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'Feeling the Black Fantastic'

Symposium to remember renowned scholar and his work on black politics and popular culture

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Leading scholars in African-American studies, history, political science, political theory, and gender and sexuality from Canada, the Caribbean, and the US will gather this weekend (May 16-17) to remember the work of Richard Iton, known nationally for his insights on the ways black popular culture forged community and affected politics.

Iton, a professor of African American studies at Northwestern University, died in April 2013 after an 11-year battle with leukemia. Iton was a political thinker, one who was animated by questions of the black left as well as many aspects of progressive politics, especially black popular culture.  And while only 51 years old at the time of his death, Iton had distinguished himself as a leading critic in the areas of postcoloniality, diaspora, black politics and black musical forms of what his colleague Barnor Hesse has termed his "blues archive."

The event, titled “Feeling the Black Fantastic,” will be held at the Hilton Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington Avenue in Evanston, and is open to the public.

“In addition to this being something of a memorial, this major symposium brings to campus leading international scholars working on black politics and popular culture to engage professor Iton's body of work,” said Sherwin K. Bryant, associate professor of African American studies and director of Northwestern’s Center for African American History.

Events begin at 2 p.m., Friday, May 16 with opening remarks by Dwight McBride, dean of The Graduate School, Sarah Manglesdorf, dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Martha Biondi, professor and chair of the department of African American studies. Bryant will serve as the opening event’s master of ceremonies.

Topics to be covered by a variety of panels and roundtables include:

  • Black popular culture
  • Black leftism
  • Intersectionality and coloniality
  • Race and public policy

“These themes represent the range of areas where Richard distinguished himself as a leading voice,” Bryant said.

For more information and to RSVP, visit the Center for African American History’s website.