In this session of the Archival Encounters lecture series, Professor Hazel Carby reads a recently published piece entitled “The National Archives”, related to her award-winning book Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands (2019). The reading is followed by a dialogue with Professor Katherine McKittrick about Hazel Carby’s storytelling, her practice of reading across archives (between the UK, Jamaica, the Caribbean, Canada), and the interweaving of the intimate and the public across the British Empire. 

Hazel Carby’s essay can be read in a special issue of InVisible Culture dedicated to “Black Studies Now and the Countercurrents of Hazel Carby”:

Hazel V. Carby is the Charles C. and Dorothea S. Dilley Professor Emeritus of African American Studies and Professor Emeritus of American Studies and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. She is the author of Imperial Intimacies, A Tale of Two Islands (Verso) which was selected as one of the “Books of the Year for 2019,” the Times Literary Supplement. Imperial Intimacies is a history of British empire, told through one woman’s search through generations of family stories. It moves between Jamaican plantations, the countryside of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London. It is an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. It charts the British empire’s interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling. Hazel Carby is the author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America (1999); Race Men (1998) and Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (1987). Hazel Carby is also a co-author of The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain (1982). In 2019 Hazel Carby was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Wesleyan University and the Stuart Hall Outstanding Mentor Award from the Caribbean Philosophical Association. In 2016 she received the Jay B. Hubbell Medal for lifetime achievement in American Literature, awarded by the Modern Language Association.

Katherine McKittrick is Professor of Gender Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Demonic Grounds and editor of Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Her research is interdisciplinary and attends to the links between theories of liberation, black studies, and cultural production. Her monograph, Dear Science and Other Stories (Duke University Press, 2021), is an exploration of black methodologies. She is currently working on two projects: the first, unnamed, attends to questions of extraction in relation to black studies, the physical geographies of the black Atlantic, and black cultural production; the second, Pastel Blue, studies colour, colour theory, image-making, and black creative text. Her research program also attends to the writings of Sylvia Wynter. She co-edits the Duke University Press book series Errantries with Simone Browne and Deb Cowen.