Faculty Convener: Wendy Laura Belcher
For grammarians, hyphens link while slashes divide. Grammatically, then, the hyphenated term African-American describes something singular, unified. The slash, however, is currently escaping grammatical prescriptions and is mutating into a Janus-faced sign with a multiplicity of meanings, some contradictory. The slash is used to suggest that two things represent a choice (and/or), a complete set (he/she), mutually exclusive realities (black/white), inclusivity (Chicana/o), a radical break (a poem’s line end), a mandate to divide (as in math’s x/y), different paths (as in website addresses), or a queer relation (as in slash fiction’s Kirk/Spock). This sign’s semantic proliferation is not unique but representative of the way that connections metamorphose in the twenty-first century. As part of the Global Race and Ethnicity track at Princeton’s Center for African American Studies, this year-long seminar will slash African/American by focusing on diasporic literature broadly conceived, featuring scholars presenting work-in-progress that expands comparative approaches to black literature by looking at it slant. Moving beyond the segregation of literatures by race and nationality, scholars and participating graduate students will consider African and American as in a slash relationship—simultaneously yoked to and alienated from each other, sometimes constituting and sometimes erasing the other—a relationship that proffers new choices in thinking about all literatures as diasporic, unmoored from imagined homes. Scholars will include those in the fields of Chicano/Latino studies, Asian American studies, and African American studies, as well as those in Caribbean and African studies, and will address a variety of texts (from novels and poems to cartoons and architecture).
Princeton’s Center for African American Studies annual Faculty-Graduate seminar is a remarkable intellectual community for scholars committed to sustained conversation on a particular topic over the course of a year. We are starting to accept applications from graduate students who wish to participate in next year’s seminar on contemporary literature, including some of the most intriguing scholars in American ethnic literatures and African diasporic literatures (see description and speakers below). We encourage graduate students to commit to both semesters and preference for spring registration will be given to students engaged in the fall seminar; participants will receive a small honorarium.