Sept. 19, 2018 – Deborah Thomas

A screening of “Four Days in May” will take place in 113 Carnegie Building on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. A Q&A with Deborah Thomas will follow.

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Film-Video & Media Studies in the Bellisario College of Communications, The McCourtney Institute for Democracy, and the Department of Political Science.

Description: A collaboration between Deborah A. Thomas, Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn, and psychologist Deanne M. Bell, this experimental documentary explores the archives generated by state violence by focusing on the 2010 State of Emergency in West Kingston, Jamaica. In May of that year, the military and police forces entered Tivoli Gardens and surrounding communities by force in order to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who had been ordered for extradition to the United States to stand trial for gun and drug-related charges. This resulted in the deaths of at least 75 civilians. The film features community residents talking about what they experienced during the “incursion,” and naming and memorializing loved ones they lost. Through the use of archival film and photographs, footage from the U.S. drone that was overhead during the operation, and contemporary hyper-realist film photography, Four Days in May encourages viewers to think about how people in Tivoli Gardens and other “garrisons” negotiate the entanglements among nationalist governments, imperialist practices, and local articulations with illicit international trades. By juxtaposing archives of state violence in its many structural, symbolic, and material guises, the film also seeks to evoke the affective entanglements these forms of violence reflect and produce, and to imagine how we might newly envision modes of accountability, justice, and repair.

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also core faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, holds a secondary appointment with the Graduate School of Education, and is a member of the graduate groups in English, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice.

Dr. Thomas is the author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004), Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation:  Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (forthcoming), and is co-editor of Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (2006).  She is also co-director and co-producer of two films: Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens (with John L. Jackson, Jr. and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn), and Four Days in May (with Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and Deanne M. Bell). Thomas is also the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston, which opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017. Thomas has also published extensively in peer-reviewed journals across the disciplines.

As someone who has been interested in what new forms of community, subjectivity and expectation are produced by violence, and in how these are expressed and mapped, Thomas is currently working on two projects that continue to probe these issues, though in very different ways. The first continues from her investigations of the 2010 “Tivoli Incursion” in West Kingston. She has also begun a project on contemporary Chinese investment in Jamaica, and is interested in how China’s growth throughout Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean must be seen in relation to broader shifts away from a taken-for-granted dominance of the West.


By Deborah Thomas: