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Extensions of and beyond the concept of blackness - Part I

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Institute in Paris

As part of the Banister Fletcher Global Fellowship, join the Institute in Paris and delve into Professor AbdouMaliq Simone's project, 'Urban Life at the Extensions'. Over 5 days of dialogue in Paris, this programme brings together scholars, activists and urbanists to draw from their respective domains and locations. 

About this event

Extensions has proven to be a significant concept in black studies, reflecting the exigency and capacity of black operations to circumvent the constrictions exerted on “normative” social transactions and the building of discernible forms of collective life. Extensions are descriptive of practices and architectures of acting with non-human entities and diverse landscapes. The ways in which the prolongation of life - which anti-blackness acts to foreclose - gives way to an accentuation of “life’s priorities”- its wayward, open-ended trajectories and dispositions. Blackness here extends itself across uncertainties, founds its solidarities in both visible struggle and more indiscernible ways of being together, dependent on tacit recognitions and coordination.

Given the ways in which black populations are situated in conditions largely shaped through both enduring and shifting notions of what blackness means, and that how the nature and scope of specific social conditions impacts upon black existence has much to do with the blackness of the persons effected, what would be both the most empirically salient and political judicious terms through which to assess black well-being

This is not just a conceptual exercise, but also a matter of methodological importance in terms of what researchers, activists and policymakers actually pay attention to in terms of building an empirical repertoire. It necessitates looking at a familiar behaviours and practices through new lenses as well as developing modes of engagement with black realities which enable the visibility of heretofore unrecognised domains of practice. First and foremost, it entails amplifying the voices and analyses of black people themselves in terms of their own regard, and recognising the concomitant conundrums entailed in a politics of representation—where important reservoirs of black capacity are held in reserve—away from general scrutiny as a self-protective measure. As such, consideration of black well-being concern not only questions of empirical validity and translatability into policy, but also is a matter of how particular kinds of persons are able to exist in a world where no matter how life is performed it may be immediately disqualified or considered of lesser value simply because of who that person is as a matter of race. 

Across Europe and the Americas a range of what might be considered black spaces are being intensely scrutinised and altered under the auspices of being “closed”, overly “communitarian” or problematic spaces given their enclosures within what are deemed self-perpetuating circuits of dysfunction that resist more virtuous integration with the larger society. A social distancing from the larger social context is thus considered the responsibility of inhabitants themselves, which having been relegated to certain margins of the built environment (or built environments whose design now connotes social implosion instead of self-sufficiency).  

Many social housing estates have been and are being dismantled or operated like places of incarceration, their residents distributed to either more peripheral urban locations or reassessed, through a process known as decanting, for their eligibility to occupy new housing developed in situ or elsewhere. It is not simply that physical structures are dismantled but also local institutions, social networks, and long-honed social infrastructures of care. In situations of displacement and resettlement, what kinds of continuities have been attained in terms of social reproduction practices; how are important linkages and distributions of care retained or translated into new forms; how can relations based on physical proximity be converted into more distributed networks of support; what are the important processes of assigning value to particular practices and persons? 

Within processes of decanting, which seek to apply judgments to specific black populations and households as to their relative availability to viable social reproduction, in what ways are black residents reaffirming particular values and practices of collective life aimed at mitigating these exertions of fragmentation?


Followed by Open Studios: Art practices and their urban extensions
Moderators: Asha Best and Rupali Gupte
Cité internationale des arts, 18 Rue de l'Hôtel de ville at 19.00

About the Series

In the context of the Univeristy of London Institute in Paris's Banister Fletcher Global Fellowship, this event is part of Professor AbdouMaliq Simone's research project entitled 'Urban Life at the Extensions', a 5-day series of dialogue in Paris. Centred around five working themes, this programme brings together scholars, activists and urbanists to draw from their respective domains and locations.

Brown wall with triangle roof buildings and barbed wire
Photo credit: Marion Poussier, 2023