Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor: Saidiya Hartman

Since 2003, the Critical Inquiry Distinguished Visiting Professorship has been held by some of the world’s most renowned scholars.  The CI Professor is in residence at the University of Chicago for an academic quarter, where he or she teaches a graduate seminar and offers two public lectures.

In Spring 2018 we are proud to welcome Saidiya Hartman, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Professor Hartman works on African American and American literature and cultural history, slavery, law and literature, and performance studies. She is on the editorial board of Callaloo and has been a Fulbright, Rockefeller, Whitney Oates, and University of California President's Fellow. She is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America (Oxford University Press, 1997) and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).


Spring Seminar

Du Bois and His Circle

The seminar examines the sociological, literary and historical work of W.E.B. Du Bois from The Philadelphia Negro (1899) to Dusk of Dawn (1940). The course will consider the relation between literature, visual graphics, and sociology; the constituents of "the Negro problem" or the color line as it is articulated in fiction, social science, and history; the structural continuities between the plantation and the ghetto as forms of racialized enclosure; the afterlife of slavery and the evolving program for freedom; the role of the novel and autobiography in extending and breaking the form of sociological investigation; and the poetics of counter-history. Course taught May 7 through May 30.


Public Lectures

An Intimate History of Slavery and Freedom

10 May, 5:00pm in SS122

The talk will examine the intimate contours of the social upheaval that characterized black life in the emergent ghetto in the first decades of the twentieth-century. The criminalization of everyday life and the regulation of forms of intimacy, affiliation and kinship document the afterlife of slavery and the emergence of a therapeutic carceral state intent on quashing practices of freedom. 

CI coeditor Lauren Berlant will introduce Professor Hartman.

The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner

25 May, 4:30pm in SS122

This speculative history of the wayward is an effort to narrate the open rebellion and beautiful experiment produced by young black women in the emergent ghetto, a form of racial enclosure that succeeded the plantation.  The talk utilizes the reports and case files of the reformatory, private investigators, psychologists and social workers to challenge the primary tenets of these accounts, the most basic of these assumptions being that the lives represented required intervention and rehabilitation and that the question—who are you? —is indistinguishable from one’s status as a social problem. State violence, surveillance and detention produce the archival traces and institutional records that inform the reconstruction of these lives; but desire and the want of something better decide the contours of the telling. 


Past holders of the CI Professorship are:

Fredric Jameson 2003-2004

Julia Kristeva 2004-2005

Stanley Cavell 2005-2006

Slavoj Žižek 2006-2007

Ian Hacking 2007-2008

Jacques Rancière 2008-2009

Joan Copjec 2009-2010

Leo Bersani 2011-2012

Peter Galison 2012-2013

Samuel R. Delany 2013-2014

Raymond Bellour 2015-2016