Austin Clarke, Black Studies and Black Diasporic Memory

Conference Call for Papers

Austin Clarke, Black Studies and Black Diasporic Memory
26-27 September 2024
Toronto, Canada

Abstracts due: 15 July 2024
Notification of decisions: by 15 August 2024

Co-organizers: Ronald Cummings (McMaster University), Darcy Ballantyne (Toronto Metropolitan University),

Keynote Speaker: Rinaldo Walcott, Professor and Chair in Africana and American Studies, University at Buffalo

Between 1968 and 1974, Austin Clarke was a visiting professor at a number of US universities, including Yale, Duke and University of Texas, Austin. In a letter from his compatriot and fellow writer Andrew Salkey (dated 8. 4. 1969), on the occasion of his appointment at Yale, Salkey commended Clarke stating that:

First of all, I must congratulate you on your Visiting Professorship at Yale, ol’ man: nice piece o’ work that…I am very proud Austin, boy, and I know that, at last, some serious work will be done…the sort o’ work that not a soul thinking o’ doing, either in the West Indies or over here so [in England]. I congratulate you, again, Brother and I know that things going look different at Yale after you done with them.

During these years in the US, Clarke helped in setting up Black Studies programs at Yale and also Harvard. However, despite Salkey’s enthusiasm about the significance of Clarke’s presence in the US academy at the time, the memory of Clarke’s work and his contributions to founding Black studies is today largely forgotten. This conference recalls this time in order to think about the various transnational contexts of Austin Clarke’s work (Salkey maps this across Canada, the US, England and the Caribbean) as well as his foundational place in Black diasporic creative and intellectual life.

We also ask: What does it mean to remember and engage this history at a time when we see the push towards institutionalizing Black studies in Canada? What does it also mean that a prominent Canadian writer was part of these foundational moments of Black Studies in the US, yet in Canada we are only, in the post George Floyd moment, seeing the establishment of Black Studies programs and Black faculty cohort hires at various Canadian universities? What does Clarke’s presence in these moments tell us about the complex links between diaspora, movement and Black thought? How might we situate the history and present of Black intellectual life in Canada within the global and transnational currents of Black Studies?

This two-day gathering will take place at McMaster University (Day 1) and Toronto Metropolitan University (Day 2) on September 26 – 27, 2024. As part of the gathering, conference attendees will also engage with the Austin Clarke archives at McMaster University. A tour of the archives will open the conference.

Possible topics for conference presentations include:

    • Austin Clarke and institutionalizing Black Studies
    • Remembering histories of Black Studies
    • Documenting local histories and transnational formations of Black Studies
    • Forgotten histories and stories of Black Studies in Canada
    • Institutionalizing Black Studies: prospects and perils
    • Austin Clarke’s writings and reflections on colonial and postcolonial education
    • Austin Clarke and Black Diaspora circuits of correspondence
    • Austin Clarke as public intellectual
    • Black Activism and Austin Clarke’s writing
    • Clarke as Journalist
    • Clarke as Mentor
    • Clarke and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
    • Clarke and the essay tradition
    • Clarke and the question of national literatures
    • Clarke’s interviews and speeches
    • Key critical concepts and terms in Austin Clarke’s work
    • Barbados, Austin Clarke and the unfinished work of decolonization
    • Black Studies and Caribbean Studies: relational and contested histories
    • Remembering Austin Clarke today

The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2024. Please submit abstracts and panel proposals to We welcome abstracts (no more than 300 words) and panel proposals (no more than 600 words). Please also include a brief biographical note (80-100 words).

You can also contact us at if you have any questions about submissions or about the conference.

Above adapted from emailed CFP. Please contact organizers with any questions.