Fellows Spotlight: Fania Noёl

What led you to focus on racial justice and/or historical redress in your work?

I am a PhD candidate in Sociology at The New School, and my dissertation, Noir in Place: Spatializing Black Politics in contemporary France, investigates the political spaces (spatial and ideological) of Black political movements in France. Namely, I am interested in forms of conflict and adaptation vis-à-vis France's universalist ideology, legacies of slavery/colonialism, and policing. I am also working on racialized gender in science fiction and anticipation tv show and movies.

Before joining academia, I was, I am an Afrofeminist activist and organizer. I joined academia to buy time, because I needed time to think deeply about the questions I had been grappling with in my work. Graduate school is time, so I’m buying myself five years. It may be a bit atypical to say that you went into academia to buy yourself time, but when you have a job and you do activism, time is really something rare and something that you need. As an academic, I am addressing the same topics as I do in my activism, but from an analytical point of view. Being an activist is already analytical work, but being in academia allows me to go even deeper, and to take the time to reflect, for example, on what we are doing as Black organizations in France.

How do you engage with audiences outside of your own area of practice? What has worked well in this process, what have been some challenges?

For me, it’s really easy because before I was in academia, I was an activist in many groups, I founded a journal, I created projects like summer camps, etc. And my own practice is to create a space where people meet, talk about political consciousness. My brand of work is to help organizations mobilize people, put them in a position to think about their material conditions, and get them out onto the street for political action. In my journey in academia, I do the same by being involved in the Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute at the New School, by engaging fellow PhD students and other students in thinking about what we can build together. When it comes to sharing my research, in addition to participating in academic conferences, I organize panels for the general public and write for mainstream publications. Engagement with audiences outside of my own area of practice and with the public is also an everyday practice for me because I am very active on social media and in a number of public events related to my work.

Thinking about the future is for me thinking everyday about how I re-engage and commit - everyday - to an ethic, a Black feminist ethical practice of knowledge and scholarship.

What is the future that you are working towards in your practice? How do you keep this future in focus?

The future is a creation that I think about a lot. The title of my last book is Power Now: An Afrofeminist Political Horizon, so the horizon, the future, the landscape, the day after the end of the world is something that is persistent in my work and my practice. I keep my focus on engaging in an ethical practice, on how I can practice guerilla intellectualism, as Walter Rodney said. It means, thinking about if the work I am doing has stakes, how it can be a step on the journey of a revolutionary, thinking about how the work can be useful for general knowledge, and how it can be useful for present and future struggle. I am doing this work while thinking about how it can help and hold community. And I am doing it while keeping my eye on the future, thinking about what kind of public scholar I want to become. That is what I want to become. I will be an academic, but I want to become a public scholar. I am working on the ethics of what it means to be a Black feminist, an Afrofeminist public scholar. In terms of the work you do, the way you interact with knowledge, with archives, with people, with the data you collect, with the interviewee. Also, with the information you put in this space, in this violent space that academia can be, and how you are not participating in the carceralization of knowledge. Thinking about the future is for me thinking everyday about how I re-engage and commit - everyday - to an ethic, a Black feminist ethical practice of knowledge and scholarship.

Want to follow Fania's work?

Latest book: Et maintenant le pouvoir : Un horizon politique afroféministe 

Read this article about Fania on ChEEK here.

Visit her personal website here and stay up-to-date via Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.