Acknowledging Race

Theodore Harris. Vetoed Dreams. 1995 (See my reading)

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for any white American is acknowledging the central importance of race and race-based injustice in American history and contemporary society. Much of my work as an educator, scholar, activist, and writer has been engaged in excavating the enduring power of ideas and structures of feeling about blackness, whiteness, and power in American cultural fields, past and present. In this work I have tried to unpack and help myself and others move beyond taken-for-granted white fantasies about slavery and post-slavery dynamics of race and power, with careful attention to how “mythologies” about enslavement and freedom struggles have endured and how they might be transformed. I have been deeply interested in objects of memory, memorials, and living history reenactments of racial violence that promote difficult, necessary inter-racial dialogues about the burdens of history and that hold the promise of social and cultural repair. I have partnered with diverse families and communities in their struggles to promote truth telling about pasts that are often painful, and at times noble, if long obscured. My work has given special attention to how art, exhibitions, and performance can emerge as shared spaces of critical reflection and social transformation.

As a “recovering white person,” I learn every day of difficult truths about the past and present experiences of persons of color that I had been ignorant of or not allowed myself to confront fully. The work of acknowledgement and of witnessing is continuous, and often painful, although deeply fulfilling. I welcome the opportunity to partner with organizations and institutions that seek to understand and acknowledge their own histories of race and power, and through these collaborative explorations aim to build more equitable and sustainable conditions of justice and equity. None of us can walk this path alone, and we must retain open, through attentive listening, to the thoughtful critiques of those who are willing to travel with us, in the shared struggle to create the beloved community.

Mark Auslander’s writings on slavery, race, history, and remembrance

2020. Traveling Together: Slavery, Landscape, and Historical Imagination. (Post)

2020. Say their Names: Kadir Nelson (Post)

In Bondage, on the Heights: Enslaved Persons on Mt. St. Albans and The Highlands, c. 1817-1862. (Glover Park History) 2019

2019. The “Family Business”: Slavery, Double Consciousness and Objects of Memory at Emory University, pp. 277-197 Slavery and the University: History and Legacies. M. Harris, et al. University. of Georgia Press.

Competing Roadways, Contesting Bloodlines: Registers of Biopower at a Lynching Reenactment and a Confederate Flag Rally. pp. 189-203. Varieties of Historical Experience. Stephen Palmie and Charles Stewart, eds. Routledge Kegan Paul

2018 (September) A New Tabernacle: Remembering Lynching in Montgomery, Alabama. (Post)

2018,  Object Lessons: Reencountering Slavery through Rose’s Gift. The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery. Rochelle Riley, editor. Wayne State University Press, 2018. 

“Putting them in museums? Reimagining a Way Forward” (Confederate Monuments Roundtable)  Museum Anthropology, Vol. 41, Iss. 2, pp. 137–39

2017. Rose’s Gift: Slavery, Kinship, and the Fabric of Memory.”  Present Pasts.  8(1), p.1.  DOI:

2017. Objects of Kinship: Reconstituting Descent in the Shadow of Slavery, Transition .No. 122. pp. 206-216. 2017. 

 Rose’s Gift: Slavery, Kinship, and the Fabric of Memory. Present Pasts. 8(1), p.1. 2016.

“By Iron Possessed: Fabrice Monteiro’s Maroons: The Fugitive Slaves.“ African Arts. 49, 3 (Autumn 2016)

2016. “Slavery’s Traces: In Search of Ashley’s Sack.” Southern Spaces (28 November)

2015. “Contesting the Roadways:The Moore’s Ford Lynching Reenactment and a Confederate Flag Rally, July 25, 2015” Southern Spaces (Published August 19)

2015.  “We Can’t Breathe”: Performing Subjection in African American Protest Traditions. Centre for Imaginative Ethnography.

2014. “Driving Back into the Light: Traversing life and death in a Lynching” Reenactment by African Americans, pp. 178-193.  Chapter 8, in the  volume, Vehicles: Cars, Canoes and other Metaphors of Moral Imagination (edited by David Lipset and Richard Handler) Berghahn Books. 2014.

Give me back my Children: Traumatic Reenactment and Tenuous” Democratic Public Spheres.  North American Dialogue (Society for the  Anthropology of North America)  17:1, pp. 1-12. 2013.

 “Touching the Past: Materializing Time in Traumatic Living History Reenactments” Signs and Society. 1 (1). pp.161-183

2012 “Enslaved Labor and Building the Smithsonian: Reading the Stones” Southern Spaces.  December 2012.

2011. The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding and American Family (book) University of Georgia Press   [Winner of the 2010-11 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize for the Critical Study of North America, Society for the Anthropology of North America and the 2012 Victor Turner Ethnographic Writing Prize (second book award), Society for Humanistic Anthropology.

2010. “Holding on to Those Who Can’t be Held”: Reenacting a Lynching at Moore’s Ford, Georgia (Southern Spaces) 2010.

Dreams Deferred: African-Americans in the History of “Old Emory.” In the edited volume, “Where Courageous Inquiry Leads:  Studies in the Emerging Life of Emory University.” Co-edited by Gary Hauk and Sally Wolff King (Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia)

 “The Other Side of Paradise: Glimpsing Slavery in the University’s Utopian Landscapes” (Southern Spaces) 2009. “Going by the Trees: Death and Regeneration in Georgia’s Haunted Landscapes” Electronic Antiquity, “Ancient Mysteries, Modern Secrets.” (May 2010 )

2005. “Saying Something Now: Documentary Work and the Voices of the Dead” Michigan Quarterly Review, (Fall)

2002 Taking Difference Seriously: Considering Race in Work-Family Studies. Sloan Research Network Newsletter Volume 4(3) Fall 2002:1-4 2002.  “Return to Sender:” Confronting Lynching and our Haunted Landscapes.  In Southern Changes, Spring/Summer 2002: 4-15

Something We Need to Get Back To: Mythologies of Origin and Rituals of Solidarity in African American Working Families. Working Paper #8 (Sloan Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Emory University)

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