Helen Gibson

Equal Opportunity Representative

Helen Gibson is a researcher in the field of Black Study working in the department of history at the University of Erfurt. She/They is/are the European Journal of American Studies editor for history, social sciences and international relations as well as a member of the editorial committee of the SFB blog "Transformation of Property." Helen completed her/their dissertation on Black joy and the history of Driving While Black at Freie Universität Berlin in 2021. Helen is currently researching the history of granny midwifery as spiritual practice.

Ein Bild von Helen Gibson.

Eigenes Forschungsprojekt

Helen is researching the ambivalent positionality of granny midwives—Black and Indigenous midwives and healers—in the context of the total violence of slavery in British North America and the United States (Ferreira da Silva 2022). Granny midwives, Tanya Hart writes, birthed most people in the antebellum South, and brought purportedly commodified people into the world (Hart 2015). The people they helped birth were foundational to racial capitalism and the many layers of expropriation it entailed. Specifically, as Jennifer D. Morgan has shown, black women’s wombs became fungible property under slavery that tied blackness to the abject (Morgan 2018). Yet, granny midwives were arguably the primary people providing access to spiritual nourishment that superseded the context of slavery.

The aim of this project is to fundamentally question the legitimacy of post-Enlightenment understandings of private property and, more abstractly, ‘value.’ Embracing a decolonial methodology, Helen's research questions at the moment are: What was the juridical, economic, ethical and symbolic significance of granny midwifery? In what ways do granny midwives’ practices evidence a social poiēsis that demonstrates the impossibility of total commodification (Hartman 2016; Judy 2020)? How are the metabolic legacies of racialization and commodification available to cosmic and quantic fractality (Ferreira da Silva 2022)? Her/Their methodology entails an embrace of black mysticism—a spiritual practice that does not recognize religion or theology proper—and a black feminist poethical (political, ethical) reading (Moten 2013; Crawley 2016; Warren 2017; Ferreira da Silva 2022). This reading is a practice, developed by Denise Ferreira da Silva, that foregrounds decolonial aims and understandings and centers the lived experiences and theorization of Black women.


  • mit Prof. Dr. Sebastian Jobs und Dr. Nadja Klopprogge: „Knowing/Refusing ‘Value’: Reclaiming Kinship at the Expense of Capital.“ Workshop co-organisiert mit der  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien (DGfA/GAAS) an der Universität Rostock, 01.-03.06.2023 (upcoming).
  • mit Sofia Bianchi Mancini, Dr. Dirk Schuck, und Prof. Dr. Markus Vinzent: „Relating to Land.“ gemeinsam durchgeführter Workshop mit dem Sonderforschungsbereich / Transregio SFB TRR 294 „Strukturwandel des Eigentums“ an der Universität Erfurt (04.11.2022).
  • mit Dr. Barbara Lüthi: „Race and Propertization.“ co-organisierter Workshop mit dem SFB TRR 294 und dem Historisches Seminar of Universität Erfurt in der Kleinen Synagoge in Erfurt (18.-19.11.2021).
  • mit Verena Wolf und Dr. Petra Gümplová: „Property ‘Objects’ and their Discontents.“ gemeinsam durchgeführter Workshop mit dem SFB TRR 294 aa Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (12.11.2021).
Vorträge (Auswahl)
  • „Beyond Teleology and Eschatology: The Stasis of ‘Taking Flight’ in Cars.“ vorbereitetes Paper für die Annual Conference of the Historians in the DGfA/GAAS, Akademie für Politische Bildung, Tutzing, 05.-07.05.2023 (upcoming).
  • „Joyriding Otherwise: William Pickens’ Automotivity as Spiritual Practice.“ Vortrag für die 2022 Rolf Kentner Dissertationspreisverleihung, Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA), Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, 27.04.2023 (upcoming).
  • „The Reception of the Theory of Path Dependency in Historical Science.“ präsentiertes Paper für den SFB294-Workshop „Theorien der Pfadabhängigkeit in den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften“, Jentower, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena (19.-20.01.2023).
  • „The Cosmogram as Alternative to Property for the Eigentumslosen.“ präsentiertes Paper für den SFB294-Workshop „Relating to Land“, Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt (04.11.2022)
  • „Joyriding as Spiritual Practice.“ Vortrag am Oberseminar Neuere/Neueste Geschichte, Universität Gießen (26.10.2022).

Komplette Liste der Vorträge herunterladen


  • "Access to Labor and Leisure in Cars: Early Black Motorists' Automotivity in Miami," in Mondes du Tourisme, article no. 303.: https://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/4549
  • "Felons and the Right to Vote in Virginia: a Historical Overview" in The Virginia News Letter 91, no. 1 (2015): 1-9.
  • with Anne Potjans, Simon Rienäcker, and Jiann-Chyng Tu (eds.), Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies (COPAS) 19, no. 1 (2018).


  • WiSe 2017/18: "The History of Felon Disenfranchisement and Race in the United States Pre-1877," Freie Universität Berlin
  • WiSe 2020/21: "Care Work: Black Midwifery and a History of Science, 1619 to 1877," Freie Universität Berlin
  • SoSe 2021: with Prof. Dr. Eva Boesenberg: "Topics in American History," Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • WiSe 2021/22: with Dr. Barbara Lüthi: "The Politics of Mobility: Mobile Subjects and Stasis in the United States," Universität Erfurt
  • SoSe 2022: “Gender History, Black Feminist and Womanist Theory,” Universität Erfurt
  • WiSe 2022/23: "Histories of Enslavement," Universität Erfurt
  • SoSe 2023: "History and Physics: Cosmic and Quantic Moments," Universität Erfurt