Jennifer Bajorek

Professor of Comparative Literature and Visual Studies
Hampshire College Professor Jennifer Bajorek
Contact Jennifer

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Jennifer Bajorek
Jerome Liebling Center 106

Jennifer Bajorek is a scholar, writer, and university professor working on questions at the intersection of photography, art, and poetry. She has a particular interest in the aesthetic aftermaths of colonialism in French and Francophone worlds, with a cultural and geographic focus on Africa. At Hampshire, she teaches interdisciplinary courses on literature (fiction, experimental nonfiction, and poetry); photography and film; and philosophies of the image and of liberation.

Bajorek has published and taught on a wide array of cultural texts, objects, and spaces: on African photographic archives and decolonial historiography; Francophone (European, African, Caribbean) literature and film; Marxist, post-Marxist, and postcolonial theory; as well as topics in contemporary art, African and African diaspora history, and art history, and critical museum and heritage studies. Her work also includes translation, curating, and diverse forms of collaboration.

Her research and curatorial projects have been supported by fellowships or grants from esteemed foundations and institutions including the Mellon Foundation, the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange, the Clark Art Institute, and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. She was a recipient of the Creative Capital/Arts Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and won a Millard Meiss Publication Fund Award from the College Art Association, for her 2020 book, Unfixed: Photography and Decolonial Imagination in West Africa.

Her current research investigates aesthetic and political dimensions of im/migration in contemporary France. She is working particularly closely with artists, writers, and activists who draw on African migration and labor histories, undocumented workers' movements, and anti-colonial archives or who emphasize transethnic, transracial, and non-citizen solidarity in their practice.

Prior to teaching at Hampshire, Bajorek was senior lecturer in cultural studies at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London (United Kingdom). She has been a research associate in the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg (South Africa), since 2013.

Bajorek welcomes advising requests from students working in all fields of the humanities and in cultural and visual studies. She is particularly eager to support students working on literature and experimental writing in comparative and cross-cultural contexts; those working in photography, film, and visual studies; and those whose work is informed by Marxism and postcolonial theory, or African and Black studies approaches to literature, art, and visual culture. She also welcomes advising requests from artist-practitioners whose work incorporates theoretical questions or historical research, regardless of medium.

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Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • We will lavish our attention on the photograph: what it is, what it has been, what it is in the process of becoming, but also what people all over the world have hoped or dreamed it could be or become. Through slow looking at 10 photographs that have been significant to global photography history, complemented by close reading of historical and theoretical texts, we will explore diverse aspects of the photograph and its histories, become familiar with major social and cultural as well as technological developments in the medium, and look at key problems in photographic preservation, conservation, curatorial practice, and restitution practice through a decolonizing frame. Concurrent with our collaborative work, students will also realize a research-driven independent project on a special topic in photography history. Keywords:Photography History, Art History, Museum Studies, Decolonial Practice, African Studies

  • Afrofuturism, which Ytasha Womack defines as "an artistic aesthetic and a framework for critical theory" centering "African and Black freedom and futurity," has entered the mainstream, thanks in large part to the success of recent pop culture texts. But Afrofuturist aesthetics and concepts have a much longer history. We will lavish our attention on six major texts/works of contemporary literature, film, and art from Africa and its global diasporas, dating from 1900 to 3009. We will examine how writers, filmmakers, and artists use Afrofuturism to illuminate images of African and Black power, beauty, and creativity; to reshape social and political imaginaries; and to stretch, accelerate, or otherwise transform the timescales of liberation. Recognizing Afrofuturism's intimate connections with African and Black liberation projects globally, we will also reflect on our own positionality vis-a-vis these projects, and on our responsibilities to each other, the writers/filmmakers/artists, and others implicated in the work Keywords:African Studies, Black Studies, Art History, Literature, Film

  • We will read books that have recently been banned from libraries, schools, and other institutions in the United States. We will attend closely to the books themselves, understanding our reading as an act of collective resistance. In addition, we will carry out collaborative research on histories of literary and artistic censorship: i.e., the historical evolution of concepts of artistic "freedom" and "free speech" in Western literature and art in tandem with the suppression of other understandings of free expression (poetry, oral forms); the entanglement of literary/artistic and other forms of censorship; the relationship of the printing press to power. In addition to deepening our knowledge of the history and contexts of literary censorship, we will examine possible responses: legal, political, artistic, intellectual, and activist. Books will be selected, through a collaborative process, by students at the beginning of the semester and purchased with the $65 materials fee charged to each student Keywords:Literature, censorship, artistic freedom, freedom of expression

  • In this course we will explore contemporary approaches to commemorating incidents and aftermaths of collective historical violence through monuments, museum practice, and public art. Students will examine case studies from around the world, with a focus on sites of contestation and interventions in public and collective discourse from the last 50 years, including Holocaust memorials and museums; monuments to los Desaparecidos (the disappeared) in Chile and Argentina and victims of genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda; #RhodesMustFall and other international "fallist" movements to remove statues celebrating slavery, apartheid, and white supremacy; the visual culture of #BLM; new monuments commemorating the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade in the US, the Caribbean, and West Africa. We will read deeply in the relevant critical and theoretical literature across disciplines and look closely at decisions made by practitioners: artists, architects, curators, urban planners, and activists. Students of all backgrounds and experience levels are welcome. Keywords:Art history, museum studies, heritage, curatorial studies, contemporary art The content of this course deals with issues of race and power.

  • The desire to save our planet from imminent destruction is shared by growing numbers of people all over the world. Yet debates about climate change, environmental disaster, mass extinction, and possible solutions to them continue to be framed by ideas and discourses that have their roots in capitalist, imperialist, Western, Euro-American or Eurocentric, and patriarchal worldviews. This course examines critical and creative approaches to sustainability and extinction that challenge these frames. Through analysis of works (through exhibition documentation, catalogs, artists' books, photobooks, online archives) by contemporary artists, complemented by advanced readings in literature, philosophy, environmental humanities, and social science, we will look at histories, practices, thought systems, and imagined worlds that offer radical new possibilities for imagining what Anna Tsing calls "the promise of cohabitation," or life on earth. Our syllabus will feature work by artists working across mediums and disciplines, centering postcolonial, decolonial, Indigenous, Black, queer, and feminist perspectives. KEYWORDS:Art, Decoloniality, Sustainability, Environment, Justice

  • This course examines art that engages with ecological questions through its themes, methods, or materials. Through analysis of works, exhibitions and exhibition documentation, and published portfolios of work by contemporary artists, we will explore a range of artistic approaches to sustainability, extinction, co-habitation, futurity, deep time, climate change, and climate justice. Our syllabus will include diverse perspectives and will feature work by artists working across mediums and disciplines all over the world. Visual material will be complemented by selected introductory readings and studio/site visits with Hampshire and the Five College artists. Assignments will consist of a mix of analytical and creative writing, experimental projects, and collaborative work. Students from all backgrounds are welcome. KEYWORDS:Art, Decoloniality, Sustainability, Environment, Justice