Conventions: The (Un)Making of Black Meanings” is a series of events that explore meaning through the prisms of visual, aural, physical, textual, and digital expressions. Funded in large part by the Humanities Center at Syracuse University, the series comprises four interrelated components: two free public lectures, delivered remotely, in the Fall and Spring, respectively; a mini-seminar, conducted remotely, in the Spring; curricular integrations of key texts and methods in undergraduate writing courses and graduate seminars; and the presentation of No Words, a virtual exhibition. The Syracuse Symposium theme, “Conventions,” encourages us to come together—to convene—as we make space for multiple audiences to see, engage with, and reflect on the depth, beauty, and complexity of Black Meanings.


a lecture by Christina Sharpe

“Ordinary Notes: On the (Un)Making of Black Meanings” will be a lecture delivered by Professor Christina Sharpe, one of the foremost voices on contemporary Black Thought in the Humanities. Delivered virtually, this critical “(un)making” will trouble received notions of Black presence, and insist that our myriad meanings and methods reflect inherently human endeavors. Reading the inherent multimodality of The No Words Essay and its larger Project through the lens of her highly anticipated book, Ordinary Notes, Sharpe will engage “the note” as a multivalent register to address questions of worldmaking and worldbreaking that are at the center of convention. In doing so, she will not only heed the ethical call to become undisciplined and to inhabit “unconvention” in the face of Black plasticity in an antiblack world but will invite others to do so, as well.

Christina Sharpe is a Writer, Professor, and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Christina Sharpe, PhD


a lecture by Marsha Pearce

In this curatorial lecture on The No Words Project, Dr. Marsha Pearce will advance spatial interpretation as a language that can articulate the tense “un/survival” of Blackness in our present moment. Through the African-derived, Caribbean expression of Limbo—a dance traditionally performed during wake ceremonies, in which family and friends convene in honor of the dead—Pearce sees a vocabulary for mediating curatorial practice, the art exhibition space, and Black existence. As part of her reflection and analysis, she will embrace digitality as an unconventional space for Black Life as freedom—and as future.

Presented by Marsha Pearce, PhD, Lecturer and Coordinator of the Visual Arts Programme, Department of Creative and Festival Arts, The University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Marsha Pearce, PhD


a workshop

Hosted by the Department of Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition at Syracuse University, this mini-seminar convenes a praxis of self-making, visual utterance, and spatial articulation. It will serve as a practical complement to the preceding lectures, the virtual exhibition, and the original “No Words” essay as participants consider their existence in a complex world. Dr. Pearce will facilitate a series of moments that move through critical analyses of the spatial rhetoric of here and now, the mechanics of self-expression when words will not suffice, and the disruption of silences through a multimodal curation of form.

Presented by Marsha Pearce, PhD, Lecturer and Coordinator of the Visual Arts Programme, Department of Creative and Festival Arts, The University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022
5:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Art History, the Department of Literatures, Languages, and Linguistics, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies.

Every exhalation is an insistence on life and an invocation of the dead.
Breathe past the constriction. Push….

“No Words,” by Kevin Adonis Browne, Brick 106

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