Professor Ato Quayson to Chair New Department of African and African American Studies at Stanford

Stanford University is set to establish a new department of African and African American studies, with Professor Ato Quayson serving as its inaugural chair. The department, which will officially open in January 2024, will build on the university’s longstanding Program in African and African American Studies and focus on research and teaching in the humanities and arts. Its scope may expand in the future to encompass some scholars in the social sciences.

Quayson, the Jean G. and Morris M. Doyle Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and chair of the Department of English in the School of Humanities and Sciences, has been a key architect of the proposed department. He chaired the committee that issued a report with recommendations for its funding, staffing, faculty hiring, curriculum, and major and minor requirements.

A highly accomplished scholar, Quayson joined the Stanford faculty in 2019, after teaching at New York University and the University of Toronto, where he also served as founding director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. From 1995 to 2005, he taught literature at the University of Cambridge, where he earned tenure and served as director of the Centre of African Studies.

Quayson has authored six monographs, including the award-winning Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2014) and Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2021), which was the recipient of the 2021 Robert Penn Warren-Cleanth Brooks Award for literary scholarship and criticism. He has also edited or co-edited eight collections and is co-editing two collections set for publication this year: The City in World Literature, with Jini Kim Watson (Cambridge University Press, 2023), and Decolonizing the English Literary Curriculum, with Ankhi Mukherjee (Routledge, 2023).

In his scholarly work, Quayson explores a range of topics, from African and diasporic literature, postcolonial theory, and cultural studies to tragedy, urbanism, and world literature. His research is marked by a capacious, comparativist approach that brings together diverse perspectives and traditions, from ancient Greek drama to contemporary African fiction.

As chair of the new department of African and African American studies, Quayson hopes to create an intellectual environment that is expansive and variegated, a hub for fresh ideas and comparative approaches. He envisions the department as a space for understanding the African diaspora in all its complexity and diversity, across different regions and time periods, and for fostering a sense of place and belonging that extends beyond any single identity or community.

In sum, Professor Ato Quayson is an accomplished scholar and visionary leader, whose work has contributed significantly to the fields of African and diasporic studies, postcolonial theory, and world literature. His appointment as the inaugural chair of the new department of African and African American studies at Stanford University is a testament to his intellectual and administrative skills, and to the importance of fostering diverse perspectives and approaches in the study of the African diaspora.


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