Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies | College of Liberal Arts
skip to content The University of Texas at Austin

Archiving Black América

College of Liberal Arts

Aline Motta, still from Pontes sobre Abismos (2017).

Brazilian artist Aline Motta’s video installation Pontes sobre Abismos (2017), responds to frustrated attempts to reconstruct Black family histories using documentation. Motta’s work engages in imaginative archival practices, in which she supplements fragmented documents with memory, orality and the body to construct precarious bridges over the silences of Black trans-continental histories. Spurred on by a long-kept family secret of gendered violation, Motta explores this family origin story as a proposed site of Black archival creation and a different kind of foundation of knowledge. Her work recognizes the distortions of Black women’s lives and bodies that are inherent in the archive which splinters them apart. Their bodies and flesh become inscribed with the violence of slavery and its afterlives so that they emerge via what Marisa Fuentes calls a mutilated historicity (2016).

Archiving Black América (ABA) functions as a hub for critical conversations on how to acknowledge and redress the violence of the archive. It will foster synergies and collaborations across campus and in the communities that we serve based around documenting Black lives. ABA will amplify and lend support to teaching, research and outreach on our campus related to Afro-Latin America, as well as efforts by the Black Diaspora Archive (BDA) and LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship to record knowledge and systems of meaning that provide a counter to epistemicide.

College of Liberal Arts

Aspinall, Algernon E. (Algernon Edward). The British West Indies : Their History, Resources and Progress / by Algernon E. Aspinall. London: I. Pitman, 1913.

The Archiving Black América project poses the following overarching question: How does our past, present, and future vision of the Americas change when it is imagined by Black cultural producers, activists, and theorists from Latin America and the Caribbean? The project addresses this question by centering Black concepts of time-space (such as ancestrality, or Afro-futurism) as it makes connections across the southern Americas. It contemplates the relationships of power that structure Black diaspora societies and how they might be challenged. The period of time encompassed by the project begins with European colonialism in the Americas and continues to the present-day colonial, in the context of global capitalism and its production of antiblackness. Given these enduring arrangements of racialized power, Archiving Black América seeks to highlight visions for living more justly and the possibilities for Black political thought and activism.

The project prioritizes making space for the “fugitive knowledge” (Avery Gordon, 2008) of those forced to make the Atlantic crossing and the many, ongoing imagined returns. It takes its cue from Aline Motta’s mobile and shifting acts of archiving over land and sea to include memory, the body, and creative work as repositories of often invisibilized Black experience. In order to better understand the hemispheric process of articulating Afro-Atlantic lives, the project borrows from Motta in organizing itself in its initial phase around two productive key themes: water and earth.  These themes will serve as the umbrella for archiving Black struggle, environmental vulnerabilities, restitution, psychic resources, memory work, community building, and knowledge production. The project will depart from the conceptual ground of land and water as a way of reimagining society and rethinking the politics of race, gender, and sexuality.