Postdoctoral Scholar (Sawyer Seminar)*

The Department of African American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University welcomes applications for a one-year postdoctoral scholar, beginning July 2018. Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the scholar will contribute scholarly expertise to the department’s Sawyer Seminar Series on the theme of “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance.” Racial disposability names a bundle of practices, institutions, and laws that demographically distributes and neglects civil rights, concentrating the use of force and threat of incarceration on particular communities with limited recourse to investigation and remedy. Our approach holds a range of institutions within the analytic frame of racial disposability to probe the functional connections between them. For instance, what is the relationship between the denial of public resources (education, clean water, etc.) to predominantly Black populations in some urban centers and the extraction of personal resources from other Black, urban populations through overpolicing practices that generate fines, compound debt, and wage garnishment? Disposability draws attention to the dual condition of value extraction and abandonment. Though these processes are produced, funded, and perpetuated at the level of state and corporate practices and policies, racially disposable populations, be they Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Nicaraguan or African-American, respond in ways that are unpredictable.

They challenge the cultural logic, daily structures and entrenched practices that reduce Black populations to targets for temporary use or permanent extermination. Those whose lives, bodies, and communities have historically been defined as disposable resist this characterization and its social effects through a variety of cultural and political strategies. Situating these practices of disposability and resistance to disposability within the longue duree of racial terror and slavery, from the 18th century forward in the Americas, our Sawyer Seminar not only raises the question of whose lives count and to whom, as the Movement for Black Lives suggests, but also when and how particular lives count, and for how long and to what political ends? The Sawyer Seminar will host a variety of speakers, a film series, a two-day conference and produce a digital humanities project. We are seeking a postdoctoral scholar whose research speaks to the seminar theme and would prefer someone who has experience developing digital humanities projects.

All requirements of the PhD must be completed by the appointment date. Applicants must submit a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, and a writing sample of no more than 30 pages. Letters of reference should be ready upon request. Review of applications will begin on January 15 and continue until the position is filled.

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