Bakari Kitwana

An internationally known cultural critic and thought leader in the area of hip-hop, youth culture, and Black political engagement, Bakari Kitwana is a senior media fellow at the Harvard Law based think tank The Jamestown Project, and Executive Director of Rap Sessions, which conducts townhall meetings on difficult dialogues facing the Millennial Generation. The former Editor-in-Chief of The Source magazine, he is the co-founder of the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention, which brought over 4000 18-29 year-olds to Newark, NJ in 2004 to create and endorse a political agenda for the hip-hop generation. The 2007-2008 Artist-in-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, Kitwana is the author of Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop and the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era. His groundbreaking 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation popularized the expression “the hip-hop generation” and has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at over 100 college and universities. Kitwana served on the organizing committee for the 2013 Black Youth Project convening that launched the millennial Black activist group BYP100. In 2015, he edited an essay series for on race and policing, “Shifting Perceptions: Being Black in America.

Bryan Wagner

Bryan Wagner is Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on African American expression in the context of slavery and its aftermath, and he has secondary interests in legal history and popular music. He is the author of Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery (Harvard University Press, 2009) and The Tar Baby: A Global History (Princeton University Press, 2017). His current work includes a critical edition on the fugitive slave, Bras-Coupé; a short monograph on the Mardi Gras Indians; and a collaborative project, Louisiana Slave Conspiracies, which aims to preserve, digitize, transcribe, translate, and analyze testimonies and other materials related to insurrection plots. A book in progress, The Sorrow Songs, considers the theology of the African American spirituals.

Cara Jane Koehler

Cara Koehler is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Literary and Media Studies, University of Bamberg. Before moving to Germany she studied English Literature and French Language at DePaul University, Chicago. Cara spent the fall of 2015 at the University of California, Berkeley to carry out research on her book project Bottled-Up Desires: Addiction, Film Noir, and Postwar America, which examines the aesthetics of addiction in classical American film noir. Her research interests include American literature of the nineteenth century, the graphic novel and teen culture, theories of adaptation, and American visual culture

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Cassandra Jackson

Cassandra Jackson is  Professor of English at The College of New Jersey. She received a B.A. in English from Spelman College and a Ph.D. in English from Emory University.  Her research and teaching interests focus on African-American literature, critical race theory, and visual culture.  She is the author of Barriers Between Us: Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Indiana University Press) and Violence, Visual Culture, and the Black Male Body (Routledge).  In 2010 she co-curated a TCNJ Art Gallery exhibit, “Wounding the Black Male: Photographs from the Light Work Collection.”  This exhibit has also been shown at the Light Work Gallery (Syracuse, NY) and the CEPA Gallery (Buffalo, NY).  Professor Jackson is an alum of the OpEd Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase the number of women and minority thought leaders in key commentary forums.  Her public commentary on race in American culture can be found on the Huffington Post.

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Cheryl Higashida

Cheryl Higashida is Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She earned her doctorate from Cornell University, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley.  She researches and teaches U.S. literature, ethnic studies, and gender and sexuality. Her essays have appeared in American Literature, American Quarterly, Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits, and Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans.  She is the author of Black Internationalist Feminism: Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995 (Illinois, 2012).  She is co-editor of the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of English Language Notes titled “Sexing the Left.”  Her current research is on sound technology, social movements, and race in the 20th and 21st centuries; her book in progress is ‘Mao and Cabral/ Mingus and Coltrane’: Music, Social Movements, and the Reproduction of Race.

Christopher Brown

Chris Brown is an Assistant Professor of English at Wake Forest University.  He is currently at work on his first book project, 'And There See Justice Done': The Problem of Law in the African American Literary Tradition.  Reading across African American literature and culture from Phillis Wheatley to Edward P. Jones, the book argues that black conceptions of liberty, equality and justice are often incommensurable with competing legal articulations, and that this incommensurability is repeatedly figured in tropes of madness, blindness, treason, and the absurd.  His research and teaching extend the book's concern with the logics of law and race, exploring how legal and literary discourses alternately converge and diverge over the course of U.S. history.  Chris’ published and forthcoming essays appear in Law and Literature, Culture and Humanities, and the edited collection Passing As Post-Racial.  His research has been funded by several fellowships and grants, including support from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Ford Foundation.

