Letter from the Director

Dear members and friends of the SRC community,

Back in 2012, when I first started the process of founding a new program here at Harvard, one thing was certain. This was to be a new and a different space, one built on solidarity and generosity.

Solidarity meant that we recognized our differences and the communities which we came from. It meant laying our weaknesses bare and relying on each other to grow stronger. Generosity meant not simply the readiness to give time and effort, but to give them with sincere investment in the work of others. Generosity meant that we understood the emotional and psychological toll that this work takes, and supported and stood with each other at and beyond this institution. At times, SRC lacked financial resources. But it had the time and effort of dedicated and talented people who were generous with their limited resources because they shared in the dream of creating an inclusive, affirming space within the walls of this university.

Behind the scenes, the talented teams that led SRC through the years, and which I had the honor and pleasure of working with, showed even greater commitment and generosity. They gave not only time and effort, but more importantly, their passionate intellectual investment and their deep belief in this space and what it can accomplish. We pushed each other forward, debated all possible ideas, and operated as equals around the table. No idea was too odd to “sandbox” and no project was too funky to try. The future was and remains open. This creative energy is what propelled SRC over the years, and it is what has made it one of the key programs on campus and in the field at large.

Today, I write with the exciting news that our program is taking yet another step forward on its path of development and growth. This step, however, is one of metamorphosis, whereby we emerge from a proverbial cocoon to meet a new world with the bold energy of a restless and ever-migrating butterfly. Today, we paraphrase the all-time great, LeBron James: “We are taking our talents to the open air.”

Over the past few years, the Black, Brown, and Queer working group has been SRC’s lodestone. This working group, in which most of SRC’s initiatives and ideas incubated, occupied such a key position because it represented our community’s central intellectual concerns; namely, our interest in and deep commitment to issues of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and colonialism. This commitment, which materialized at the intersections of postcolonial theories, indigenous theories, critical race theories, and queer theories, was built on the intersection of our identities and on our commitment to solidarity and generosity. SRC’s mission focused on cultures of science and cultures of religion precisely because of the significant impact of these cultures on the communities to which we belong and which we study. At this stage of SRC development and metamorphosis, BBQ emerges as the future of our work and the standard bearer of our efforts.

At another level, the wonderful past years have proven that we can only push so much against some of the limitations imposed by traditional university structures. On the one hand, being bound by the walls of a given campus made it more difficult for our friends and partners from other institutions to feel at home. On the other hand, it limited our abilities to connect with important partners outside traditional academic spaces, such as activists, artists, and producers among others. We were also bound by the achievement criteria engendered in traditional institutional structures and limited in our ability to explore different modes of production or unproduction. At this stage of our program’s development, we are moving to the open air, in order to create an independent initiative that is open and welcoming to all and that is rooted in the diversity of different types of thinking and learning. To be sure, this initiative remains committed to research but in many different modalities. It offers itself as a space parallel to traditional university structures, encouraging and supporting people in their work within and beyond these traditional structures. While we do not claim that our work replaces these structures, we believe that such parallel spaces are needed to change and improve academia, which remains connected to histories and living legacies of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and white supremacy.

Today, I write to announce the birth of the Center for Black, Brown, and Queer Studies (BBQ+) as the next chapter of SRC. BBQ+ is an independent center, which takes as its goal the creation of an alternative research/artistic/activist+ space that is built on solidarity and generosity, and committed to questions of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, and colonialism. Through its various initiatives, the center will offer support, mentorship, and spaces of growth to different scholars, activists, and artists interested in these issues and willing to engage in such a space of generosity. BBQ+ is rooted in the mixed and hybrid identities of those living in late capitalism and in this age of post/colonialism. It is focused on decentering the monolithic US-European experience, as well as in understanding how this experience influences dynamics around the world. Here, the “plus” is rooted in our desire to expand our interests and our work to include many more questions beyond the three letters/concerns (Black=critical race theory, Brown=postcolonial and indigenous theory, Queer=LGBTQ+ studies), with which this initiative was born.

BBQ+ is committed to diversified modes of connection that link participants across the world. As such, almost all our activities will have online components that will be accessible to community members internationally, with some activities taking place only online. BBQ+ also builds on some of SRC’s key initiatives and structures, which proved particularly productive. For instance, BBQ+ will continue the tradition of holding a regular colloquium, where the Center fellows are able to engage with advanced works-in-progress by many scholars and guests. Similarly, BBQ+ will offer fellowship for undergraduate and graduate students, where they will be able to workshop their own emerging work and engage in various intellectual activities. Moreover, new media fellowships will be open to artists and makers as integral parts of the BBQ+ project. Building on the Working-Group tradition at SRC, BBQ+ Study Circles will offer fellows spaces for more focused conversations about specific disciplines or topics centered around works curated by participating fellows.

BBQ+ will offer a number of new initiatives, which aim to foster our community and enhance our work together. BBQ+ will offer theory clinics led by faculty affiliates and senior fellows, during which a series of works are covered over a semester. Each semester, BBQ+ will host a Teach-in that focuses on specific questions or topics. The Teach-ins, rooted in our activist practices and commitments, will cover a range of topics from theoretical debates in certain disciplines to various political and social questions. Finally, BBQ+ will be open to new projects proposed by fellows and other participants, and to partnerships with different institutions, structures, and communities.

Similarly, BBQ+ will assume the responsibility of hosting Cosmologics, a magazine previously hosted by SRC. Cosmologics will continue as an editor-review research magazine and will offer new content that reflects the wider commitment of the new center. Our podcast Ventricles will also move to its new home at BBQ+, where it will continue to function as a space for innovative and exciting audio content. SRC’s different working groups, such as SfRC (Science Fiction, Religion and Culture) and MESRC (Middle East Science, Religion and Culture), will also assume a home at the new center. Over the coming years, BBQ+ will see through some of the long-standing initiatives in the SRC community; namely, establishing a book series and creating a peer-reviewed journal. Both initiatives are currently in development. SRC will continue in various capacities as a partner-parent to BBQ+ in its first years of development and through the transition.

But as we move to the next chapter for this community, I would like to thank all those who did so much over the years in supporting and building SRC. This next stage of development would never have been possible without their work. Among those who left SRC, I would like to thank Cyndi Wigdhal, Lauren Taylor, Michael Chen, Alex Chen, Faye Bodley-Dangelo, Usra Ghazi, Kera Street, Heather Mcleachie-Leader, and Wythe Marshall and Khytie Brown, who have continued with SRC in other capacities. I would also like to thank Amanda Heffner-Wong, who was a wonderful partner in building this current iteration of SRC over the past four years. Her work was instrumental in taking this step. I am deeply grateful to those who were and remain with SRC and who are helping us take this new jump to BBQ+: Myrna Perez Sheldon, Eli Nelson, Gili Vidan, Kat Poje, Shireen Hamza, Juanis Becerra, Jacob Moses, Adrian Hernandez, Mitch Bacci, and Iman Darwish. In particular, Eli and Juanis poured their passion and their time into BBQ as a working group, and I am delighted to have them in the leadership of this new metamorphosis.

Finally, as a first act of business for BBQ+, I am thrilled to announce the recruitment for our new (first) cohort of BBQ+ fellows. You will find more details about the program here.

Onward!

Ahmed Ragab