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Yale Professor Claudia Rankine’s TrAIN residency: Whiteness and the Racial Imaginary

Professor Claudia Rankine
Written by
John Wallace
Published date
30 May 2018

The University of the Arts London’s Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) will host the renowned poet and writer Claudia Rankine at Chelsea College of Arts for a three-week residency this June themed: Whiteness and the Racial Imaginary.

A woman sitting on a sofa next to a dog with 8 images on the wall behind her.

“Whiteness as a source of unquestioned power, and as a ‘bloc,’ feels itself to be endangered even as it retains its hold on power. Given that the concept of racial hierarchy is a strategy employed to support white dominance, whiteness is an important aspect of any conversation about race. This talk will make visible that which has been intentionally presented as inevitable so that we can move forward into more revelatory conversations about race.”
— Claudia Rankine

We caught up with Professor Paul Goodwin, Director of TrAIN, who told us more about Professor Rankine’s residency and why it is an important landmark for TrAIN and the university.

Who is Professor Claudia Rankine and why is this residency important?

Claudia Rankine is one of the most important creative writers and scholars on questions of race and identity. As a university we are actively engaged in an exploration of the politics of race, diversity, inclusivity and attainment so her time with us will significantly enrich not only our existing research culture but also inspire further explorations, debates and thinking around these important issues among our student and teaching communities.

I am also sure it will open up exciting new perspectives in critical art practice.

Please tell us more about her work and writing

As a writer her work is both beautiful and profound. Her unique hybrid prose-poetry style confronts those ‘everyday micro-aggressions’ that we need to confront and address in art as much as in life.

She is also the co-founder of the The Racial Imaginary Institute, an interdisciplinary cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place can be engaged, read, countered, contextualised and demystified.

What is a micro-aggression?

Micro-aggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

And The Racial Imaginary Institute, could you tell us more about that?

The institute collaborates with other collectives, spaces, artists, and organisations that engage the subject of race. In her book “Citizen, An American Lyric” (2014), Rankine explains that the racial imaginary is concerned not with who has the right to write about race but, rather, with where the desire comes from, and how to detect when race is “taking up residence in the creative act.”

Which fortunate students will Professor Rankine be working with during her residency?

During her residency will Professor Rankine will work with students from across disciplines and courses including postgraduates students on MA Fine Art/MA Curating and Collections.  However, she will be delivering a public lecture which is open to all and we will film it for later distribution as we are expecting the lecture to be very over-subscribed!

Where can we find out more about Professor Rankine?

Her poetry, essays, art writings, interviews, and articles have been published in numerous journals, newspapers, and magazines, including the New York Times, ELLE magazine, Paris Review, The New Yorker, and The Guardian, among others. Her many awards and fellowships include a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, a United States Artist Fellowship, and the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.

Professor Rankine will deliver the TrAIN public lecture on ‘The Racial Imaginary Institute’, which will be followed by a reception,  on 8th June 2018, 6-8pm at Chelsea College of Arts, John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU.

The University of the Arts London Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation is a forum for historical, theoretical and practice-based research in architecture, art, communication, craft and design. Find out more about TrAIN.

Find out more about MA Curating and Collections and MA Fine Art.