It’s my contention that every new grad student should have a Christina Sharpe in his or her life. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself since we first met, via Twitter back in the summer before I started my second year of doctoral study. She tweeted something that made me laugh; I tweeted back; a friendship was born. Every new grad student should have a Christina Sharpe because she has turned out to be that most wonderful of things: a friend outside of the cloistered world of your own campus, yet not so far away that she’s not around for a much-needed coffee break or convo session that makes you feel appreciated yet also keeps you grounded. She knows how to keep you sane when anxiety strikes but also knows how to laugh when the time is right. (Which I’m sure is why she’s such a great and popular mentor on campus!) … She also has incredible taste in soup.
Christina is an associate professor at Tufts University, where she’s affiliated with both the English and American Studies departments. Her areas of expertise include African American literature, multi-ethnic literature, African Diaspora literature, cultural studies, and visual culture (particularly around the African Diaspora and including such artists as Kara Walker, Robert Colescott, Isaac Julien, Tracey Rose).
Last month saw the Duke University Press publication of Christina’s first book, the fabulously-titled and deeply engaging Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post Slavery Subjects. Hailed by such academic notables as Sharon P. Holland and Ashraf Rushdy as “remarkable,” “lucid,” “thoroughly engrossing,” and “consistently intelligent,” Monstrous Intimacies is an ambitious and compelling work of literary and cultural criticism that maps the ways in which the turbulent violence(s) of slavery and its after-effects have still marked raced subjectivities into the present day. Sharpe’s book–which explores such artists as Bessie Head, Isaac Julien, Gayl Jones and Kara Walker–is the kind of broad-minded yet focused interdisciplinary work young scholars like myself dream about producing, multi-valent in the way you want your academic work to be, yet readable with supple prose that digs deep.
I’ve been begging this busy new friend of mine to do The SPB Q, and she finally got some time away from her committed teaching, student advising and campus service to turn out a good one. Read her book; look for her articles. And, if you’re in the Boston area, check her out on Tuesday November 2nd at Boston University (4pm – 6pm, in the African American Studies Library, 138 Mountfort Street, Brookline) where she’ll be doing a talk about her book and her work.
Name: Christina Sharpe
Hometown: Philadelphia (but I was born in Bryn Mawr & grew up in Wayne, PA)
School/Year: BA/University of Pennsylvania; MA/PhD Cornell University
Dissertation Title: “The Work of Re-membering: Reading Gertrude Stein, Gayl Jones, Julie Dash, Cherríe Moraga and Bessie Head”
Favorite book[s]: Beloved, A Map to the Door of No Return
Favorite author: I’ll name three favorites —The constants are Toni Morrison, Dionne Brand, James Baldwin. I sometimes get obsessed with authors and try to read everything they’ve written even if/especially if I find their work productively problematic. One person in that category was Doris Lessing.
Favorite movie: Daughters of the Dust
Favorite song: Music goes in cycles but I can almost always listen to Gil-Scott Heron, Fela, Grace Jones, Massive Attack (w/Tricky), Stevie Wonder, P.J. Harvey, and Angie Stone.
Academic text that most influences your work: Wow, there are so many and they’ve changed over time but for my book I’d say: Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging; Hortense Spillers’ work (“Mama’s Baby,” “Interstices”); Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection; Gayl Jones’s Corregidora; Fred Moten’s In the Break (Aunt Hester’s Scream); but also Marianne Hirsch on Post-Memory & Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience.
Academic[s] who most influence your work: Saidiya Hartman & Hortense Spillers.
Academic High: Finally finishing Monstrous Intimacies.
Life High: One life high is intimately connected with the work of teaching and mentoring. It can be difficult work and I struggle with it at times but it is also capable of giving me moments of great sustaining joy.
You’re on a desert island and can only have 5 CDs/books/ or DVDs shipped in to you. What are they?
Your favorite quote: Too hard. But here’s one:
“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” ~ James Baldwin
Guilty pleasure: Several, but I refuse the guilt!