[Blackstudies-l] Saidiya Hartman, Literary Scholar and Cultural Historian | 2019 MacArthur Fellow

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sun Sep 29 07:41:16 EDT 2019

      - Saidiya Hartman

Literary Scholar and Cultural Historian | Class of 2019

Tracing the afterlife of slavery in modern American life and rescuing from
oblivion stories of sparsely documented lives that have been systematically
excluded from historical archives.
[image: Portrait of Saidiya Hartman] *Photos for download >*
Literary Scholar and Cultural Historian
Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
New York, New York
Area of Focus
Literary History and Criticism
American History

   - Columbia University: Saidiya Hartman

*Published September 25, 2019*
About Saidiya's Work

Saidiya Hartman is a scholar of African American literature and cultural
history whose works explore the afterlife of slavery in modern American
society and bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty
that historical archives have omitted or obscured. She weaves findings from
her meticulous historical research into narratives that retrieve from
oblivion stories of nameless and sparsely documented historical actors,
such as female captives on slave ships and the inhabitants of slums at the
turn of the twentieth century.

Her first book, *Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in
Nineteenth-Century America
traces continuities between pre- and post-emancipation eras in the United
States by demonstrating how even advocacy-oriented abolitionist rhetoric
reproduced the violence and domination of the state of enslavement. She
extends her analysis to the present day by challenging contemporary
scholars to be wary of recirculating scenes of the violated black body. Her
second book, *Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route*
<https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374531157> (2007), combines elements of
historiography and memoir in a meditation on her travels to Ghana in search
of a deeper understanding of the experience of enslavement. With this work,
Hartman defies the conventions of academic scholarship and employs a
speculative method of writing history, which she terms “critical
fabulation,” to interrogate the authority of historical archives as the
singular source of credible information about the past. She revisits the
primal scenes of the African diaspora—its coastal fortresses, dungeons, and
hinterlands—and reimagines from multiple perspectives the case of an
African girl who was murdered by a ship captain and singled out in a speech
by the British abolitionist William Wilberforce in 1792. As a whole, the
book dramatizes the challenge of rendering in narrative form such
irreparable conditions of loss and dispossession and illuminates the
ongoing consequences of these conditions in the present day.

Hartman’s most recent book, *Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments*
(2019), is similarly inventive in its mode of presentation and immerses
readers in the interior lives of young black women who fled the South and
moved to Northern cities in the early twentieth century. While drawing from
sociological surveys, tenement photographs, reformatory case files, and
other sources, she critiques the pathologizing portrayals these official
documents present and recovers stories of resistance enacted by famous
women (such as Ida B. Wells) and numerous anonymous others who looked
outside the bounds of the law to find kinship, intimacy, and freedom. By
addressing gaps and omissions in accounts of trans-Atlantic slavery and its
aftermath, Hartman has influenced an entire generation of scholars and
afforded readers a proximity to the past that would otherwise be foreclosed.

Saidiya Hartman received a BA (1984) from Wesleyan University and a PhD
(1992) from Yale University. She was a professor in the Department of
English and African American Studies at the University of California,
Berkeley (1992–2006), prior to joining the faculty of Columbia University,
where she is currently a professor in the Department of English and
Comparative Literature. She is the former director of the Institute for
Research on Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University and was a Whitney
Oates Fellow at Princeton University (2002), a Cullman Fellow at the New
York Public Library (2016–2017), and a Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor
at the University of Chicago (2018). In addition to her books, she has
published articles in journals such as *South Atlantic Quarterly*,
*Brick*, *Small
Axe, Callaloo, The New Yorker *and *The Paris Review*.
Select News Coverage of Saidiya Hartman
September 25, 2019
Saidiya Hartman, Literary Scholar and Cultural Historian | 2019 MacArthur
Fellow <https://mail.google.com/videos/640/>
*Tracing the afterlife of slavery in modern American life and rescuing from
oblivion stories of sparsely documented lives that have been systematically
excluded from historical archives.*
Photos for Download

High-resolution photos of MacArthur Fellows are available for download
(right click and save), including use by media, in accordance with
this copyright
policy <https://mail.google.com/creative-commons/>.
Download Photo 1
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Please credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Meet more Fellows focused on American History


Maria Helena Lima
Department of English
Comparative Literature Director
James and Julia Lockhart Professor, 2014-2017
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