Where and how will we build safe spaces for ourselves? Can we cultivate shelter for one another in this era in which we are hyperaware of chronic racial surveillance, the casual acceptance of misogyny, and quotidian micro-aggressions? And how might we jealously hold onto and rediscover the glory in our own bodies when those bodies are sites of perpetual precarity and intensely spectacular vulnerability? These are just some of the questions that Solange both poses and seeks to answer on her breakthrough masterpiece of an album, 2016’s A Seat At the Table. This lecture explores the politics and poetics of spatiality that Solange designs in both her stirring sonic universe and her luminous accompanying visual repertoire. It considers the myriad ways in which Black feminist theories of space and place figure prominently in her twenty-first century Black freedom struggle project, and it interrogates the radial ways that this brilliant artist stages scenes of dazzling Black privacy in the midst of a fraught and perilous public sphere.
Daphne A. Brooks is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Music at Yale University. She is the author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2006), winner of The Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship on African American Performance from ASTR; Jeff Buckley’s Grace (New York: Continuum, 2005) and Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound (Harvard University, February 2021).
Brooks has authored numerous articles on race, gender, performance and popular music culture, such as “Sister, Can You Line It Out?: Zora Neale Hurston & the Sound of Angular Black Womanhood” in Amerikastudien/American Studies, “‘Puzzling the Intervals’: Blind Tom and the Poetics of the Sonic Slave Narrative” in The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative, “Nina Simone’s Triple Play” in Callaloo and “‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’: Surrogation & Black Female Soul Singing in the Age of Catastrophe” in Meridians. She is also the author of the liner notes for The Complete Tammi Terrell (Universal A&R, 2010) and Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia (Sony, 2011), each of which has won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for outstanding music writing, and her liner notes essay for Prince’s Sign O’ The Times deluxe box set was published in fall of 2020. She is the editor of The Great Escapes: The Narratives of William Wells Brown, Henry Box Brown, and William Craft (New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2007) and The Performing Arts volume of The Black Experience in the Western Hemisphere Series, eds. Howard Dodson and Colin Palmer (New York: Pro-Quest Information & Learning, 2006). From 2016-2018, she served as the co-editor of the 33 1/3 Sound: Short Books About Albums series published by Bloomsbury Press. She is the co-founder and co-director of Yale University’s Black Sound & the Archive Working Group, a 320 York Humanities Initiative. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Guardian, Pitchfork, and other press outlets.
Brooks is currently editing an anthology of essays forthcoming from Duke University Press and culled from Blackstar Rising & The Purple Reign: Celebrating the Legacies of David Bowie and Prince, an international 3-day conference and concert which she curated.