On Friday 30 November 2018, former Crown Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal OBE chaired Performing Race at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.
In response to to the ideas of W.E.B. Du Bois of race as a social construction, Performing Race brought together sociologists and artists with expertise in racial discourses to discuss race and its social positioning from different perspectives. Comprising academics and intellectuals who represent racial counter-narratives, the event explored the concept of race as a social performance.
The event’s Chair, Nazir Afzal OBE, has been described as ‘the authentic voice of British justice’ by the New York Times. He was Chief Crown Prosecutor for NW England and formerly Director in London. Most recently, he was Chief Executive of the Police and Crime Commissioners. During a 24 year career, he has prosecuted some of the most high profile cases in the country and advised on many others and led nationally on several legal topics, including violence against women and girls, child sexual abuse, and honour based violence.
Speakers, including Professor Kehinde Andrews, Dr Christine Checinska, Dr Shona Hunter, Dr Karamat Iqbal and Dr Michael McMillan were invited to give twenty minute papers outlining their unique perspectives and areas of research ranging from Performing Race as an Immigrant to Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century. Following these presentations, Nazir Afzal OBE chaired an open panel discussion and audience q & a surrounding the themes discussed.
Performing Race was curated and organised by Dr J Shah, Central’s Programme Leader for Learning Skills and Lecturer of Screen Studies on the School’s MA Acting for Screen course. Author of Informal Learning in a Digital Landscape and Decolonising the Creative Arts Curriculum in White Spaces, Dr Shah’s work is interdisciplinary and aligns with the visual arts, sociology, policy and education fields.
Of Performing Race, Dr Shah said:
“My journey in to academia and subsequently this event is motivated by my own diasporic journey of negotiating a British identity against a landscape of melanin and Empire. Tonight, Performing Race was about bringing together the counter narratives that consider the nuances of race. A platform through which intellectuals specializing in different aspects of race could share and discuss their research, findings, and autoethnographies and to enable a space where these ideas could come together outside of the framings we often encounter as mass audiences, that perpetuate a hegemonic, domineering, and reductionist racial discourse.
In a landscape where academics of colour are lacking in voice and agency, I am grateful to Central’s Deanery, colleagues, and students for their support in helping me realise this event. Watch this space for more, the conversation has only just started!”
Images: Patrick Baldwin and Roly