Roderick Ferguson: “On the Subject of Roots: The Ancestor as Institutional Foundation”

On Tuesday, October 20th at 5:00pm, special online guest Roderick Ferguson presented the lecture “On the Subject of Roots: The Ancestor as Institutional Foundation” as a Zoom webinar.

(Due to technical difficulties with sound, some of Professor Mosley’s remarks were not clear. Click here to read his response.)

The occasion for Professor Ferguson’s visit was the broad effort across Wake Forest to investigate and publish its historical entanglement with enslavement, white supremacy, and structural racism, and the equally valiant effort among faculty and students to reflect on, revise, and even implement new forms of study to meet our moment.

Many on this campus are seeking a new horizon of scholarly inquiry into the histories, artistic legacies, and ongoing cultural practices of people whose lives have been framed as “other” to a prevailing account of “the human” at the heart of the humanities. This includes the practical work of curricular reform and program-building of course, but there is also the enduring critical project of reflecting on the very form of our work—our modes of study, our objects of study, and what counts as knowledge—necessary for charting new pathways of research and teaching for our faculty and students. It is right that many of us are reacting to current events with focused teaching and research, and it is equally important that we relay the present state of emergency into a condition for emergence, or the development of new or previously unsanctioned forms of study. Professor Ferguson’s talk and the faculty panel discussion are intended to facilitate this endeavor.

Professor Ferguson discussed how interdisciplinary fields, including Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies, are constituted by their negotiation with political power beyond the university and institutional power within it. As part of his talk, Professor Ferguson will address Wake Forest’s present endeavors to research and document its racist past, including student and faculty activism, and he will speak to our present efforts to establish programs and centers of study on race and African American Studies. A panel of Wake Forest faculty — Kristina Gupta, Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; William Mosley, Mellon Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Humanities; and Corey D.B. Walker, Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities — reflected on and responded to Professor Ferguson’s talk immediately after he concluded.

Roderick Ferguson is professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of One-Dimensional Queer (Polity, 2019), We Demand: The University and Student Protests (University of California, 2017), The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference (University of Minnesota, 2012), and Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (University of Minnesota, 2004). He is the co-editor with Grace Hong of the anthology Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization (Duke University, 2011). He is also co-editor with Erica Edwards and Jeffrey Ogbar of Keywords of African American Studies (NYU, 2018). He is currently working on two monographs — The Arts of Black Studies and The Bookshop of Black Queer Diaspora.

Ferguson’s teaching interests include the politics of culture, women of color feminism, the study of race, critical university studies, queer social movements, and social theory.