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Dread Scott

Dread Scott is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is exhibited across the US and internationally. For three decades he has made work that encourages viewers to re-examine cohering norms of American society. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced and outlawed one of his artworks and President Bush declared it “disgraceful” because of its use of the American flag. His art has been exhibited/performed at MoMA/PS1, Pori Art Museum (Finland), BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and galleries and street corners across the country.  He is a recipient of grants form Creative Capital Foundation and the Pollock Krasner Foundation and his work is included in the collection of the Whitney Museum.

Georgiana Banita

Georgiana Banita is assistant professor of US literature and media studies at the University of Bamberg and Honorary Research Fellow at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney. She is the author of Plotting Justice: Narrative Ethics and Literary Culture after 9/11 (Nebraska 2012) and co-editor of Electoral Cultures: American Democracy and Choice (Heidelberg 2015). She is completing a trilogy on the culture and aesthetics of petroleum in American literature. This conference relates to two ongoing research projects: one on race and police violence, the other on cultural representations of Nat Turner.

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Greta Olson

Greta Olson was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” in Bonn (2014, 2016) and is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Giessen. She is a general editor of the European Journal of English Studies (EJES), and, with Jeanne Gaakeer, the co-founder of the European Network for Law and Literature. She works and wishes to facilitate projects on the nexus between artistic practice, politics, and academic analysis. Recent publications include work on the political impact of photographs of migration, the politics of aesthetic forms, law and affect, narrative and ideology, and feminism and sexuality studies.

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Jesse Ramírez

Jesse Ramírez is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. In addition to his interest in comparative ethnic studies, he is currently working on two book projects: "UnAmerican Dreams," a study of apocalyptic science fiction, and "Digits," a cultural history of digital automation. Jesse blogs at

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Jonathan Ilan

Dr Jonathan Ilan is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at City, University of London and author of Understanding Street Culture: Poverty, Crime, Youth and Cool. He has researched and published widely on matters of exclusion, crime, justice and urban youth culture. One strand of this research uses the street cultural expressivity of disadvantaged populations to better understand the ways in which crime and justice are perceived and discussed within contexts of socio-economic and cultural exclusion. In his contribution to the conference he will draw on insights from critical criminology, his previous work on street culture and more recent explorations of the political significance of subcultural practice.

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Jonathan Munby

Jonathan Munby teaches and researches the relationship between race and American popular culture in the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) at Lancaster University, U.K. He is an Alumnus Fellow of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Hutchins Center for Research in African and African American Culture, Harvard University. He has published widely on African American film, literature and music. His most recent publications include an analysis of African American contributions to the literature of the American West, and critical engagements with the problems of black American cultural production in the age of New Jim Crow, focusing on the filmmaking practices of Spike Lee, Ice-T, Tyler Perry, and Ryan Coogler. He is currently working on a critical biography of the African American artist-activist, Julian Mayfield. He is the author of Public Enemies, Public Heroes: Screening the Gangster from Little Caesar to Touch of Evil (1999) and Under a Bad Sign: Criminal Self-Representation in African American Popular Culture (2011), both for the University of Chicago Press.

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Karla Holloway

Karla FC Holloway is James B. Duke Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University.  She is the author of eight books, including Passed On African American Mourning Stories (2002) and more recently, Private Bodies, Public Texts (2011) and Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature (2014).  She has been Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Duke and is co-founder of the university’s John Hope Franklin Center and Institute. Her research and writing focus on biocultural studies, ethics, law and literature. She’s fairly active on Twitter (@ProfHolloway) and is currently working on a fictional trilogy about Harlem’s first “colored” policeman.

