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The Alchemy Lecture

The Alchemy Lecture is a multi-vocal model that brings together a constellation of thinkers and practitioners from different disciplines and geographies annually to think together and in public on the most pressing issues of our times.

Five Manifestos for the Beautiful World

planet earth with blue oceans and green trees split into two

Date: November 2, 2023

Five Alchemists. One Lecture.
A Constellation of Ideas.

The Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and York University are proud to be hosting the Second Annual Alchemy Lecture.

The lecture will be delivered by five renowned alchemists: Joseph M. Pierce, Phoebe Boswell, Cristina Rivera Garza, Saidiya Hartman and Janaína Oliveira.

Moderator: Christina Sharpe

Christina Sharpe is a writer, Professor, and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University in Toronto. She is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender & Class (RGC) at the University of Johannesburg and a former Matakyev Research Fellow at the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at the Arizona State University. She is the author of three books: In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke UP, 2016)—named by the Guardian and the Walrus as one of the best books of 2016 and a nonfiction finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award—Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (Duke UP, 2010), and Ordinary Notes (Knopf, Canada/ FSG, USA/Daunt, UK, April2023). She is currently working on Black. Still Life. (Duke UP., 2025) and What Could a Vessel Be? (Knopf, Canada/FSG USA, 2025) Her work has appeared in many artist catalogues and in Frieze, Paris Review, Harpers, BOMB Magazine, The Funambulist, Artforum, and Art in America.

christina sharpe profile photo


Joseph Pierce profile photo

Joseph M. Pierce

Cherokee Nation citizen

Joseph M. Pierce is Associate Professor at Stony Brook University and author of Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 (SUNY Press, 2019); co-editor of Políticas del amor: Derechos sexuales y escrituras disidentes en el Cono Sur (Cuarto Propio, 2018) and the 2021 special issue of GLQ, “Queer/Cuir Américas: Translation, Decoloniality, and the Incommensurable.” Along with S.J. Norman (Wiradjuri) he is co-curator of the performance series Knowledge of Wounds.

This manifesto neither justifies nor argues for Indigenous life. Rather, it proposes a method of engaging with the restoration of Indigenous forms of relation, which is to say, with the enduring, dynamic praxes of reciprocal engagement with the beings and memories we hold and the worlds we traverse, in pursuit of a possible future in which life (all life) becomes possible. It is a dream for the future in spite of the ongoing brutality of colonial infrastructure, economic extraction, and historical erasure. It is a prayer offered with humility and gratitude to the ancestral relations that open up speculative possibilities for bodies reverberating in good relation. Speculation, thus, becomes part of the affective and epistemological work of a quotidian metaphysics grounded in Indigenous thought. Relationality, in turn, becomes the grounding force, the materialization, of an ethical approach to the past, present, and future that expands beyond the individual, towards another horizon. This is a manifesto for landing, grounding, and relating; for opening the body, in all its forms and transitions, towards an imperative mutuality, toward becoming, toward imbrication.

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Phoebe Boswell


Centered around drawing but encompassing moving image, animation, painting, photography, sound, writing, and immersive site-sensitive installation, Phoebe Boswell's art practice is anchored to what she describes as a ‘a restless state of diasporic consciousness.’ Boswell's figurative and interdisciplinary practice denotes a commitment of care for how we see ourselves and each other. Her work explores notions of freedom, protest, grief, intimacy, migration, love, the body and its world-making, using auto/biographical stories as catalysts to contest histories and imagine futures. Traversing intuitively across media, she creates evocative works which affect and are affected by the environments they occupy, by time, gestalt, the serendipity of loops, and the presence of the audience. 

I will take as starting point an invitation I received in 2020, to be the first “artist in residence” of a virtual museum being imagined, designed and built amidst the anxious haze of a global pandemic - in the throes of it and in response to it.  My curiosity and enthusiasm at the prospect of being able to make, unfettered, in this strange moment we were living in, in complete imagined space, where logistical restrictions would not matter. What could be made in this space and in this moment, sitting at home alone, world outside collapsing, and our reliance on technology edging us towards relation to the virtual as a tangible, lived and intimate thing? What could be dreamt there? What could be realised? Where could we go and what could we do? This is where I will begin, at this point where reality and something else collide.

