Keynote & Plenary Collaborations

In the spirit of Moten’s undercommons, we have arranged a keynote address and two plenary collaborations.


Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Her research explores the literary and figurative aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of literature and visual culture with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Her first book, Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World,was published by New York University Press in May 2020 as part of the Sexual Cultures series. Becoming Human argues that key African American, African, and Caribbean literary and visual texts generate conceptions of being and materiality that creatively disrupt a human-animal distinction that persistently reproduces the racial logics and orders of Western thought. She is currently at work on her second book, tentatively titled, “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex-Gender.” It argues that antiBlackness constitutes the bedrock of modern logics of sex-gender and meditates on how its terrorizing vertical orders might be toppled by the transfiguring potentialities of Blackness. Ultimately, the project provides a critique of biocentrism (or biological reductionism and determinism) and elucidates the indistinction of sex-gender and race. Her essays have appeared in Feminist StudiesQui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social ScienceCatalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, South Atlantic Quarterly (SAQ), e-flux,and twice in Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ). Her articles can be found on her website: zakiyyahimanjackson/scholarship. 

Plenary 1:

Citation, Appropriation, and Abolition

Eugenia Zuroski is an Associate Professor of English at McMaster University. She is the  author of the book, A Taste for China: English Subjectivity and the Prehistory of Orientalism (Oxford University Press, 2013), which argues that chinoiserie played an integral role in the formation of modern English subjectivity. Tracing a shift in the relationship between English selves and “things Chinese” from the Restoration through the early nineteenth century, this study shows how both orientalism and privatized subjectivity take shape through cultural processes of disavowing earlier ideals, including cosmopolitanism and aristocratic power. In addition to her teaching and research, she serves as editor of the journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction, winner of the 2017 CELJ Voyager Award. The recipient of a SSHRC Insight Grant, she is currently completing the book, A Funny Thing: The Undisciplined Eighteenth Century, which argues for the emergence of politically relevant forms of “funniness” in eighteenth-century literature, aesthetics, and subjectivity. Her first chapbook of poetry, Hovering, Seen, was published by Anstruther Press in 2019. Her essays have appeared in The Rambling, Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Journal18.

Kerry Sinanan is Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is now completing her monograph, Myths of Mastery: Traders, Planters and Colonial Agents 1750-1833, for The University of North Carolina Press. This book examines the writings in various genres by slave traders and slave owners from the mid-eighteenth century up to British emancipation (1834). Myths of Mastery situates itself within the related areas of eighteenth-century studies and critical race theory to focus specifically on the articulation of mastery and selfhood within a range of writings produced by British enslavers. In 2010 she co-edited the volume, Romanticism, Sincerity and Authenticity with Tim Milnes (Palgrave Macmillan) and is currently working on another edited collection on Jane Austen. Her public writing has appeared in 18thCenturyCommon, the Age of Revolution, and Romantic Circles Unbound. Her essays have appeared in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Women: a Cultural Review, and Green Leaves: The Journal of the Barbara Pym Society. She is Secretary/treasurer for the Early Caribbean Society.

Matt Sandler is the program director for the MA in American Studies at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. His book, The Black Romantic Revolution: Abolitionist Poets at the End of Slavery (Verso 2020) shows how nineteenth-century Black writers borrowed from the Romantic traditions to imagine what freedom might mean in the Civil War era. His work has appeared in African American ReviewAtlantic Studies, Byron Journal, CallalooComparative LiteratureEuropean Romantic Review, and the L.A. Review of Books, among other places. He is also co-chair of the Columbia University Seminar in American Studies.

Plenary 2:

Black Studies In and Around Romanticism

Bakary Diaby is an Assistant Professor of English at Skidmore College. His work ranges over Trans-Atlantic Romanticism and Eighteenth-Century Literature, Aesthetic Theory, Critical Race Studies, and Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. He is currently at work on two book projects. The first book explores the interplay among romantic literature, enlightenment aesthetics, and the idea of vulnerability and is tentatively titled “Sensing Meaning: Aesthetics and Vulnerability in the Romantic Period.” The second, titled “Anatomy of Critique,” looks at methodological debates in aesthetics and the literary arts in the eighteenth century and the last forty years.  His essays have appeared in Symbiosis: A Journal of Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations, European Romantic Review, and The Keats-Shelley Journal.

Annette Joseph-Gabriel is an Assistant Professor of French in the department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching focus on francophone Caribbean and African literature, with interdisciplinary specializations in Afro-diasporic literary and cultural movements, and slavery in the French Atlantic. She is particularly interested in the ways that people of African descent in the francophone world have contributed to notions of citizenship and freedom on a global scale. Her first book, Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire, mines published writings and untapped archives to reveal the anticolonialist endeavors of black women in the French empire. It shows the ways that their activism and thought challenged France’s imperial system by shaping forms of citizenship that encouraged multiple cultural and racial identities. She is currently at work on a second book that examines notions of freedom in enslaved people’s life writing in French. Her essays have appeared in Beyond Bergson: Examining Race and Colonialism through the Writings of Henri Bergson, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, and Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies

Nicole N. Aljoe is the Director of the Africana Studies Program and Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at Northeastern University. Her fields of specialization are eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Black Atlantic Literature, the Slave Narrative, Postcolonial Studies, and the eighteenth-century British Novel. She is the project convener and co-director of the digital humanities project, Early Caribbean Digital Archive,and director of the Early Black Boston Digital Almanac. She is currently working on two books projects: “A Secret History of the Sable Venus: Negotiations of Race, Sentiment, and Gender in the Long 18th century” and “Do You Remember the Days of Slavery: The Neo-Slave Narrative in Contemporary Caribbean Cultural Production.” Her recent publications include “Caribbean Slave Narratives” in The Oxford Handbook of African American Slave Narratives and “The Long Song of the Caribbean Colonial Archive: Reading ‘The Memoir of Florence Hall’” in American Literary History. She is co-editor of Journeys of the Slave Narrative in the Early Americas, University of Virginia Press, 2014 and co-editor of Literary Histories of the Early Anglophone Caribbean: Islands in the Stream, Palgrave MacMillan, 2018.