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David Kazanjian

Professor of English

Coordinator and Graduate Chair of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, 2024-25, 2026-2028


Fisher-Bennett Hall 214

Office Hours

fall 2024

Wednesdays 1-5 in 720 Williams Hall, and by appointment

David Kazanjian received his PhD from the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. in Critical Theory from the University of Sussex, and his B.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. His area of specialization is transnational American literary and historical studies through the 19th century. His additional fields of research are political philosophy, continental philosophy, Latin American studies (especially 17th through 19th-century Mexico), colonial discourse studies, and Armenian diaspora studies. He has been a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a Marta Sutton Weeks External Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, a Wertheim Scholar at the New York Public Library, and a fellow at the John Carter Brown Library. He was honored with the 2022 Penn Provost's Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Ph.D. Students, and he has been offered the Berlin Prize at the American Academy of Berlin. He has received major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a Sawyer Seminar on "Race, across Time and Space," the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for "Infidelities." His first book The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota) offers a comparative study of colonial and antebellum, racial and national formations, and a critique of the formal egalitarianism that animated early U.S. citizenship. He has co-edited (with David L. Eng) Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California), as well as (with Shay Brawn, Bonnie Dow, Lisa Maria Hogeland, Mary Klages, Deb Meem, and Rhonda Pettit) The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Aunt Lute Books). He has also published widely on the cultural politics of the North American-Armenian diaspora, and co-edits—with Priscilla Wald (Duke) and Elizabeth McHenry (NYU)—a book series on America and the Long 19th Century for NYU Press. He is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Social Text and of the organizing collective of the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History of the Americas, which he co-directed from 2017-19. His most recent monograph, The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (Duke) is a study of two 19th-century social movements (the black settler colonization of Liberia and the Caste War of Yucatán) that improvised with liberal discursive practices of freedom. He is currently at work on two monographs: Ante-Possession: The Afterlives of Dispossession, a study of 17th and 18th-century legal cases of dispossession in New England and Yucatán; and Kinships Past, Kinship's Futures, which tracks the emergent re-orientation of Armenian diasporic cultural politics away from the normative task of identity consolidation and toward an openness to odar worlds. 

He a faculty member in the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, serving as Coordinator and Graduate Chair of the program during 2024-25 and 2026-2028; an affiliated faculty and executive council member in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; a core faculty and executive board member in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; a member of the graduate group in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; an affiliated faculty member in the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program; and an affiliated faculty member in the Middle East Center.


Articles and Book Chapters

"Storation: A Small Guide to Undoing Restoration" Critical Approaches to Genocide: History, Politics, and Aesthetics of 1915 (2023)
"'I am he': A History of Dispossession's Not-Yet-Present in Colonial Yucatán" Accumulation and Subjectivity: Rethinking Marx in Latin America (2022)
"Dispossession: Reimagined from the 1690s" A Time for Critique (2019)
"Diasporic Flanerie: From Armenian Ruinenlust to Armenia’s Walkscapes" An Armenian Mediterranean: Words and Worlds in Motion (2018)
"Freedom’s Surprise: Two Paths through Slavery’s Archives" History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History (2016)
"Introduction and Coda" The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (2016)
"Scenes of Speculation" Social Text (2015)
"The Dime Novel" Oxford History of the Novel in English: Volume 6: The American Novel 1870-1940 (2014)
"Hegel, Liberia" Diacritics (2012)
"Marxism" Social Text (2009)

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


J. Felix Gallion "Camp Carcerality: On Abolition and Ethnic Mexican Agricultural Labor Migration"


Astride Veronique Charles "Writing Atlantic–African Slavery The Middle Passage in Continental Terms"
Clinton Williamson "Nebulous Figures: A Cultural History of an American Riotocracy, 1848-1929"


Ajay Kumar Batra "Radiant Ephemera: Abolition in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery, 1785-1865"


Eve Eure "The Grammar of Kinship: Black and Native Intimacies in the 19th Century"


Evelyn Soto "Beyond the Black Legend: Spanish-American Political Imaginaries in the U.S., 1800 - 1855"


Najnin Islam "Reading the Coolie: Race, Caste and Narratives of Asian Indentureship"


Ana Schwartz "Feeling Past Politics: Affection, Settlement, and the Disciplines of Civil Society in Early Anglo America, 1620-1682"


Laura Soderberg "‘Vicious Infants’: Antisocial Childhoods and the Politics of Population in Antebellum U.S. Literature"


Marina Bilbija "Worlds of Color: Black Internationalism and the Periodical in the Age of Empire"


Rachel Banner "Freedom's Bonds: Reconfiguring Formal Freedom in Antebellum U.S. Law and Literature"


Christen Mucher "Antiquity, Prehistory, Culture: American Narratives of the Distant Past, 1787-1867"
Christopher Taylor "Empire of Neglect: Caribbean Literature, British Liberalism, and New Works of Care, 1776-1888."


Greta LaFleur "American Insides: Popular Narrative and the Historiography of Sexuality, 1674-1815"

Courses Taught

fall 2024

ENGL 7640.401 Marx and Freud  

spring 2024

ENGL 5960.401 Marxism  

fall 2023

ENGL 2135.401 Trash: The Dime Novel  

spring 2023

fall 2022

ENGL 6000.301 Proseminar  

spring 2021

ENGL 089.001 Trash: The Dime Novel  

fall 2020

ENGL 790.402 Marx and Globality  

spring 2020

fall 2019

ENGL 600.301 Proseminar  
ENGL 790.401 Marx and Globality canceled  

fall 2018

ENGL 600.301 Proseminar  

spring 2018

ENGL 089.001 Trash: The Novel  
ENGL 294.301 Marx and Marxism  

fall 2017

ENGL 600.401 History Literary Theory  

spring 2016

ENGL 790.401 Marx and American Studies  

fall 2015

ENGL 089.001 Trash: The Novel  
COML 501.401 Proseminar  

fall 2014

spring 2014

fall 2013

ENGL 705.301 Race, Across Time and Space  

spring 2013

ENGL 790.301 Marx and Globality  

fall 2011

COML 501.401 History Literary Theory  

spring 2010

fall 2009

ENGL 790.401 Derrida and The Political  
ENGL 801.301 Pedagogy  
ENGL 850.301 Field List  

spring 2009

fall 2008

ENGL 790.301 Marx and American Studies  

spring 2008

spring 2006

fall 2005

ENGL 573.301 Literature and History