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James Ford III

Assistant Professor, English


  • Office: Swan Hall Room 224
  • Office Hours: T/TH 10:00am–1:00pm, 3:00pm–4:00pm

Education: B.A., Morehouse College; M.A., Ph.D, University of Notre Dame

Additional Education | Academic Positions | Research Interests | Publications | Conferences & Lectures
Teaching | Committees | Public Intellectual Service | Journal Service | Awards | Professional Membership



Degree History

Ph.D, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana (2009)

DISSERTATION: “Thinking Through Crisis: 1930s African American Literature and Politics” (Spring 2009)

M.A., University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana (2006)

B.A., Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (2003)

Non-Degree Seminar

“Black Intellectuals,” Led by Brent Hayes Edwards, School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University (Spring 2006)


Assistant Professor, Occidental College (2012-Present)

Visiting Assistant Professor, Occidental College (2011-2012)

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Occidental College (2010-2011)

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame (2009-2010)


Late Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century African American Literature, Black Radicalism, WEB Du Bois Studies, Marxist Theory, Ethics, Aesthetic Philosophy, Black Popular Culture, Hip-Hop Studies


Work in Print

“Space is the Place: Afrofuturist Elegy in Tracy K Smith’s Life on Mars, Black Scholar, Paradigm Press, “Struggles for Democracy” Special Issue (Spring 2014)

“Down by the Riverside: Race, Class, and the Drive for Citizenship,” Novel: A Forum for Fiction, Duke University Press (Fall 2013)

 “From Being to Unrest, From Objectivity to Motion: The Slave in Karl Marx’s Capital,” Rethinking Marxism (January 2011)

Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 33.1 (Winter 2010), special issue, “Personal Narratives and Political Discourse,” Guest Edited by Sidonie Smith

Work Accepted, Forthcoming

“Thinking through Crisis: Depression-Era African American Literature, History, and Politics,” This book contexts accepted literary history that 1930s black intellectuals uncritically followed mainstream Leftisms. With close readings of writing from Richard Wright, Ida B Wells, WEB Du Bois, Zora N Hurston, and Langston Hughes, I theorize “crisis” to trace the emergence of alternative agencies in social upheaval. By reading several genres (short fiction, autobiography, historiography, novel and poetry) I extend the genealogy of black radicalism at the intersection of proletarian, modernist, and surrealist aesthetics. “Commonalities” Theory Series, Timothy Campbell Series Editor, Fordham University Press, (Forthcoming in 2015)

“An African Diasporic Critique of Violence: Walter Benjamin and Phillis Wheatley Reading the Niobe Legend,” Systems of Life: Politics, Economics, and the Biological Sciences, Ed Timothy Campbell, Richard Barney and Warren Montag, Fordham University Press (Forthcoming in 2015)

“Interrupting the System: Spinoza and Maroon Thought,” Spinoza’s Authority: Resistance and Power, Ed A Kordela Kiarina and Dimitri Vardoulakis, Northwestern University Press (Forthcoming in 2015)

“Honoring Dr Du Bois,” The Rhetoric of Disalienation in the Works of WEB Du Bois, ed Monique Akassi, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming in 2015)

“‘Darkened Light’: The Black Radical Underground and Althusser’s Underground Current of Materialism,” Theory Culture Society, “The New Althusser” Special Issue (Forthcoming in 2015)

“The Political Miracle: On W.E.B. Du Bois and Lenin,” The Political Companion to W.E.B. Du Bois, ed Nick Bromell, University of Kentucky Press (Forthcoming in 2016)

Work in Progress

Editorial Work in Progress

Black Camera Special Issue: “Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination,” This edited collection responds to the string of film releases on chattel slavery being released from 2012 to 2014. This collection ponders whether American mainstream and/or independent cinema—primarily with regard to the current string of films being released that take up chattel slavery in the US—engages or disavows black fugitivity as the imaginative condition for film; reassesses the frameworks that are most generative for exploring black fugitivity; and rethinks how online social media now informs the discourses shaping the filmic imagination. (Projected Completion Date: Manuscript Submitted in March 15, 2015 for publication in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016)

Single-Authored Books in Progress

“Hip-Hop’s Late Style: Liner Notes to an Aesthetic Theory,” In this book I theorize the aftermath of US Hip-Hop’s Golden Era in terms of “late style.” I offer this as an alternative to the “death of hip-hop” discourse. By thinking hip-hop in aesthetic terms, the artform’s “death” can be considered a moment of transformation. Most importantly, through this analysis, the new aesthetic strategies emerging after hip-hop’s Golden Era will provide insights for a style of life specific to the aftermath of the US’s Golden Era, “The American Century.” (Projected Completion: 2016)

Articles in Progress

“Blackness and Legend,” This article will be part of my “Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination” special issue of Black Camera. I counter critiques of Django Unchained (2012) as (failed) historical realism by tracing the film’s relation to the tradition of black legendry.

