Saidiya Hartman Named University Professor
Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:
I write now to announce that I have appointed Saidiya Hartman, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, to the rank of University Professor, Columbia’s highest academic honor. Professor Hartman is a scholar of African American and American literature and cultural history whose immersive and unflinching portraits of Black life have forever altered the ways in which we think and speak about enslavement and its invidious legacy in this country.
One can only marvel at Professor Hartman’s writings, both within and beyond the academy. She brings a painstaking and unrelenting focus to retrieving and telling the lost stories of the dispossessed. Deploying the singularly powerful tool of her own invention—“critical fabulation”—Saidiya weaves together a semi-nonfictional narrative from bits and shreds of historical data in order to give voice to those whose place in history has all too often been unfairly set aside. Her investigations into the transatlantic slave trade offer searing accounts of subjugation and resistance. Her descriptions of life on the plantation make vivid the deadly dynamics between the enslaved and their enslavers. And her studies of Black women in early twentieth-century urban spaces reveal experiments in rebellion against the suffocating constraints of racism.
For her work, Professor Hartman has received a multitude of honors, among them having been named a Fulbright Scholar and a MacArthur Fellow. She is also a person of expansive warmth and caring, and, not surprisingly, she is beloved by her undergraduate and graduate students, revered as a committed, incisive, and encouraging teacher and mentor.
Professor Hartman joined the Columbia faculty in 2007, after teaching in the departments of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley for more than a decade. She received her BA from Wesleyan University and PhD from Yale University.
The title of University Professor is a rare distinction. It reflects on all of us, for what we value and seek to achieve every day within the academy. It is, accordingly, an appropriate feature of the position that one is entitled to teach across all of our schools and departments. Professor Saidiya Hartman is so very deserving of this honor. And I am happy to send her our collective congratulations and gratitude for her scholarship, teaching, and being at Columbia.
Lee C. Bollinger