Children of the Plantationocene

Alisha Gaines


Join the Department of African American Studies for a talk from our first scholar in residence of the Banned Scholars Program: Dr. Alisha Gaines.

In “Children of the Plantationocene,” Alisha Gaines considers two interrelated questions: MacArthur Genius Tiya Miles’s 2020 query in The Boston Globe, “What should we do with plantations?;” and Christina Sharpe’s question in In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, “how do we defend the dead?” In a sociopolitical moment mired by miseducation, Gaines seeks refuge in Saint Toni Morrison’s novel, A Mercy, to reconcile the place and value of the plantation to and for Black Americans. In so doing, she insists we can begin to understand how slavery’s afterlives shape the ecological presents we all inherit.

Alisha Gaines is the Timothy Gannon Associate Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of English and affiliate faculty of African American Studies at Florida State University. She is also the Co-Humanities Director of the Evergreen Plantation Archaeological Field School in Edgard, LA. She earned a PhD in English and a certificate in African and African American Studies from Duke University in 2009. From 2009-2011 she held a Carter G. Woodson postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia.

Her first manuscript, Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy, was published with UNC Press (Spring 2017). The project rethinks the political consequences of empathy by examining mid-to-late twentieth and twenty-first century narratives of racial impersonation enabled by the spurious alibi of racial reconciliation. Black for a Day constructs a genealogy of mostly white liberals who temporarily “become” Black under the alibi of racial empathy. Its genealogy includes: the magical racial change of a white Senator in the 1947 musical, Finian’s Rainbow; journalist Ray Sprigle’s four weeks as a Black man in the South in 1948; journalist and memoirist, John Howard Griffin’s, five weeks as a Black man in 1959; Grace Halsell’s stunt as a Black woman in Harlem and Mississippi for six months in 1969; and the families of the Sparks and the Wurgels switching races for reality television in 2006. The project’s epilogue then turns to the cultural nerve struck by the viral media story of Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP chapter president who was “outed” for claiming she was Black.

An award-winning educator, her interdisciplinary teaching interests include African American literature and culture, Black queer theory, media and performance studies, narratives of passing, and Black Southern studies.

For more information about the event, please contact: Barbara Montano at or 510-664-4324.

If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Barbara Montano at or 510-664-4324 with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.

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