Leading Black Feminist Scholar Hortense Spillers: For the Enslaved, Love Was Unstable

BCRWrace and ethnicityslaveryfeminism Literary critic and black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers—one of the foremost scholars today in African American criticism—delivered a lecture on campus to a packed audience of 275 Barnard community members on February 16. Spillers—whom Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW) director Tina Campt described in her introduction as the “fierce, radical, and uncompromising author of transformational essays”—is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor in the English Department at Vanderbilt University. Her lecture, titled “Shades of Intimacy: Women in the Time of Revolution,” was sponsored by the BCRW.

Hortense SpillersSpillers spoke about the implications for intimacy, touch, and love when one is enslaved and does not possess self-ownership. “If family members can be sold off,” she said, “then feelings of love can be shown to be unstable.” Moreover, “bodies lose their integrity when they can be invaded by coercive power.” Touch for the enslaved—particularly women—was the power to wound and violate. “Sexual abuse and use of women” by masters “was the rule.” Spillers emphatically rejected the concept of love between enslaved women and their masters. When some historians argue that “the white master really loved his black slave, we need to say, ‘What does that mean?’ … Even if there was love, what does it mean when there was no self-ownership?” She added, “There are no conditions I can imagine where it would be okay to be loved by Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.”

Paradoxically, slavery existed during a time of revolution when many around the globe fought for constitutional freedom. Spillers noted that the narrative of revolution elevated the “public” or judicial sphere of men’s rights and masculinity while abolitionists evoked the slave economy as oppositional to “female purity” so that enslaved women’s bodies became “the quintessential image of the peculiar institution.” Enslaved women stood at the border between “public” and “private” revolutions. 

Spillers rose to academic stardom after publishing her 1987 essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” in which she presented a rupturing of the dominant white American “grammar” of race and gender. The essay is included in her 2003 book Black, White, and in Color. Spillers argued that she refused to accept the labeling of the black American family as “illegitimate” or lacking something fundamentally American. Instead, Spillers argued that the normative, white-centered concept of “family” does not take into account slavery and its aftermath. The racialized violence of slavery, Spillers demonstrated, dislodged gender as a site of difference.  This poststructuralist intervention has deeply influenced a generation of scholars delving into issues of race and gender.

Spillers’s lecture was delivered in memory of Helen Pond McIntyre ’48, who had served as president of the Barnard alumnae association and as vice chair of the Board of Trustees. This annual lecture series is a gift of Eleanor Thomas Elliott, trustee emerita, Helen McIntyre’s classmate and friend, and brings to Barnard a scholar who has made an extraordinary contribution to the field of women’s studies.


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Camp for Upper Division: Create, Explore, Excel! Register Now

Upper division campers (current grades 4-7) can choose from a host of half-day programs that will inspire them to find new ways to create, explore, and excel!

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(The) Spot Café

This convenient gem is very popular with staff of the Interchurch Center, Riverside Church, Union Theological Seminary, and Barnard College.

Continental Breakfast: 7:15AM – 10:30AM
Hot Breakfast: 7AM – 10AM
Lunch: 11:30AM – 2PM
Coffee & Snacks: 2PM – 3PM

“We’re happy to help you plan the perfect meeting! Whether it’s for a small breakfast or a large dinner, we can help you plan it every step of the way.”

Camp for Lower Division: Make a Splash!

In June, beginners through third grade campers will celebrate summer, make new friends, and explore new interests! The teachers they know and love will be their guides.

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Earth Club Founders Share Planet-Saving Strategies

The two fourth grade founders of our newly formed Earth Club shared their passion and concerns for global imbalance in Chapel today. Katie Behrmann, upper division science teacher and advisor to the Earth Club, highlighted ways the student body can help.

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Professional Interest Night Brought Alumni Home to Mentor Ambitious I-House Residents

Date: 2/15/2017
Professional Interest Night Brought Alumni Home to Mentor Ambitious I-House Residents

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New York, NY, (February 13, 2017) On Thursday, February 23rd, Faith in America—a monthly series of public discussions presented and hosted by Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York—welcomes Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a lecture and panel discussion titled, Religion & Faith in the Time of Trump.

This compelling and timely program will explore how civil liberties advocates and the broader faith community are aligning their values in opposition to a Trump Administration that seeks to demonize immigrants and refugees, and calls for massive deportations and bans based on religion. Mr. Romero will be joined by a distinguished cross-section of the Union community, including:
Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary
Dr. Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union & Professor of Religion, Columbia University
Dr. Jerusha T. Lamptey, Assistant Professor of Islam and Ministry & Islam, Social Justice & Interreligious Engagement Program Advisor, Union
Wesley Morris, Community Organizer and Master of Divinity Candidate, Union
In December 2015, when then Republican Presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump stated that the United States should close its borders to all Muslims—Protestant clergy, prominent evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—all lambasted him. Thirteen months later, Mr. Trump is President, and his immoral calls to ban Muslims may indeed become law. The terrible fallout from the recent Executive Order banning travelers, immigrants, and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries has been heartbreaking and chaotic—and immediately felt by refugees of all religious backgrounds.
Under the leadership of Mr.


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Everest Pioneer Offers Lessons in Perseverance and Teamwork

One of the nation’s greatest mountaineers—the first American to summit both Mount Everest and K2—visited Gordon Chapel to offer lessons in perseverance, resilience, and teamwork. Dr. Louis Reichardt, the grandfather of one of our second graders, told the story of his team’s historic climb up the east face of Everest in 1983.

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Helping Hands Gather to Serve Refugees

Nearly 100 students and parents representing every grade in the school gathered in the Chapel to prepare gift packages for Syrian refugee families who have recently settled in New Jersey. The effort was part of the school’s “Helping Hands” initiative, which set aside three Saturdays throughout the year for various service efforts.

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Inclement Weather

Tenant Agencies must make independent decisions to open or close their individual agencies.
The Interchurch Center building will remain OPEN!
To learn if The Interchurch Center Administrative Offices are open or closed please Call: 212-870-2200

The post Inclement Weather appeared first on The Interchurch Center.

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"Music at I-House: Then & Now" in the News

Date: 2/7/2017
Check back for updates to this story to stay up to date with what the press is saying about International House’s new concert series “Music at I-House: Then and Now.”

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