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Dean of Humanities and Arts, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Visual Studies

Jennifer Bajorek

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Hampshire College Professor Jennifer Bajorek
Jennifer Bajorek
Dean of Humanities and Arts, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Visual Studies
Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies
Mail Code CS
Jennifer Bajorek
Adele Simmons Hall 106
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.

Recent and upcoming courses

Planet on Fire
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 discourses that have their roots in capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal worldviews. This course examines critical and creative approaches to sustainability and extinction that challenge us to go beyond these frames. Through readings in philosophy, literature, art, environmental humanities, and social science, we will look at histories, 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. Specific topics to include ecofeminism, queer ecologies, and global indigeneity; climate apartheid, resource wars, and the climate refugee; regenerative agriculture, food justice, and sustainability in prisons.

Urban Imagination in Literature and Film
This course looks at images and concepts of the city through literature and film from three continents (Europe, North America, Africa). We will explore the city’s paradoxical claims to modernity, as well as its postcolonial and postmodern transformations. Specific themes and problems will include the relationship between the city and capital, urban planning and racial difference, the city and colonial and imperial projects; technologies and infrastructures of circulation, surveillance, and control; the rise of the postcolonial megacity and postindustrial dystopias. Readings will be loosely organized around four cities and three major historical periods—Paris in the 19th century, New York and Dakar in the 20th century, and Johannesburg in the 21st. Literature to include novels, poetry, and non-fiction essays; films to include narrative and feature films, experimental cinema, and documentary.

Introduction to Postcolonial Cinema
This course will introduce students to key problems and questions in postcolonial cinema. How have filmmakers working in the postcolonial world used cinema to advance their own projects? How has cinema lent itself, in different cultural spaces, artistic traditions, and parts of the world, to anti-colonial and liberation struggles? We will look at films and film theorists from around the world, with particular emphasis placed on films by women and filmmakers from Africa and/or the Caribbean.

Literature and Visuality
Words and pictures are different beasts. Yet theories of literature and theories of the image often rely on a common set of ideas—about the nature of representation or figuration, or about the power of fiction and imagination. This course will explore the intersections and tensions between paradigms of literature and visual art. We will be particularly interested in the different status accorded texts and images with respect to epistemological and ideological questions. Do literary and visual texts have the power to say, show, or do things that are essentially different? Or do they simply say or show us the same things in different ways? How do processes of re-mediation and transcultural adaptation or appropriation allow (or invite) interventions in existing paradigms? Texts will include those drawn from both Western/Euro-American cultures and traditions to work by writers and artists from the South and working in postcolonial space: North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and the indigenous Americas.

Afropean Literature
This course will explore the African presence in Europe through literature by and about people of African descent living in Europe. We will explore questions of genre, language, and citizenship, histories of empire and colonialism, and the burgeoning new literature authored by recent arrivals from Africa in. Specific sites and moments will include Black France and Black Britain, the genre of the guestworker memoir, and refugee literature. Transatlantic crossings and re-crossings will also be important. (Paris was a second home to many Harlem Renaissance writers and artists. Caribbean food, music, and languages are all essential to postcolonial British identity and culture.) Readings to include fiction, poetry, non-fiction essays, as well as documentary and feature film. Theoretical questions to include orality, collective literacy, creolization, and translation; postcolonial and Black studies approaches to literature.

Recent and Upcoming Courses