The Necropolis Politic: Mourning, Reclamation & Preservation in BIPOC Sacred Spaces

This symposium event is now closed but please stay tuned for updates!

On October 31, 2020 Reclaiming Memories Research Lab joined forces with Proyecto Teatro to create a symposium dedicated towards all things related to necropolitics. Achille Mbembe used Necropolitics to describe the use of social and political power to dictate how some people will live and how some will die, as determined by the will of nation-states. Alongside Día de Muertos, we highlighted scholarly and creative work that speaks to past and present knowledge of  rituals for processing grief and loss, research on remembrance against acts of state-sponsored violence, and struggles for reclaiming historical memory.

The symposium program and speaker information can be found below. Please stay tuned for more information about the event and more events to come. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude towards our sponsors, speakers, performance artists, community members, and guests for their contributions towards The Necropolis Politic symposium event.

Questions about the event may be directed to Diana Hernández at or Alexandra Mendez at

  • (Re)Claiming Memories, an interdisciplinary graduate team at The University of Texas at Austin and University of California-Berkeley


Speaker Announcements

Tune in Saturday, October 31, 2020 to hear Sam Collins shed light on hidden histories in Texas.

We are excited to have Dr. Antoinette Africa Harrell join us as moderator for Sam Collins’ presentation, “The Hidden History of Texas.” Join us for an engaging and thought-provoking discussion.

Join us on Saturday, October 31, 2020 for a talk that delves into an undertold chapter of Oklahoman history.

Join us on Saturday, October 31, 2020. We’ll have Dr. John Lundberg moderating a talk on an undertold chapter of Oklahoman history.

Another excellent presentation taking place on Saturday, October 31st. Jennifer Blanks will be talking about how she uses her social media platform, “The Cemetery Sista,” to highlight the significance of preserving African American cemeteries. Follow her on Instagram: @thecemeterysista

Dr. Portia Hopkins will be honoring us with her participation as moderator for the discussion on, “The Cemetery Sista Initiative.” Join us!

Tune in on Saturday, October 31 for a presentation on The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, a social justice initiative which was created and is led by Dr. Andrea Roberts. Jennifer Blanks and Schuyler Carter, both Doctoral Students in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University, will be co-hosting this spectacular presentation.

Dr. Tara Dudley will be moderating the talk on “The Texas Freedom Colonies Project.” Prepare for a dynamic discussion on this initiative!

We are excited to introduce one of our performing artists for the symposium, Michael Anthony García. This Austin-based multidisciplinary artist and independent curator will perform a ritual of voice and manifestation connected to the history of Cementerio San José, located in the Southeast section of the city.

Laurie García is the Associate Director of Education: Outreach at Holocaust Museum Houston. Her presentation will explore museums as sites of remembrance and as community spaces where historical memory is transformed into action.

Moderating the talk on museum as sites of remembrance will be Houston ISD educator, Karen Paskos-Baker. Please join us!

Another important discussion we will have at the symposium. Dr. Ashley Lemke will present on the disappearance of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) cemeteries in our communities.

Moderating the conversation on the disappearance of BIPOC cemeteries will be Heritage Resource Consultant, Sarah Marsom. We are looking forward to this impactful presentation!

Alan García, community archivist, will highlight the efforts of community leaders Danny Camacho and Ada Simond in honoring the unmarked graves of Austin’s BIPOC ancestors at Oakwood Cemetery. Established in 1839, this cemetery is Austin’s first public burial ground.

Moderating this discussion is Kristen Hotopp, graduate student in the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Excited to announce one of our performing artists for the symposium. Jasminne Mendez will read and perform a few selections from her book Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e, and from her forthcoming poetry collection Machete.

Over the course of a 25 year archaeological career, most of it spent in the private sector, Fred McGhee has advocated for the proper protection and interpretation of numerous cemeteries containing the remains of various Peoples of Color. In this presentation, Dr. McGhee will discuss both institutional and political barriers to the preservation of BIPOC burial grounds, as well as opportunities for civic action.

Moderating this discussion will be Joseph E. Quinata, Chief Program Officer of the Guam Preservation Trust and a Founding and Board Member of the Humåtak Community Foundation and the Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation (APIAHiP).

Another great session taking place this Saturday. Dale Flatt, founder of Save Austin Cemeteries, will talk about how his love for old, hand-carved headstones and the desire to document and protect them, turned into a lifelong pursuit of recording historic cemeteries in Travis County.

Moderating this discussion will be Dr. Lila Rakoczy, whose cemetery work sparked a decade-long quest that resulted in the identification of nearly 30,000 African American Texans who served in World War I.

Located in the Montopolis neighborhood of southeast Austin, Texas, San Jose Cemetery was one of the first Mexican and Mexican American cemeteries in Austin (1919). The investigation examines the one-hundred-year history of the neighborhood and cemetery, as well as the people who are interred within. Methods include an array of historic preservation field methods, such as genealogical research, geospatial analysis, and oral histories. Results found an association between the manner of death and pandemic-related diseases that are in part due to a history of structural racism barriers in public health.

Moderating the discussion will be Prof. Sarah Lopez, a built environment historian and migration scholar from the University of Texas at Austin.