Christopher Roberts is an Assistant Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He teaches in the Theory, History of Art and Design department as well as the Experimental and Foundation Studies Division. At RISD, he has spent the last two years working in the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion as their inaugural SEI Research Fellow. He is from Baltimore, MD, earned his PhD in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University, and an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. As a Black Studies scholar, he is concerned with Black geographies of memory and forgetting, with an emphasis on port cities in the United States that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. Situated at the convergence of sculpture, architecture, design, and art history, Roberts uses historical analysis to unravel the entanglements of race and coloniality that suture our conceptions of monuments, maps, archives, and museums as concrete representations of the past. Framed through a Black Studies lens, he uses this analysis of the former to break the hold they have on our public and private spatial imaginations. Though voraciously interested in the context of the United States, he is keenly attuned to such discourses not only in the Caribbean and South Africa, but wherever and whenever Black life is ongoing.
Prior to teaching at RISD, he was the Artemis A.W. and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University where taught and conducted research. Before coming to Rhode Island, he taught at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey and Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Roberts spent ten years as a museum professional working in educational programming and tour design at The Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. He recently completed work as a Research Associate for the Mellon Foundation funded National Monument Audit as a member of the public art and history studio, Monument Lab. In addition to his work on solo and co-authored academic projects, he currently teaches courses entitled Humanity or Nah?, Take Me Apart, and Radical Imaginings of Evidence.
When I think back on my time in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland, I have fond memories of learning from brilliant people like Dr. Michelle Beadle-Holder, Dr. Emily Mann, Dr. Sloane Kali Faye, Dr. Dave Strohecker, and Dr. Nicole DeLoatch. Each in their own way influenced my understanding of what it means to be a teacher. As a student, Dr. Kris Marsh helped me understand that information isn't just data, but it's the way the data is gathered in the first place. There is not enough room here to mention all the instructors, staff, and classmates who helped me along the way, but to all of them I am thankful. Being an undergraduate student in the department afforded me an opportunity to connect my experience of growing up in a place like Baltimore to the institutional realities through which that experience was structured. It was through my concentrating on Social Stratification that I came to more precisely question how power operated in the world.
In terms of what I do and who I am today, Professor Patricia Hill Collins is among those who most impacted that. I had the unique opportunity to take multiple courses with Professor Collins and be a student TA in her Sociology of Black Activism course. In her scholarship and teaching she reminded us that knowledge is not only in academia, but in the lives of everyday Black people. She encouraged me to pursue graduate school and to continue learning. She saw something in me that I did not see in myself at that time. She helped me figure out what I wanted to do, not just what others wanted for me. It is that model of mentorship and support that I aspire to reach in my work with Black students in a world that is set up to tear them down.