Black Atlantic Fictions

Questions of belonging, identity, personhood, and nationalism have continued to hold the interest of scholars and government officials for a long time. Not only are people renegotiating their identities through migration and other sociocultural affiliations, but they refuse to do so through the fixed core that roots and national boundaries evoke but through routes, displacements, and (dis)connections. In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson states that “It is not only the world that has changed its face over the past… years. The study of nationalism too has been startlingly transformed - in method, scale, sophistication, and sheer quantity” (xi-ii) And this pushes us to reimagine who we are and our relationship with the rest of the world. Consequently, these changes in the twenty-first century provide us the lens through which we envision a new world built not on the either/or dichotomy that gender, class, race, and nationality evoke but on fluid identity and multiple connections informed by movements, disruptions, (dis)connections, (un)belonging and quest for change. And as Stuart Hall argues, nothing is complete; even history and identity formation are always in a process of becoming something new as people move, interact, and connect with one another. 

This discussion forum brings into conversation black writers across the world whose work problematizes the neat narratives of borderlands to locate the black aesthetic bodies in different histories and spaces. It explores how ideas, bodies, and cultures travel to reshape our knowledge of the world and social relations as we rethink the political geography of race. Through the reading of fictions drawn from Africa, the Caribbean, Black British, and African American, we will explore not only how various writers portray experiences of slavery, migration, and colonialism but also the relationship between history and memory, home and diaspora, culture and identity as well as the struggle with the past. Readings will include texts that focus on transnational movement as well as movement from the margin to the center in search of agency, identity, and cultural affiliations. Through the exposure of various cultures and ideals, students should be able to view identity formation not from the narrow lens of root, rootedness, and national boundaries but as a process of movement and mediation that is made possible through routes and connectivity, and nations as imagined political communities.

Our discussion will revolve broadly around these topics: migration, slavery, history, marginalization, capitalism, and (un)belonging paying particular attention to the voices and positions of the marginalized groups.  Questions of authenticity, positionality, and subjectivity are also to be explored. For instance, how do histories of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism help us to get a better understanding of ourselves and the world we know today? How do (inter)national movements and connections reposition people and create new social relations? Similarly, in view of the sociocultural, economic, and political changes that we have witnessed in the twenty-first century, one cannot help but ask can the “center” hold when the periphery challenges the basis upon which its dominant histories stand? What new world order can we envision if the center can no longer hold?


This reading group is discontinued for spring 2023.

This is an in-person reading group that will meet twice every month. 

Reading List:

Toni Morrison-Beloved

Ramabai Espinet- Swinging Bridge

Andrea Levy-Small Island

Chimamanda Adiche-Americanah

Samuel Selvon-The Lonely Londoners

Bernadine Evaristo—Girl, Woman, Other


Fall Semester Meeting Schedule, 6:30-7:20 pm Room 209 Scheide Caldwell House:

Sept. 23rd –Slavery, Memory, Capitalism, and Trauma—Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Oct. 7th--Migration, Indentureship, Dislocation, and Racialized Minorities -Ramabai Espinet’s    Swinging Bridge CANCELED

Oct. 28st --Contested Identities, Migrant Stories, and Liminal Spaces-Andrea Levy’s Small Island

Nov. 4st --Transnationalism, Postwar Migration, and Gendered Spaces-Samuel Selvon’s The        Lonely            Londoners.

Nov.18th --Postcolonialism, Assimilation, and Continental Internationalism-Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah

Dec. 2nd---(Im)Mobility, Hybridity, Marginality and (In)Visibility—Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl,    Woman. Other