Nijah Cunningham

Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows
Society of the Fellows
Nijah Cunningham

Nijah Cunningham received his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and his B.A. in Communication and Faith, Peace, and Justice from Boston College, where he was a McNair Scholar. He comes to Princeton from a teaching position at Hunter College, CUNY. He specializes in African American and African diasporic literature and his fields of interest include black studies, performance studies, visual culture, gender and sexuality, and postcolonial criticism. Under the working title of “Quiet Dawn: Time, Aesthetics, and the Afterlives of Black Radicalism,” his current book project reconsiders the material legacies of the revolutionary past by exploring questions of embodied performance, temporality, and historiography within the context of the 1960s. The manuscript examines archival documents and a range of aesthetic forms that illuminate plural modes of action which strain against conventional notions of agency and freedom and, in turn, gesture towards worlds that could have been. He has published work in Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism and The Studio Museum of Harlem exhibition catalogue, Fore. In collaboration with Erica James (Art History, Yale University) and David Scott (Anthropology, Columbia University), he has recently organized a symposium series called Caribbean Queer Visualities (CQV), which brings Caribbean artists and critics in conversation around the question of queerness as it relates to visual art practice. At Princeton, he will offer courses on black aesthetics, history and catastrophe, and fictions of black urban life. In addition to being affiliated with the Department of African American Studies and the Department of English, he will serve as a faculty fellow at Mathey College. He is currently the Project Coordinator of The Small Axe Project.


AAS 242 / ENG 242
Other Futures: An Introduction to Modern Caribbean Literature

This course introduces students to major theories and debates within the study of Caribbean literature and culture with a particular focus on the idea of catastrophe. Reading novels and poetry that address the historical loss and injustices that have given shape to the modern Caribbean, we will explore questions of race, gender, and sexuality and pay considerable attention to the figure of the black body caught in the crosscurrents of a catastrophic history. We will analyze how writers and artists attempted to construct alternative images of the future from the histories of slavery and colonialism that haunt the Caribbean and its Diasporas.