“Calculated Amalgamation: US Hip-Hop and the War on Terror,” examines rapper Pharaohe Monch’s albums W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) and PTSD, which sonically represent the emergent subjectivities opposing the War on Terror. Most importantly, I examine the relation between poetry and prophecy: on W.A.R. Monch predicts the revolutions and uprisings sparked by the Tunisian Revolution of Dignity. This article is under consideration for Social Text and will be a chapter in my book, Hip-Hop’s Late Style.

“Listening to the Love Below,” This article responds to bell hooks’ call in Black Cool for a new ‘history of black male cool.’ Through an analysis of Outkast’s Afrofuturist erotics, read in terms of Audre Lorde’s work, I suggest that hip-hop recovers a blues aesthetic that contributes to the history of black masculinity bell hooks proposes. This article will eventually be a chapter in Hip-Hop’s Late Style.


Conference Papers

“Good Kid in the M.A.A.D. City: LA Hip-Hop and the Afro-Surreal”, American Studies Association Annual Meeting (Nov 6-9, 2014)

“Interruption of the System: Spinoza and Maroon Thought,” American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting (March 21, 2014)

 “Honoring Dr Du Bois, II: King, Du Bois, and the Law of the Father,” American Studies Association DC (Nov 21-24, 2013)

“A Dream Deferred or the Dream in Deferral? Hip-Hop’s Chopped and Screwed Aesthetics”, “Psi #19: Now Then: Performance and Temporality,” Stanford University (June 26, 2013)

“Listening to The Love Below: Hip-Hop’s Afro-futuristic Eroticism,” “Alien Bodies: Race, Space, and Sex in the African Diaspora,” African American Studies Collective, Emory University (February 8, 2013)

“An African Diasporic Critique of Violence: The Niobe Legend in the Writing of Walter Benjamin and Phillis Wheatley,” “System of Life: Economies, Politics, and the Biological Sciences, 1750-1850,” Huntington Library (Nov 8, 2012)

“Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain and Political Theology,” Presented at the Conference, “Novel Worlds,” Society for Novel Studies, Duke University (April 28-29, 2012)

“An Ode to the Raw: Dissonance in Hip-Hop Aesthetics,” Presented at the Conference, “Show and Prove,” Tisch School of the Arts, New York University (March 29 -31, 2012)

“‘Shadows of Tomorrow’: Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Archive,” Presented on the Panel “Theorizing Hip-Hop as Intellectual Production” at the Annual MLA Conference, Seattle (January 2012)

“Contemporary Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Tragedy of US Imperialism,” Presented on Panel, “The World is Yours: On Hip-hop and Global Liberation,” Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, University of Pittsburgh (November 2011)

“‘Down by the Riverside’: Race, Class, and Becoming-Citizen,” Presented at the Conference, “The Citizen-Subject: On the Work of Etienne Balibar,” Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Santa Barbara (March 4, 2011)

“Roundtable with Etienne Balibar, Warren Montag, Nancy Armstrong, and James Ford on the Citizen-Subject,” University of California, Santa Barbara (March 4, 2011)

“Martin Luther King’s Deconstruction of Messianism,” Presented in Special Session “Black Literary History after Obama,” MLA Conference, Philadelphia (December 2009)

“Interruption of the System: Negri, Spinoza and Maroon Political Desire,” Rethinking Marxism Conference: New Marxian Times, UMASS at Amherst (November 2009)

“The ‘Coming of the Lord’: W.E.B Du Bois’s John Brown and the Rethinking of Messianism,” John Brown Symposium, Harpers Ferry, WV (October 2009)

“Mob Rule in New Orleans and Ida B Wells’s Critique of Anarchy,” Rupture, Repression, and Uprising: Raced and Gendered Violence in the 20th Century, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (April 2008)


