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THE BLACKLIGHT PROJECT AND PUBLIC SCHOLARSHIP: YOUNG BLACK WOMEN PERFORM AGAINST AND THROUGH THE BOUNDARIES OF ANTHROPOLOGY

Authors

  • Aimee Cox


Abstract

In this essay, I use the resistance work of residents at the Fresh Start shelter for young women in Detroit and BlackLight, an arts-based social justice project that emerged from the shelter, as the frame to consider several tensions within public anthropology. I am particularly concerned with what is at stake in the processes of both defining and practicing public anthropology for minority scholars working against the traditional boundaries of the academy and the public. In addition, I question how “the public” when used to signify low-income urban communities of color guides the racialization of spaces and corresponding possibilities and limitations for African Americans within the public sphere. The work of the young women of BlackLight ultimately presents one model for mobilizing publicly engaged anthropology, and also calls for a reconsideration of power and its multiple, tricky manifestations in the public. This reevaluation is especially critical in relation to the roles public anthropologists play in the various contexts that criss-cross the borders that circumscribe the community and the academic.

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