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Ashraf Rushdy - Job Talk



The New Apologists for Slavery
This talk is comprised of parts of two projects on which I am currently working. One is a study of contemporary historical apologies. The second is a comparative study of two late-nineteenth-century African American writers. These are distinct projects, and it is only in this talk that I am experimenting with putting them into dialogue with each other.
My first project is a study of the emergence of a new global political discourse of apology. I want to understand the meanings of the proliferating practice of national heads of state and religious leaders issuing numerous apologies for what their nations and churches did to aggrieved peoples in the near and distant past, as well as the prominent feature of truth and reconciliation commission hearings in which police agents of various sorts apologize to those they tortured. I want to see in what way these episodes – apologies for recent acts committed by individuals representing the state, and apologies for past events by representatives of the state – can be seen as expressions of a peculiar dynamic in our historical moment (in which the powers to apologize and to forgive are unequally parceled out in our post-colonial, post-apartheid, post-junta states). This project, tentatively entitled “Reflections on the Guilted Age: Political and Historical Apologies Considered,” explores how these apologies rearticulate and challenge some of the categories on which they depend (categories like race, power, historical time).
The second project is a study that compares the careers of Charles Chesnutt and Pauline Hopkins. There are marked similarities in their careers – they both enjoyed a very short and concentrated period of publishing success between about 1899 and 1905, they both addressed the major political issues of the 1890s, particularly the role of racist violence in creating American racial categories, and they both experimented with folkloric, mythical, and popular genres (the oral tale, the spiritual-mystical adventure story, the passing narrative). There are also stark differences – notably that Chesnutt was the first African American writer to publish with mainstream presses, while Hopkins published almost exclusively in black- owned, black-edited venues. I am interested in seeing how these two different writers conceived of and entered the literary marketplace, how the independent venues and established publishing houses with which they were associated affected their artistry, and what a comparison of two fin de siècle writers of different temperaments, different literary sensibilities, and different political affiliations will reveal about the remarkable challenges African American writers faced during the decades, 1890-1910, that crucial moment of transition and rebirth for the African American novel.
Ashraf Rushdy is a candidate for the open faculty position in Africana Literature.
Start Time: 2/25/2013  12:10 PM
Location: 3222 AH
Contact: karlyjm@umich.edu
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