Sex Salon: Touching Death: Theorizing Black Queer Afterlife in Times of COVID-19


5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

The Sex Salon Event Series presents our first event of the 2020 – 2021 year:
“Touching Death: Theorizing Black Queer Afterlife in Times of COVID-19”

This panel brings together Black queer scholars to meditate on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities. The coronavirus, and the attendant public health safety measures that have been enacted in its wake, have revived public discourses regarding risk, vulnerability, (im)mobility, and health. We know, all too well, the ways that queer folks have been marked as vectors of disease. We experience, even now, the ways that ‘the weather’ (Sharpe 2016), in its totalizing violence, demand black death. How, then, do Black queer folks and their communities endure under conditions of acute precarity? What strategies do Black queer folks employ when we negotiate, or perhaps, abandon risk as a gesture of care? This panel argues that, at present, public health has not fully accounted for the social, physical and affective geographies of Black queer life. We use the occasion of this session to reflect on what/who we have lost in the lifetime of a pandemic, and share methods for asserting love, accessing joy and articulating life despite distance, in and through death.

Sarah Edo (University of Toronto) – “Ruminations on Black Femme Pleasures and Risk:

Sarah Edo is a recent graduate of the Women and Gender Studies Masters program at the University of Toronto. Her areas of interest include African Diaspora studies, queer of color critique, the politics of pleasure and critical health studies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in Cinema and Women and Gender Studies from University of Toronto.

Cornel Grey (University of Toronto) – “Flesh Deferred: A Black Love Story in Two Acts”
Cornel Grey is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Women & Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto. His doctoral research examines how black queer men enact kinship and intimacy through physical touch. This work takes seriously the importance of skin-to-skin contact in maintaining bodily, psychic and emotional well-being, and so pushes against systems that mark contact between black queer men as risky, improper and dangerous. This project mines the slave hold, primarily articulated as a site of violence, for moments of black queer pleasure as a way to rethink black diasporic relations. Cornel is also a Research Associate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health where he is investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of gay and bisexual men.

Dr. Christopher G. Smith (Research Associate, Center for Ethics, University of Toronto – Race, Ethics & Power (REP)) – “Where will I see you again? Bubblin’ in Black Queer Space, after…”
Dr. Christopher Smith is currently a Research Associate at the Center for Ethics at University of Toronto with the Race, Ethics, and Power Project (REP). They received their Ph.D. from the Dept. of Social Justice Education – Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) / University of Toronto in 2020. Their research interests reside in the productive interstices of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies, Black expressive cultures and practices, Social & Cultural geography, Queer of Color Critique, and Black Feminist Theories of decolonization.

Moderated by Dr. OmiSoore Dryden (James R. Johnston Chair, Black Canadian Studies, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University)

Dr. OmiSoore H. Dryden, a Black queer femme, is the James R Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Faculty of Medicine, and Associate Professor, Community Health & Epidemiology at Dalhousie University. Dr. Dryden engages in interdisciplinary scholarship and research that focuses on Black LGBTQI people and HIV vulnerability within Black diasporic communities in Canada, systemic/structural issues that affect health and well-being, including experiences with blood donation in Canada, medical education, and Black health curricular content development.


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