Keith Knight

Keith Knight is one of America's most prolific cartoonists, penning three comic strips: The semi-autobiographical "the K Chronicles", the nationally-syndicated daily "the Knight Life", and the socio-political single-panel "(th)ink". His works appears in nearly 75 publications, including the Washington Post, MAD Magazine,, Daily KOS, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Harvey Award for Best Comic Strip, a Comic-Con Inkpot Award for career achievement, and was named an NAACP History Maker in 2015 for his presentation examining police brutality.  He lives in Chapel Hill, NC.

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Kristian Williams

Kristian Williams is the author of Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America, and Fire the Cops!, as well as an editor of Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency.

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Luvena Kopp

Luvena Kopp is a doctoral candidate and a research fellow (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) in the Department of American Studies at the University of Tübingen. She earned her Magistra Artium in American Studies and Theatre, Film, and Media Studies from Goethe University in Frankfurt. Her research interests include figurational sociology (particularly the concepts of Pierre Bourdieu and Norbert Elias), and African American literature and culture. Luvena Kopp is a member of the Norbert Elias Figurational Research Network. She was also a Fulbright Fellow at New York University where she studied with Professors Ed Guerrero, Manthia Diawara, and Awam Ankpa and participated in the 2016 Fulbright American Studies Institute entitled “Why Black Lives Matter: Race and Politics in the U.S,” organized by the San Francisco State University. Her article “Satirizing Satire: Symbolic Violence and Subversion in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled” was published in 2014 in the anthology Post-Soul Satire: Black Identity after Civil Rights, edited by Derek C. Maus and James J. Donahue.

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Martin Berger

Martin Berger is Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  He specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century US art and culture, with a particular focus on the construction of gender and race.  He has held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution, Stanford Humanities Center, and National Humanities Center.  He is the author of three books and an exhibition catalog: Man Made: Thomas Eakins and the Construction of Gilded Age Manhood (2000), Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture (2005), Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (2011), and Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle (2013).

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Mary Sutton

Mary Sutton is in her second-year of the Joint Degree Master’s Program in English and American Studies at the University of Bamberg. She is currently studying at the University of Paris – Diderot for the fall semester.

Her research interests include nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, Afro-American Studies, feminist studies, visual studies, the Victorian Era, and Modernism.

Her thesis will explore the nexus between the Harlem Renaissance and Modernism, using Josephine Baker and Ada “Bricktop” Smith as links between worlds that were racially disparate, though inseparable in the stories they tell about Trans-Atlanticism, migration, and the pursuit of new forms.

Nicole Hirshfelder

Nicole Hirschfelder studied American, Film and Media Studies at Goethe University (MA), the University of Wisconsin (graduate studies, MA), and at Yale University (PhD research scholar program). She completed her dissertation at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen. In 2014, she published an edited version of her PhD thesis as her first book titled, Oppression as Process: The Case of Bayard Rustin. Her current, second book project deals with the narrativity and visual representation of disasters with a special focus on the concept of the gaze and examines, for example, how ways of seeing impact evaluations of disasters, such as Katrina. Apart from her main areas of scholarship (inequality, poverty, oppression, and the Civil Rights Movement), she has also published and presented on the Black Lives Matter Movement and maintains contact with schools and other educational/ activist institutions to initiate conversations about the specific meanings of Black Lives Matter in the US and Germany. In January 2016, she was one of the three organizers of the workshop "Who Can Speak and Who Is Heard/Hurt?" Ethnic Diversity, Race and Racism in American Studies in Germany.

For this fall semester, she is a guest professor at the University of Maryland.

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Nicole Waligora-Davis

Nicole A. Waligora-Davis is an Associate Professor of English at Rice University. She specializes in late-nineteenth and 20th century African American and American literary and cultural criticism, with a particular emphasis on black intellectual history, black internationalism, legal studies, critical race theory, and visual culture. She is the author of Sanctuary: African Americans and Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011).  An associate editor of the award winning Remembering Jim Crow (New Press, 2001), Waligora-Davis’s essays have appeared in numerous publications including the Cambridge History of African American Literature, the Cambridge Companion to American Literature after 1945, Centennial Review, African American Review, Modern Fiction Studies, and the Mississippi Quarterly. She is currently working on a book-length study titled, The Murder Book: Race, Forensics and the Value of Black Life.