Michelle D. Commander's Critical Reads

November 7th, 2017

Michelle D. Commander is an associate professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee. She earned a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Commander spent the 2012-2013 school year in Accra, Ghana, as a Fulbright Lecturer/Researcher, where she taught at the University of Ghana-Legon and completed follow-up research for Afro-Atlantic Flight. She is currently working on three projects: a book manuscript on the function of speculative ideologies and science in contemporary African American cultural production; a book-length project on Black counter-narratives of the U.S. South; and a creative nonfiction volume on African American mobility. Commander has also engaged in essay writing for public audiences, which has been cathartic and challenging. You can find her work at The Guardian and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Avidly channel. Michelle will discuss Afro-Atlantic Flight on Wednesday, November 8 at 6:00 pm.


 The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois

Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America, by Saidiya Hartman

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, by Christina Sharpe

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The Price of the Ticket, by James Baldwin

Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, by Hortense Spillers

Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, by Cedric Robinson

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson


About Afro-Atlantic Flight: In Afro-Atlantic Flight, Commander analyzes what compels Black American cultural producers, travelers, and historical preservationists to journey toward imagined Africas in Ghana, Brazil, and the U.S. South in the post-1965 moment. This book offers significant reflections on Black American “flight” concerning the location of Africa, the possibilities for diasporan return, and the significance of refiguring and democratizing U.S. master narratives about slavery. It argues for the taking up of a speculative mindset not only as a liberating mode through which an individual can truly live otherwise, but also as a radical tool of analysis to properly address the contemporary resonances of slavery that exist across the Afro-Atlantic.