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EIHS Lecture: Untopics in History: Air Travel Anthropology

Chandra D. Bhimull, Colby College (Series: Celebrating 30 Years of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History)
Thursday, September 27, 2018
4:00-6:00 PM
1014 Tisch Hall Map
Abstract: Anthropologists and historians fly to work. We fly to the archive. We fly to the field. (At least those of us with documents, time, and money do.) Yet airline travel seldom appears as a topic in the ethnographic pieces we write, though other modes of transport frequently do. In this talk, I explore how this form of flight became an untopic in anthropology. I delve into the works of black surrealists and structural anthropologists from the 1940s and 1950s. Inspired by critical race studies, I think historically about the origins of a claim often heard when discussing airborne ethnographic fieldwork: “I’ve never thought about that.” The aim of the talk is to understand how untopics and unthoughts are made, grapple with their effects, find ways to dismantle them, and envision what does not come next.

Chandra D. Bhimull, an associate professor of anthropology and African American studies at Colby College, is a graduate of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. As an anthrohistorian, she combines archival and ethnographic methods and carries out her fieldwork in the Caribbean, Europe, and the transatlantic skies. Her research has been supported by organizations such as the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, Ford Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Her first book, Empire in the Air: Airline Travel and the African Diaspora (New York University Press, 2017), examines the racial politics of flying. Among her other works are a co-edited volume on transdisciplinarity and creative non-fiction essays about air culture and deportation flights. She is currently writing a book about race, sense, and scale.

Free and open to the public.

Part of the semester-long series celebrating 30 years of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History.

This event is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg. Additional support from the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History.
Building: Tisch Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Anthropology, History
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, Department of History

The Thursday Series is the core of the institute's scholarly program, hosting distinguished guests who examine methodological, analytical, and theoretical issues in the field of history. 

The Friday Series consists mostly of panel-style workshops highlighting U-M graduate students. On occasion, events may include lectures, seminars, or other programs presented by visiting scholars.

The insitute also hosts other historical programming, including lectures, film screenings, author appearances, and similar events aimed at a broader public audience.