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Invitation to Guest Lecture of Molly J. Farrell (Ohio State University)

Monday, 15 January 2024, 7-8pm CET, via Webex

The English Department cordially welcomes everybody to the following public virtual guest lecture:

"Fugitive Figures"

Molly J. Farrell (Ohio State University), Author of Counting Bodies: Population in Colonial American Writing

Monday, 15 January 2024, 7-8pm CET, via Webex.

Contact for Webex Link: lukas.etter@uni-siegen.de

Abstract of Talk:  
Early American studies as a field has led critical investigations of literacy and its contested relations to citizenship, settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and self-making. This chapter contributes to building a similarly critical understanding the role of numeracy, or the teaching, learning, and use of numbers. In particular, it investigates the way enslaved Black people’s numerical skills appear in the archive of white enslavers’ newspaper advertisements for fugitives. Many know the stories of Benjamin Banneker and James McCune Smith, who both achieved renown for their mathematical accomplishments; and of Olaudah Equiano, who narrates his education in arithmetic along with his acquisition of literacy skills. But these well-known calculating figures arose from a numerate community who every day deployed numerical technologies for their own ends, such as the two unnamed self-emancipating Black “Men”—likely in fact children—who left Nanjemoy, Maryland in 1771 with a copy of “Fisher’s Arithmetick,” the math textbook Benjamin Franklin widely reprinted, along with two guns. The chapter builds on the work of Black feminist scholarship, specifically Karen Cook Bell’s critical reading practices of the archive of advertisements, and the questions set out by Hortense Spillers, Katherine McKittrick, and Jennifer L. Morgan about the relation of mathematics to the history of Blackness. The chapter concludes by asking what registering these stories of “snatching learning in forbidden fields,” in Carter G. Woodson’s words, can contribute to contemporary conversations about educational equity and “math literacy”  for which civil rights leader Bob Moses advocated before his death in 2021.

Speaker Bio: https://english.osu.edu/people/farrell.73

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