Tavia Nyong’o

“American Profanations: Something of Value, oath-taking, and the problem of black indigeneity”
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2018 @ 5:00PM
Elvehjem L140
– –
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2018 @ 9:00AM
Room 212 of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, located in the University Club


Both events are free and open to the public. They are possible thanks to the Anonymous Fund, the Theater Studies Program, and the Departments of Art and Art History.

University Lectures Logo

Alongside the performative speech act – the words with which we do things – there has always existed a contrary set of pejorative speech acts – the words with which we undo things. With growing contemporary concern over civility and incivility in American life, this talk will offer a speculative genealogy of the pejorative arts. Focusing in particular on the “profane oath” – a pejorative speech-act broadly considered immoral, uncivil, and illegal in this period – it tracks the hidden history of the pejorative as an enunciatory site from which black and indigenous people could countermand the civilizing mission. The talk examines this pejorative speech-act though a reading of the 1957 MGM film, Something of Value, a film that allegorically maps Native North American resistance onto East African anti-colonial resistance in a manner that offers some useful insights into the intersection of black and indigenous studies today.

Tavia Nyong’o is Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, and Theater Studies at Yale University. He works in contemporary aesthetic and critical theory with a particular attention to the visual, musical, and performative dimensions of blackness, as well as to the affective and technocultural dimensions of modern regimes of race. His first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (Minnesota, 2009), won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African American theatre and performance studies. He is completing a study of fabulation in black aesthetics and embarking on another on queer wildness. Nyong’o has published in venues such as Radical History Review, Criticism, GLQ, TDR, Women & Performance, WSQ, The Nation, Triple Canopy, The New Inquiry, and n+1. He is co-editor of the journal Social Text and the Sexual Cultures book series at New York University press. He regularly blogs at Bully Bloggers.