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The concern of this seminar is the history, literature, and culture of the United States, focusing on the period from the nineteenth century to the present. Recent subjects have ranged from Margaret Fuller to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, from Asian American fashion designers to letters from former slaves who settled in Liberia. A number of presentations have positioned the United States in transnational or comparative contexts. The seminar’s strength is the variety of fields represented by its intellectually active participants. The very lively discussion periods are one of the most appealing aspects of this seminar.

Professor James Kim

Professor Matt Sandler

Rebecca Stout

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/22/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
Fugitive Historiography and the Gift of Black Folk: Towards a Consideration of Slave Narratives as African-American Intellectual History
Westenley Alcenet, Fordham University


This talk will present working ideas of an article in progress (Fugitive Historiography and the Gift of Black Folks) that explores the deeper intellectual significance of the slave narrative genre. I argue that, collectively, these texts were among the first to articulate a transnational, transcultural view of history, one that anticipated current trends in the modern historical profession. Written against an emerging genre of white nationalist histories, American slave narrative offered an alternative national history, one that highlighted the nation’s transnational ties, as well as its racial, ethnic, and religious diversity.

11/17/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
A Queer History of Latinx Challenges to U.S. Immigration Policy
Julio Capo Jr., Florida International University


This presentation focuses on how queer migrants from parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have challenged and helped shape U.S. immigration policy in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present.

12/08/2020 Online Meeting
7:30 PM
The Racial Project of Academic Freedom
Diane Detournay, Fordham University


Feminist scholars such as Joan Scott and Judith Butler have argued for a strengthening of academic freedom in response to global attacks on critical scholarship that challenge state violence and hegemonic arrangements of power. This paper reads the cardinal texts on academic freedom to suggest that feminist theorizations of the concept displace and disavow the university’s foundational relation to black enslavement and settler logics. Academic freedom, I argue, draws from a liberal grammar that requires—following Saidiya Hartman—black bondage for its conception of freedom. Tracking the gendered racial order that undergirds the pretense of the academy as an exceptional site of knowledge, I connect the implications to the administering of Title IX policy on college campuses. In parallel ways, Title IX relies upon a model of the university and definition of sexual violence that disappears its racial conditions.

01/26/2021 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
The Land(ing): Flying Africans and Paule Marshall’s Black Analytics of Arrival
Sasha Ann Panaram, Fordham University


“The Land(ing): Flying Africans and Paule Marshall’s Black Analytics of Arrival” examines a crossing that occurred soon after Ibo Africans arrived at Dunbar Creek in St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia in 1803 as it is recounted in the “Ibo Landing” folklore and recreated in Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow (1983). Specifically, I argue that the protagonist Aunt Cuney’s repeated walks to the river coupled with her retelling of the myth of the "Flying African" reconfigures diasporic landing as a series of unfinished arrivals. Drawing on oral histories with Gullah people amassed by the Federal Writers' Project who recall the “Flying African” tale as well as scholarship by Foloshade Alao, Soyica Colbert, and Katherine McKittrick, among others, I explore how Marshall’s novel is not concerned with discussions of aerial ascent to Africa or the descent associated with drowning previously theorized in relation to the folklore, but rather how the literal steps taken by the Ibos towards the water alters notions of landing in the diaspora and the significance of the aquatic for Black people thereafter.

02/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM

Autumn Womack, Princeton University

03/23/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM

Howard Rambsy II, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

04/20/2021 Online Meeting
7:30 PM

Benjamin Balthasar, Indiana University South Bend