The RITM Center was delighted to help host Sohail Daulatzai, Associate Professor in Film and Media Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, for two presentations at Yale. Daulatzai visited two Yale College courses on September 14, 2016: “Islam in the American Imagination” and “Introduction to Documentary Studies”, both taught by Zareena Grewal, Associate Professor American Studies and Religious Studies.
In his first presentation, Daulatzai explored connections between Islam and African American communities in the late twentieth century, highlighting the work of musicians and athletes such as Yusef Lateef and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He also connected longstanding fears related to race, nationality, and religiosity to current rhetoric about President Barack Obama, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and others; Daulatzai suggested links between Jim Crow in the U.S. and colonialism abroad; and he drew attention to political efforts contesting oppression both in the United States and around the world.
During his first presentation, Daulatzai shared incredible images from a 2014 exhibit he curated in Los Angeles entitled, “Return of the Mecca: The Art of Islam and Hip-Hop.” Featuring album photos, essays, biographies, and videos, “Return of the Mecca” foregrounds Islam’s role in the development of artists such as Zulu Nation and the Native Tongues, of Yasin Gaye (formerly Mos Def) and Shabazz Palaces, and of hip hop as a genre.
Daulatzai’s second lecture focused on Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers,” a work that continues to inspire, educate, and startle audiences. Building from his recent book Fifty Years of the Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, this lecture laid out the film’s production history, its fate with reviewers and audiences, and the way the film has been referenced by some in the United States since 2001. Daulatzai urged the students in Professor Grewal’s class to consider the complex history of the film and appreciate it as a work of political philosophy.
In these two lectures, Daulatzai covered impressive chronological, thematic, and disciplinary ground, showing students the importance of artists and activists who represent both Islam and blackness.