Jennifer Bajorek

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

Mail Code HA
Jennifer Bajorek
Jerome Liebling Center 106
413.549.4600

Jennifer Bajorek is a scholar and curator working at the intersection of literature, art, and media, with a linguistic and cultural focus on French and Francophone worlds and a geographic focus on contemporary Africa. At Hampshire she teaches interdisciplinary courses on literature (fiction, non-fiction, and poetry); photography, film, and video; and philosophies of the image and of liberation.

I work across a wide array of cultural texts, objects, and spaces. Beyond writing and teaching, my work includes translation, curating, and diverse forms of collaboration. I have published and taught widely on French and Francophone (Caribbean and African) literature and film, on Marxist and postcolonial theory, and on contemporary art and emerging media practice by artists in Africa and its global diaspora. My research on photography in West Africa includes over a dozen years of collaboration with artists, curators, and museum and heritage professionals in the region. Major projects include a new book, Unfixed: Photography and Decolonial Imagination in West Africa (Duke University Press, 2020); the 3PA: West African Image Lab, a workshop to support preservation in African photography collections, in Porto-Novo, Benin (2014); and Contemporary Africa on Screen (C.A.O.S.), a year-long curatorial program focused on film, video, and performance at the South London Gallery (2010-11). My new research looks at representations of migrants and migration in contemporary Europe.

Prior to teaching at Hampshire, I was senior lecturer in cultural studies at Goldsmiths College, in London, England; since 2013 I have been a research associate in the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre in the Faculty of Art, Design, and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

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

Personal website

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • In this course, we will look at the influence of Marx and Marxism on the interpretation of culture and cultural texts (literature, visual art, digital art) in diverse historical and political contexts. Our primary focus will be on theories illuminating the relationships of specific genres or cultural forms to specific historical, political, and economic conditions. (How is the rise of the novel related to the rise of capitalism? How do contemporary (re)framings of art as labor (i.e., in participation, collaboration) extend or transform prior definitions of the art object as commodity/fetish? Approximately half of our readings will be historical, exploring arguments that emerge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The other half will be hyper-contemporary and will bring us into dialogue with writers, artists, and thinkers interrogating the cultural logics of contemporary capitalism. This is an introductory course designed to introduce students to key critical and theoretical texts in both Marxist and cultural theory. Keywords: Marxism, literature, art, cultural studies.

  • In this course, we will explore contemporary approaches to commemorating 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 the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia; #RhodesMustFall and other "fallist" movements to remove statues celebrating slavery, apartheid, and white supremacy; the public visual culture of #BLM; new monuments to 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, curatorial studies, genocide, slavery.

  • In this introductory literature and cultural theory course, we will examine the relationships between literature and resistance in diverse historical and cultural contexts. We will explore longstanding-if often contradictory-associations between literature and revolution, fiction and freedom, poetry and democracy, and the role played in social and political movements by creative and artistic imagination. Special attention will be paid to the place of literary texts in imperial and nationalist projects as well as, in postcolonial contexts, anti-imperial and anti-colonial contestation. Multiple national and linguistic traditions will be considered, including texts by US, European, African, Caribbean, and Latin American writers. Theoretical readings will touch on censorship, performativity, creolization, and terror. (Keywords: Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial Theory)

  • 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 us to go beyond these frames with a focus on contemporary visual art and visual and spatial practice. Through close looking and analysis of works and portfolios of work (exhibition catalogs and documentation, artist books, photobooks, online archives) by contemporary artists complemented by readings in contemporary literature, philosophy, environmental humanities, and social science, we will look at histories, practices, thought systems, and imagined worlds that teach us to understand the past, present, and future of the planet differently and that offer radical new possibilities for imagining what Anna Tsing calls "the promise of cohabitation," or life on earth. Our looking and reading in the course will center on postcolonial, Indigenous, Black, queer, and feminist perspectives on earth, nature, ecology human-animal relations, and non-humanist or non-human cosmologies. Specific topics might include ecofeminism, queer ecologies, and global indigeneity; climate apartheid and the climate refugee; regenerative agriculture, food justice, and food sovereignty. Keywords: Sustainability, environment, justice, philosophy, postcolonial

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  • This course will examine questions of race and representation through contemporary art, literature, and visual and cultural theory. Students will consider the complex and intertwined histories of race and representation across a range of media and genres (painting, photography, film, video and new media art, performance, short fiction, spoken word, and poetry), periods, and cultural spaces. Critical and theoretical readings will span colonial and postcolonial contexts; engage with Orientalism, primitivism, Tricontinentalism, indigenous futurism, and Black feminist philosophy; and be drawn from art history, media theory, postcolonial theory, and thinkers taking intersectional approaches to race in both visual and literary studies. Students will also be introduced to current debates about the "inherent racism" of photography, the politics of abstraction, and data healing.

  • How we look is shaped by history, culture, and technology. Learning to look is therefore always necessary. It is also a never-ending process, requiring radical attention and care. This course will explore how we learn to look through contemporary art and critical readings in art history, visual studies, and arts writing, with a focus on experimental forms: digital and interactive media, social practice, sousveillance, and interventions in the borderscape or in public space (occupations, strike art, work in refugee camps). Weekly writing assignments will invite students to hone description and analysis and other arts writing skills. Students in "Learning to Look" will collaborate with those in other Media and Technology and In/Justice LC-seminars who will be asking about the ethics of digital art-making and studying representations of contemporary migration and border politics.

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