Imagine Otherwise: Christen A. Smith, Dána-Ain Davis, and Sameena Mulla on Cite Black Women

Jun 10, 2021 | Podcast

Centuries of Black feminist intellectuals have demonstrated how knowledge production is always deeply political, revealing whose labor and lives we value. Publicly citing and generously engaging with the contributions that others have made to our thinking is a crucial way we remake the world.

In episode 135 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview Christen A. Smith, Dána-Ain Davis, and Sameena Mulla, the three co-editors of the recent ground-breaking special issue of the journal Feminist Anthropology. This special issue focuses on the Cite Black Women movement that honors Black women’s transnational intellectual production.

The Ideas on Fire team has been privileged to copyedit the Feminist Anthropology journal from its inception, and the Cite Black Women special issue is a superb illustration of the political and ethical transformations this journal and the Cite Black Women movement bring to academic publishing and everyday life.

In our conversation, Christen, Sameena, Dána, and I discuss the pleasures and challenges of overhauling academic publishing workflows and norms so that they can embody an intersectional, transnational feminist praxis.

We also chat about what it means to honor our intellectual and communal forbearers, which this special issue does in the form of a tribute to the late Dr. Leith Mullings from colleagues, friends, comrades, and former students whose intellectual and personal lives were forever changed through her lifelong commitment to racial, economic, and gender justice.

And finally, we close out the conversation with reflections on why making room for marginalized people to speak, write, and publish is a key way we all think and live knowledge production otherwise.

"The process for this issue of Feminist Anthropology on Cite Black Women—and for all of them—is rooted in a feminist practice of collectivity: thinking together and really paying attention. Cite Black Women is a material and ideological example of what we believe feminist praxis to be." —Feminist Anthropology co-editor Dána-Ain Davis on Imagine Otherwise
"With Cite Black Women, we push people to think otherwise about knowledge production. This special issue of Feminist Anthropology does that in a great way and it's reflected in everything from the style and the structure to the content and the bibliographies." —Cite Black Women founder Christen A. Smith on Imagine Otherwise⁠
"Thinking about how an academic journal can make more space intentionally was both challenging and exciting. There are a lot of things in academic publishing that squeeze out important voices. It was exciting to make this issue happen in a way that was true to the vision of the Cite Black Women collective." —Feminist Anthropology co-editor Sameena Mulla on Imagine Otherwise.⁠

Christen A. Smith

Christen A. Smith is a Black feminist anthropologist and the creator of Cite Black Women—a campaign that brings awareness to the race and gender politics of citation and the erasure of Black women’s intellectual contributions in global society.

She is also an associate professor of anthropology and African and African diaspora studies and director of the Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where she researches the immediate and long-term impact of police violence on Black communities in the Americas, particularly on Black families and Black women.

Christen is the author of Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence and Performance in Brazil (University of Illinois Press, 2016), and her research and writing has been featured in Democracy Now!, Al-Jazeera, BBC’s World Have Your Say, Pacifica Radio, the New York Times, the Nation, PBS’s NewsHour, Maclean’s, the Feminist Wire, and Caros Amigos.

Dána-Ain Davis

Dána-Ain Davis is a professor of urban studies at Queens College director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Dána’s research focuses on Black feminist ethnography and the dynamics of race and racism. She is the author or co-editor of five books, including Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (NYU Press, 2019).

She has served as president of the Association of Black Anthropologists, co-editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology, co-chair of NARAL-NY, coordinator of the Reproductive Rights Education Project at Hunter College, and a member of the New York Governor’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Disparate Racial Outcomes.

Currently, Dána is the co-editor (with Sameena Mulla) of Feminist Anthropology, the journal of the Association for Feminist Anthropology.

Dána is also a doula who supports birthing people and their families/partners.

Sameena Mulla

Sameena Mulla is an associate professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University. Her research and teaching focus on the racially gendered hierarchies at work in medical and legal interventions into gender-based violence.

Sameena is the author of The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses, and Sexual Assault Intervention (NYU Press, 2014) and co-author (with Heather Hlavka) of Bodies in Evidence: Race, Gender, and Science in Sexual Assault Adjudication (NYU Press, 2021).

Collaborative work is a touchstone of Sameena’s feminist practice and is part of what she relishes in her work as co-editor of the journal Feminist Anthropology with Dána-Ain Davis.

As the founding editors of Feminist Anthropology, Dána and Sameena prioritize an ethical process for authors and reviewers while promoting inclusive and transformative citational practices. Together, they champion a heterogeneous approach to feminist anthropology that generates space for varying genealogical, political, and theoretical modalities of feminist practice.

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