2024 Annual Meeting Keynote Speakers

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Polina Barskova


Polina Barskova is an assistant professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. Before returning to Berkeley, she spent 15 years teaching Russian literatures at Hampshire College, Massachusetts, as well as at Amherst and Smith Colleges. Her scholarly publications include articles on Nabokov, Bakhtin brothers, early Soviet film, and the aestheticization of historical trauma. Her book, Besieged Leningrad: Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster was published in 2016. She has also authored numerous books of poetry in Russian.

Judith Butler


Judith Butler is Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School and formerly the Maxine Elliot Chair in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. They received their Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1984.

Their books include Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity; Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex; Undoing Gender; Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?; and What World Is This? A Pandemic Phenomenology.

They served as a founding director, with Martin Jay, of the Critical Theory Program at UC Berkeley. They received a Mellon Foundation grant to found and develop the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs (2016-2020) where they now serve as co-chair of the board and editorial member of Critical Times.

Aracelis Girmay


Aracelis Girmay is a poet who makes works across genres and a Professor of English at Stanford University. She is the author of the poetry collections the black maria (BOA, 2016), Kingdom Animalia (BOA, 2011), and Teeth (Curbstone, 2007). For this work she was a finalist for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Her books have also been named finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the Connecticut Book Award. She has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Cave Canem Foundation, among others. Girmay is the author of the forthcoming chapbook and was a flower, made in collaboration with book artist Valentina Améstica. Other recent work includes a picture book collaboration with her sister entitled What Do You Know? and the forthcoming picture book collaboration with artist Diana Ejaita entitled Kamau and Zuzu Find A Way, both with Enchanted Lion Books.

Robin D.G. Kelley


Robin D. G. Kelley is Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at UCLA. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and Freedom Scholar Award. His books include the award-winning, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression; Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination; Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class; Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America; Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times; Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original; and Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies, co-edited with Colin Kaepernick and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Kelley is currently completing two books, Making a Killing: Cops, Capitalism, and the War on Black Life and The Education of Ms. Grace Halsell: An Intimate History of the American Century. His essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including The Nation, New York Times, New Yorker, Village Voice, Dissent, American Quarterly, and The Boston Review, for which he also serves as Contributing Editor.

“Black Studies vs Fascism: The longue durée”

The current attacks of multicultural education, critical race theory, and on virtually all critical scholars has put many of us in the academy on the defensive. Again. Beyond the U.S., we are witnessing the ongoing imprisonment of intellectuals (Turkey, the Gulf States, India, etc.) and outright “scholasticide” in Palestine. Black Studies is one field of inquiry under attack. While my talk acknowledges the latest wave of attacks, I will argue that Black Studies has a long history of being “under attack” precisely because it emerged as an offensive against fascism. I will look at the radical turn in Black scholarship during the 1930s (a response to fascism in many ways), as an anticolonial Black power and Black feminist assault in the 1950s-70s, against “friendly fascism” of neoliberalism in the 80s – 90s, and the current authoritarian and reactionary turn. I will also argue that this insurgent, anti-fascist tendency in Black Studies must be understood at a global level (from Kingston to Dar es Salaam, London, Cairo, Montreal, and so forth) By recalling its insurgent history we see Black Studies as a transformative force rather than fighting for its mere survival.

Solmaz Sharif


Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif is the author of Customs (Graywolf Press, 2022) and Look (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award. She holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People, and New York University. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, the New York Times, and others. Her work has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lannan Foundation, and Stanford University. She is currently the Shirley Shenker Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.