Speakers / artists
India, United States
The paraterranean: a becoming-black
If we took seriously the assertions that modern civilization wobbles precariously at the edges of a climate disaster, which is in turn comorbid with intensified racial discrimination and the escalation of a politics of the personal, one might suppose that the thing to do then is to look straightforwardly at our problems and attempt solutions. However, what if “looking-straight” is connected to a visual and postural performance that is in part complicit in the perpetuation of these manifold crises we are experiencing? What if “looking-straight” engenders Anthropocenes? What are the limitations of thinking of, say, viruses as external objects, as already-made microbial threats haunting the sanity of human interiors? What is lost when we presuppose that it is our right to be well, that we are boundaried selves navigating relatively stable environments? And, perhaps most critically, what are the limitations of a cautionary planetary tale that thinks of limitations as scandalous things?
In this talk Bayo Akomolafe introduces what he calls the ‘Afrocene’ and, closely associated with it, the paraterranean: an animist, oceanic, black worlding project that sidles the normativity of the public and the domain of gestures, thresholds, and intensities it instantiates. With stories from the Black Atlantic, from the Black outdoors, and from the world of prosthetic bodies, Bayo Akomolafe suggests that we might very well need to become-black in order to address our most critical challenges and become more responsive to them.
Bayo Akomolafe (PhD) was born in 1983 into a Christian home, and to Yoruba parents in western Nigeria. Losing his diplomat father to a sudden heart complication, Bayo became a reclusive teenager, seeking to get to the “heart of the matter” as a response to his painful loss. After meeting with traditional healers as part of his quest to understand trauma, mental wellbeing and healing in new ways, his deep questions and concerns for decolonized landscapes congealed into a life devoted to exploring the nuances of a “magical” world “too promiscuous to fit neatly into our fondest notions of it.”
Now living between India and the United States, Bayo is a father of Alethea Aanya and Kyah Jayden Abayomi. He is married to EJ, his dear life-partner of Indian descent.
In 2014, Dr. Akomolafe was invited to be the Special Envoy of the International Alliance for Localization, a project of Ancient Futures (USA). He left his lecturing position in Covenant University, Nigeria to help build this Alliance. Bayo has been Visiting Professor at Middlebury College, where he taught on his own formulated concepts of ‘transraciality’ and postactivism. He has also taught at Sonoma State University (CA, USA), Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada), and Schumacher College (Totnes, England) – among other universities around the world. He currently lectures at Pacifica Graduate Institute, California and University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. He sits on the Board of many organizations including Science and Non-Duality (US) and Local Futures (Australia). In July 2022, Dr. Akomolafe was appointed the inaugural Global Senior Fellow of University of California’s (Berkeley) Othering and Belonging Institute. He has also been appointed Senior Fellow for The New Institute in Hamburg, Germany.
The convener of the concepts of ‘postactivism’, ‘transraciality’ and ‘ontofugitivity’, Bayo is a widely celebrated international speaker, teacher, public intellectual, essayist and author of two books, These Wilds Beyond our Fences: Letters to My Daughter on Humanity’s Search for Home (North Atlantic Books) and We Will Tell our Own Story: The Lions of Africa Speak. He is also the Visionary Founder of The Emergence Network and host of the online postactivist course, ‘We Will Dance with Mountains’.