Humanities Institute: Resident Lecture Series – Abigail E. Celis

Humanities Institute: Resident Lecture Series – Abigail E. Celis

Abigail E. Celis, Marian Trygve Freed Early Career Professor in French and Francophone Studies, Assistant Professor in African Studies

"Bringing Home the Body: Mame-Diarra Niang’s Ethérée" 

Dakar, 2014. In a backyard garden, artist Mame-Diarra Niang digs a grave and sits beside it for an afternoon, folding paper maps of an imagined sanctuary. Niang orchestrated this performance, called Ethérée, in response to a hate crime: the disinterment of a queer Senegalese man’s corpse from a local cemetery. Niang’s performance offers an imagined space of belonging for those who, like the young man and like herself, might be denied the final resting place of the earth’s embrace because they are considered less than fully human. This talk will analyze Ethérée to lift out the different threads that Niang weaves together, showing how the queer homecoming the performance enacts is entwined with colonial histories of segregating and categorizing bodies. The performance’s quiet labor of mourning, I ultimately argue, seeks to repair not only the pain of alienation, but recalibrate the biocentric and anthropocentric vision of ‘the human’ that animated colonial strategies of domination.

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