who self-identify as such. For reasons of anthropological precision, I find it necessary to mark cis-gender in order to prevent a misreading and generalisation of my findings as automatically applicable to transgender individuals.
The presentation will be in English with a round of Q&A in both German and English.
Cassandra Ellerbe completed in 2006 a PhD in Comparative Cultural Studies/Anthropology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. She has worked as a researcher in various cross-border EU funded projects, and was appointed by the University of Southampton, U.K. as a Post- Doctoral Research Fellow (2007-2010) for the EU Sixth Framework Project: SeFoNE. “Searching for Neighbours: The Dynamics of Mental and Physical Border in the New Europe”: www.sefone.soton.ac.uk where she researched African diasporic networks in Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Her current research focuses on ethnography, cultural studies, Black European studies, gender, intersectional theory, social justice, migration/refugees and diversity. Cassandra is a certified diversity/social justice and empowerment trainer for People of Color in Germany, board member of Eine Welt der Vielfalt e.V. Berlin (Anti-Defamation League – A World of Difference ®). She was an academic Fellow at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (2013-2014) and network member of the Black Diaspora in Germany Scholars Project funded by the German Research Foundation (2010-2014). Cassandra currently lectures at Bard College Berlin and works on issues related to social justice and diversity: http://www.berlin.bard.edu/ . In addition, she conducts empowerment workshops for Black, migrant and refugee women of color in Europe.