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Cristina Rivera Garza


Cristina Rivera Garza is the award-winning author of six novels, four collections of short stories, five collections of poetry, and four nonfiction books. The recipient of the Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature (Paris, 2013), as well as the Anna Seghers (Berlin, 2005), she is the only author who has won the International Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize twice. She is Distinguished Professor in Hispanic Studies and Director of the Ph.D. in Creative Writing in Spanish at the University of Houston. Rivera Garza is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, and a finalist for the 2020 National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Criticism. Born in Mexico in 1964, she has lived in the United States since 1989.

The subjunctive is a grammatical mood that allows for the oblique expression of the hypothetical, and it is more: a cognitive climate that questions the relationship between territory, human and non-human beings, and the worlds to come. Widely used in the Spanish-speaking world, the subjunctive breaks from the tyranny of the future and its many apocalyptic dead-ends by harnessing the potency of imaginings and desires half-disclosed. What the subjunctive lacks in programmatic rigor or positive calls for action, it affords, and in abundance, in terms of strategies—pausing, questioning, meandering, walking backwards—to affect the yet to come.

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Saidiya Hartman


Saidiya Hartman is the author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. A MacArthur Genius Fellow, she has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Cullman Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. She is a University Professor at Columbia University and is in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. In addition to her books, she has published articles in journals such as South Atlantic Quarterly, Brick, Small Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review

All I have to offer today is a rant in prose, a satire about Why We Can’t Wait, a wild impassioned shout, unwise remarks and untimely suggestions about exacerbating the current crisis and cultivating recalcitrance. It is a fabulation, a tirade about the ruins of political speech and the exhaustion of standard and habitual methods of approaching the problem (which I won’t detail or explicate because it is too late for such description and naïve modes of address only reproduce and augment the problem).

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Janaína Oliveira


Janaína Oliveira is a film scholar and independent curator. Professor at the Federal Institute of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ) and consultant for JustFilms/Ford Foundation, Oliveira has a Ph.D. in History and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Center for African Studies at Howard University. Since 2009, she has researched and made film programs mainly focusing on Black and African Cinemas. She has also worked as a consultant, juror, and panelist in several film festivals and institutions in Brazil and abroad. In 2019 she programmed the "Soul in the Eye: Zózimo Bulbil legacies and the Contemporary Black Brazilian Cinema' series at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and also worked as an advisor for African and black diaspora films for the Locarno Film Festival (2019-2020). She is the founder of the Black Cinema Itinerant Forum (FICINE) and was the Flaherty Film Seminar (New York) programmer for 2021 and of Zózimo Bulbul Black Film Festival (Rio de Janeiro) from 2017 to 2021. Besides participating in other curatorial initiatives, she is part of the BlackStar Film Festival curatorial team as the documentary feature film section Chair and board of the William Greaves Fund from Firelight Media.

The question of how film curatorship contributes to the beautiful world brings me to the center of my reflections not only a thought that actually links curatorship to care but also points to the fact that it is not only a thought about what is shown but about the many layers of care involved in how it is shown and in the relationship with whom one wants to show it. It points, therefore, to the urgency (which always crosses me) of broadening the understanding and the reflections of what is the film curator's work and the possibilities of transforming the world with moving images.

Past Events

November 10, 2022

The lecture was delivered by four renowned alchemists: Dele Adeyemo (UK) architect, creative director, and urban theorist; Natalie Diaz (US/Mojave/Akimel O’otham) poet, MacArthur Foundation Fellow and Founding Director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands, Arizona State University; Nadia Yala Kisukidi (France) Associate Professor in philosophy, Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis University; and Rinaldo Walcott (Canada) Writer, and Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto.

Watch for the book edition of The Alchemy Lecture, to be published in October 2023.