A Successful Residency: Simon Gikandi

This week marked the completion of another visiting residency for GW English, sponsored by the Wang Endowment.  Simon Gikandi, Professor of English at Princeton University and editor of PMLA, and author (most recently) of the critically-acclaimed Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton UP, 2011) was with us from October 26-October 31.

The residency included visits to our two Critical Methods courses (a course required for all majors), an extended seminar with graduate students and faculty (in which we discussed Slavery and the Culture of Taste and several PMLA essays), and our first-ever undergraduate seminar with a Wang Distinguished Professor-in-Residence (in which students discussed Nigerian writer Sefi Atta’s story “Yahoo Yahoo” with Professor Gikandi).  Most importantly, on Tuesday, October 28, Professor Gikandi delivered the annual GW Distinguished Lecture in Literary and Cultural Studies to a packed house in the Mavin Center.  The lecture, which was also sponsored by GW’s Africana Studies Program, was titled “Archives without Subjects, Subjects without Archives”; the talk used poetry from across three centuries, as well as a wide range of sources, including records of the deaths of enslaved Africans during the Middle Passage, to identify corporeal traces of subjectivity in what Professor Gikandi termed the “crypt” of slavery’s objectifying record.
Archives without Subjects, Subjects without Archives
Photo: Professor David Mitchell
Simon Gikandi with GW English Faculty
Daniel DeWispelare, Jennifer James, Kavita Daiya,
and other audience members
Photo Provided By: Professor Kavita Daiya
This visiting residency was created through a gift by Albert Wang and his family that has, since 2009, supported professors such as Edward P. Jones (now a member of the GW English Department), José Esteban Muñoz, J. Jack Halberstam, and Michael Bérubé.  The gift from the Wang family is one of the largest philanthropic commitments to GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of English.

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