Abstract: Drawing from her forthcoming book, Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (NYU Press), Rusert will discuss a little-known story about race and science in the United States. Fugitive Science rethinks the history of nineteenth-century racial science from the perspective of black intellectuals, performers and artists who critiqued, challenged, and at times, even flirted with it. Largely excluded from institutions of scientific learning and training, these figures transformed cultural spaces like the page, the stage, the parlor, and even the pulpit into sites of knowledge making and experimentation. More broadly, the project seeks to make natural science central to how scholars understand the origins and development of African American literature. It simultaneously traces a pre-history of current struggles against health disparities, medical exploitation, and the reanimation of earlier regimes of racial science in new guises.
Bio: Britt Rusert is Visiting Associate Research Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Princeton and an Assistant Professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research and teaching focuses on pre-1900 African American literature, American literature of the long nineteenth century, race and science, U.S. print cultures and history of the book, and critical theory. She is currently completing a book titled Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture. She is also starting two new projects: a monograph on slavery, fantasy, and the archive, and a collection of W.E.B. Du Bois’s short genre fiction, co-edited with Adrienne Brown.