Full CV available upon request
Associate Director and Curator of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 2018-present.
Associate Professor, Department of English and Program in Africana Studies, University of Tennessee, 2016-2019.
Assistant Professor, Department of English and Program in Africana Studies, University of Tennessee, 2010-2016.
Ph.D. 2010. American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California.
M.A. 2007. American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California.
M.S. 2002. English Education, The Florida State University.
B.A. 2000. English, Charleston Southern University.
AREAS OF INTEREST
African American literature and culture; slavery; archives and public memory; speculation; diaspora; race and ethnicity; migration; Black social movements; heritage tourism; the global South; ethnography; genealogy.
Avidly Reads: Passages (under contract for publication in 2020, NYU Press)
Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic (Duke UP, 2017).
“Poetics and Care in the Wake.” ASAP/Journal 3.2 (May 2018): 299; 310-314.
“Plantation Counternarratives: Disrupting Master Accounts in Contemporary Cultural Production." The Journal of American Culture 41.1 (2018): 28-44.
“The Space for Race: Black Exile and the Rise of Afro-Speculation.” ASAP/Journal 1.3 (2016): 409-437.
“Mamie Elizabeth Garvin Fields.” In African American National Biography. Eds. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Higginbotham. Oxford University Press, 2008.
“Ghana at Fifty: Moving toward Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan-African Dream.” American Quarterly 59.2 (2007): 421-441.
“Language Matters: Hurricane Katrina and Media Responsibility.” Hurricane Katrina: Response and Responsibilities. (co-author, Wendy Cheng). Ed. John Brown Childs. New Pacific Press, 2005.
Public Essays and Interviews
“Underground Black Speculations and the Future.” A symposium essay in conversation with Britt Rusert’s Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture. Syndicate. August 2018. https://syndicate.network/symposia/literature/fugitive-science/
Interview with filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris on Afro-Atlantic Flight. August 30, 2017. http://1world1family.me/michelle-commander-interview/
"Leaving 'America' Behind." Avidly/Los Angeles Review of Books. August 24, 2017. https://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2017/08/24/leaving-america-behind/
“Troubling Silence: Sonic and Affective Dispossessions of the African Slave Trade.” Sounding Out! May 8, 2017. https://soundstudiesblog.com/2017/05/08/troubling-silence/
“American Rage.” Avidly/Los Angeles Review of Books. February 20, 2017. https://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2017/02/20/american-rage/
“Facing my Fear: Assault Was an Abstract Concept.” The Guardian. August 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/12/facing-my-fear-sexual-assault-driver-attack-woman-experience
“Satirical Flights.” Avidly/Los Angeles Review of Books. July 27, 2016. http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2016/07/27/satirical-flights/
SELECTED FELLOWSHIPS, HONORS, AND AWARDS
Southeastern Conference (SEC) Visiting Faculty Travel Grant, 2017-2018.
Hodges Summer Research Grant, University of Tennessee, 2011-2017.
Department of English’s Better English Fund, “The Futures of Afrofuturism” Symposium, University of Tennessee, 2016-2017 (with A. Elias).
UTK’s Ready for the World Grant, “The Futures of Afrofuturism” Symposium, University of Tennessee, 2016-2017 (with A. Elias).
UTK’s Haines-Morris Endowment Grant, “The Futures of Afrofuturism” Symposium, University of Tennessee, 2016-2017 (with A. Elias).
SARIF Foreign Travel Grant (France), University of Tennessee’s Office of Research, 2016.
College of Arts and Sciences' Diversity Leadership Award, University of Tennessee, 2015-2016.
Department of English’s Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Tennessee, 2015-2016.
Fulbright Research/Lecturing Grant: Ghana, 2012-2013.
Tennessee Humanities Center Fellowship, 2012-2013 (Declined).
SARIF Foreign Travel Grant (Ireland), University of Tennessee’s Office of Research, 2011.
SELECTED CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS AND INVITED TALKS
“Revolutionary Speculations.” Slavery’s Reinventions Symposium, Rutgers University, March 30, 2018.
“Radical Flights: African American Imaginings of Africa.” The U.S. Naval Academy’s Africa Forum, Annapolis, Maryland: April 16, 2018.
Roundtable participant: “Afro-Atlantic, Latin/x, and Transpacific Speculations: Radical Traditions across Deep Time.” ASAP/9 Conference, Oakland, California: October 27, 2017.
“Troubling Silence: Recent Controversies about Slavery Memorialization and Historical Preservation in the U.S. South.” Haslam Scholars’ Faculty Lecture Series, University of Tennessee: September 21, 2017.
“Is History Past?: A Reflection on Octavia Butler’s Kindred.” Sponsored by the Knox County Library and The East Tennessee Historical Society. Knoxville, TN: March 28, 2017.
"Flights toward Social Life: Afro-Speculation as Genre and Modality in Post-1965 Black American Literature." Modern Language Association's Annual Convention, Philadelphia, PA: January 6, 2017.
"Troubling Roots Tourism: Democratizing Master Narratives at Sites of Transatlantic Slavery the U.S. South." The American Studies Association’s Annual Meeting, Denver, CO: November 17, 2016.
Keynote Address: “Freedom Flights: An Exploration of Black American Engagements with ‘Africa' in the Post-1965 Era.” Freie Universität’s JFK Graduate School for North American Studies’ International Graduate Student Conference on “Flows and Undercurrents: Dimensions of (Im)mobility in North America,” Berlin, Germany: June 3, 2016.
“On the Limitations of Expatriation: Breath and Social Life in Baldwin’s Proto-Speculative Thought and Reginald McKnight’s I Get on the Bus. The American University of Paris’ International James Baldwin Conference, Paris, France: May 28, 2016.
Invited Lecture, Haslam Scholars’ Global Awareness Series, University of Tennessee: March 23, 2016.
Public lecture for Clarence Brown Theatre’s Sunday Symposium on A Lesson before Dying, University of Tennessee: March 13, 2016.
Public lecture on Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route. Sponsored by the Knox County Library and the East Tennessee Historical Society. Knoxville, TN: July 15, 2015. (Invited)
“Traversals along a Spectrum of Fantasy: Black American ‘Returns’ to Africa.” UTK’s Program in American Studies’ Brown Bag Series: November 3, 2014.
“The Space for Race: Flight and the Radical Evolution of Afro-Speculation during the Cold War.” The American Studies Association’s Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA: November 21, 2014.
“Afro-Atlantic Speculation: Mimesis and Dissent in Oyotunji African Village.” The American Studies Association’s Annual Meeting, Washington, DC: November 21, 2013.
“‘We Love to Be Africans’: Black American Travelers’ Diasporic Flights to Bahia, Brazil.” Vanderbilt University’s Black Migration Symposium: February 11, 2012.
“Seeking the Ancestral Trace: Speculative ‘Africas’ in Black American Cultural Production.” University College Dublin’s Summer Institute for American Studies: July 15, 2011.
“Intra-Diasporic Encounters: Black American Expatriates and the Search for Africa in Bahia, Brazil.” The American Studies Association’s Annual Meeting: November 18, 2010.
“Flights: Black American Travelers and the Search for Africa.” Anthropology Lecture Series. University of Tennessee: November 4, 2010. (Invited Lecture)