Conference Panels

“Marx(ism) and Black Studies,” (co-organized with Seth Markle) Panels 1 and 2, Rethinking Marxism Conference 2009: New Marxian Times (Scheduled for November 2009)


Other Conference Service

Workshop Facilitator and Respondent, “Show and Prove: The Tensions, Contradictions, and Possibilities of Hip Hop Studies in Practice,” New York University (September 19, 2010)

Chair of Panel, “Space and the Cartographies of Belonging” at Conference Unauthorized States: Subversive Geographies and Other National Antinomies, University of Notre Dame (April 2008)


 “The New Day: Notes on (Mis-)Education and the Dark Proletariat,” UCLA Bunche Center Circle of Thought Lecture Series (April 17, 2014)

“Towards a Du Boisian Critique of Violence,” Presented at Occidental College (April 2010)

“Towards a Du Boisian Critique of Violence,” Presented at University of Washington (March 2010)

“Black Presence in the White City: Ida B Wells and the World Columbian Exposition,” Africana Studies Brown Bag Lecture Series (February 2009)

Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Presented at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (February 2009)

Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Presented at Wesleyan University (January 2009)




“Literary Methodologies,” Lower-Level Majors Required Course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2014)

“Beautiful Democracy: 19th Century Black Writing,” Upper-Level Majors Course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2014)

“The Global 1930s,” Upper-Level majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2013)

“The Artist’s Life,” First Year Course, Cultural Studies Program, Occidental College (Fall 2013, Spring 2014)

“On Blackness: Literary, Theoretical, and Historical Explorations,” Upper-level majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011)

“American Experiences: Rhetoric of War,” American Literature Survey, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2011)

“The Death of Hip-Hop: An Aesthetic Interrogation,” Upper-level majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011, Spring 2012)

“Hip-Hop and Aesthetic Philosophy,” First-year course, Cultural Studies Program, Occidental College (Spring 2011, Spring 2012)

“Archaeologies of Black Memory: Archival Theory and Practice,” Lower-Level Majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011, Fall 2013)

“W.E.B. Du Bois and Hyperbolic Thinking,” Upper-level course, English and           Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2010, Fall 2012)

“Black Reconstruction: Radicalism in African American Literature,” Lower-Level Course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013)

“African Americans in the US and the World: Thinking with W.E.B Du Bois,” Upper-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Spring 2010)

“Thinking Through Crisis: Reading 20th and 21st Century African American Literature and Culture,” Lower-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009)

“Black Reconstruction: African American Literature and US Society,” Lower Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009)

“Black Arts: Refiguring the African Diaspora,” Lower-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall Semester 2008, Spring Semester 2009, Scheduled for Spring 2010)

Freshman Composition (Fall 2004, Spring 2005, Spring 2006)




Stafford Ellison Wright Endowment Committee for selecting the Black Studies Scholar-In-Residence, Occidental College (Spring 2012- Present)

Selection Committee for Erskine Peters Dissertation Fellowship, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009- Spring 2010)



Panelist on “Can Popular Music Change Culture?” Zocalo Public Square, Downtown Independent Theatre, Los Angeles (May 29, 2013)

“Hip Hop and Shakespeare,” for Steve Rowland’s documentary series, Shakespeare Is (January 7, 2012)

“A Response to ‘Notes on a Dying Culture #666’” on blog NewBlackMan




Article Reviewer, Novel (2012-Present)

Article Reviewer, Rethinking Marxism (Fall 2010-Present)

Article Reviewer, Décalage: An Althusser Studies Journal (2010-Present)

Editorial Assistant, Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society (Fall 2006-2007)

Submission Guidelines Committee, Rethinking Marxism (Summer 2007-Fall 2007)

Article Reviewer, Religion and Literature, University of Notre Dame (Spring 2003-Fall 2007)




Assistant Professor, Occidental College  (Fall 2012- Present)

Visiting Assistant Professor, Mellon Curricular Planning Fellowship, Occidental College (Fall 2011-Summer 2012)

Fellow, Mellon Fellowship for Digital Scholarship Institute, Occidental College (Summer 2011)

Postdoctoral Fellow, Africana Studies, University of Notre Dame (Fall 2009-Spring 2010)



Modern Language Association (MLA)

Society for Novel Studies (SNS)

Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD)

American Studies Association (ASA)