Professor of Africana and Romance Studies, Provost's Fellow for Public Engagement
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Gerard Aching specializes in 19th- and 20th-century Caribbean literatures and intellectual histories, theories of modernism and modernity in Latin America, and 19th-century colonial literatures in the Caribbean, with a specific focus on relations between slavery and philosophy. He is the author of The Politics of Spanish American Modernismo: By Exquisite Design (Cambridge, 1997) and Masking and Power: Carnival and Popular Culture in the Caribbean (Minnesota, 2002). His most recent book is Freedom From Liberation: Slavery, Sentiment, and Literature in Cuba (Indiana, 2015). Aching’s current research projects include just war theory, sovereignty, and the invention of the “Indian”; and witnessing and empathy in abolitionist philanthropic humanitarianism. His courses and teaching interests include subjectivity in slave narratives; Caribbean literatures (especially poetry) in English, Spanish, and French; black racial formations in Colombia; sugar and the modern transatlantic world; modernista and avant-garde Latin American poetry; and sociogeny.
Professor Aching has been the recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship (1999) and a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2003) and is a Faculty Fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University.
Current research projects include:
1. An article based on a Society for the Humanities Lecture (March 2016), “‘Oh my body, always make me a man who questions!’: The Apostrophized Black Body in Fanon and Coates.” This article looks at writings by Franz Fanon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Hortense Spillers in order to examine the black body in light of the use of apostrophe and in relation to Fanon’s term “sociogeny,” which Spillers critiques and then broadens into a theory of the black subject.
2. An article–”Displaced Empathies: The Abolitionist as Witness and Translator”–that draws on Aching’s book, Freedom from Liberation, and that examines the activism of Irish abolitionist, Richard Robert Madden, in Jamaica and, mostly, in Cuba from 1833 to 1839. The article describes and interrogates the limits of abolitionism’s philanthropic humanitarianism from the perspective of affects produced by an abolitionist whose witnessing of relations between masters and slaves in the Caribbean complicated both the distance that typically separated British abolitionists in parliament from plantations and Madden’s translation of the writings of the Cuban slave-poet, Juan Francisco Manzano.
3. A forthcoming article, “Transatlantic Sovereignty and the Creation of the Modern Colonial Subject,” in which Aching describes and examines the legal, secularizing and humanistic creation of the “Indian” in the Western hemisphere in the 16th century as a moral alibi for the extension of European sovereignty and the justification for the a posterior occupation of territories in the Americas. The article argues that this invention of the “Indian” marked the emergence of the modern colonial subject.
- Freedom from Liberation: Slavery, Sentiment, and Literature in Cuba (Indiana University Press, 2015)
- “No Need for Apology: Fanon’s Untimely Critique of Political Consciousness.” South Atlantic Quarterly. 112:23-38. 2013
- “The ‘Right to Opacity’ and World Literature.” 1616: Anuario de Literatura Comparada. 2. 2012
- “The Slave’s Work: Reading Slavery Through Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic.” PMLA. 127:912-917. 2012
- “The Temporalities of Modernity in Spanish American Modernismo.” The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms. 109-128. 2012
- “Modernity in Spanish American Modernismo: A Bourgeois King and a Dead Poet” in The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, ed. Mark Wollaeger. Oxford University Press, 2011
- “On Colonial Modernity: Civilization versus Sovereignty in Cuba, c. 1840” in Non-Western Thought and International Relations: Retrieving the Global Context of Investigations into Modernity, ed. Robbie Shilliam. Routledge, 2010
- “Against ‘Library-Shelf Races’: José Martí’s Critique of Excessive Imitation” in Geomodernisms, eds. Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005
- “In Hazardous Pursuit of Chance: The Surrealists’ Caribbean Sojourn (1941)” in ¡Agítese bien!: A New Look at the Hispanic Avant-Gardes. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs, 2002, pp. 189-211.
- “Beyond Sites of Execution: Haiti and the Historical Imagination in C.L.R. James and Alejo Carpentier.” Annals of Scholarship. Special issue on Caribbean Literatures 12.1-2 (1996): 245-85.