James Ford III

Assistant Professor, English and Comparative Literary Studies


  • Office: Swan Hall Room 224

Education: B.A., Morehouse College; M.A., Ph.D, University of Notre Dame

Additional Education | Academic Positions | Research Interests | Publications | Conferences & Lectures
Teaching | Committees | Public Intellectual Service | Journal Service | Awards | Professional Membership

Additional Education


“Thinking Through Crisis: 1930s African American Literature and Politics” (Spring 2009)

Non-Degree Seminar

“Black Intellectuals,” Led by Brent Hayes Edwards, School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University (Spring 2006)

Previous Academic Positions

Visiting Assistant Professor, Occidental College (2011-2012)

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Occidental College (2010-2011)

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame (2009-2010)

Research Interests

Late Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Century African American Literature, Black Radicalism, WEB Du Bois Studies, Marxist Theory, Ethics, Contemporary Experimental Aesthetics, Black Popular Culture, Hip-Hop Studies


Work in Print

“From Being to Unrest, From Objectivity to Motion: The Slave in Karl Marx’s Capital,” Rethinking Marxism (January 2011)

“Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 33.1 (Winter 2010), special issue, “Personal Narratives and Political Discourse,” Guest Edited by Sidonie Smith

“Stewart Ellison” and “John Patterson Sampson”entries in African American National Biography, Oxford Univ Press, 2008.

Work Accepted, Forthcoming

“Down by the Riverside: Race, Class, and the Drive for Citizenship,” Novel: A Forum for Fiction, Duke University Press (Scheduled for Summer 2013)

“Space is the Place: Afrofuturist Elegy in Tracy K Smith’s Life on Mars,” Black Scholar, Paradigm Press (Scheduled for 2013)

“Black Cool: A Review Essay on Rebecca Walker’s Black Cool, Adilifu Osumare’s Super Black, and Kevin Young’s The Grey Album,” Black Scholar, Paradigm Press (Scheduled for 2013)

“Honoring Dr Du Bois,” The Rhetoric of Disalienation in the Works of WEB Du Bois, ed Monique Akassi, Cambridge University Press (Scheduled for 2014)

“An African Diasporic Critique of Violence: Walter Benjamin and Phillis Wheatley Reading the Niobe Legend,” Systems of Life: Politics, Economics, and the Biological Sciences, Ed Timothy Campbell, Richard Barney and Warren Montag, Fordham University Press (Scheduled for 2014)

“‘Its Asserted Spirit Remains’: Post-Reconstruction Era Intellectuals on the Prison-Industrial Complex”, Black Voices: Race and Incarceration, Ed. Ella Turrene, Palgrave MacMillan (Scheduled for Winter 2014)

“Interrupting the System: Spinoza and Maroon Thought,” Spinoza’s Authority: Resistance and Power, Ed A Kordela Kiarina and Dimitri Vardoulakis, Northwestern University Press (2014)

Work Under Review

“‘Fallin’: Rethinking Hip-Hop as Tragic Community,”sent to Publication for the Modern Language Association

Books in Progress

“Thinking through Crisis: Depression-Era African American Literature, History, and Politics,” In this book I counter accepted literary history that 1930s black intellectuals were uncritical followers of the mainstream Left. With close readings of writing from Richard Wright, Ida B Wells, WEB Du Bois, and Zora N Hurston, I theorize “crisis” as a tool for analyzing the emergence of alternative agencies during social upheaval. By reading several genres, including short fiction, autobiography, historiography, and the novel, I extend the aesthetic genealogy of black radicalism developed by Brent Edwards, Michelle Stephens, Fred Moten and others; and I theorize the Second Great Depression by considering the work of Barbara Foley, Michael Denning, Paula Rabinowitz, and James Smethurst, and others on the 1930s (Projected Completion: Fall 2014)

“Hip-Hop’s Late Style: Liner Notes to an Aesthetic Theory,” In this book I theorize the aftermath of US Hip-Hop’s Golden Era in terms of “late style.” I offer this as an alternative to the “death of hip-hop”discourse. By thinking hip-hop in aesthetic terms, the artform’s “death” can be considered a moment of transformation. Most importantly, through this analysis, the new aesthetic strategies emerging after hip-hop’s Golden Era will provide insights for a style of life specific to the aftermath of the US’s Golden Era. (Projected Completion: Fall 2018)

Conference Activities & Lectures

Conference Papers

“A Dream Deferred or the Dream in Deferral? Hip-Hop Aesthetics and Temporality”, To Be Presented at the Conference, “Psi #19: Now Then: Performance and Temporality,” Stanford University (Scheduled for June 26-30, 2013)

“Listening to The Love Below: Hip-Hop’s Afro-futuristic Eroticism,” “Alien Bodies: Race, Space, and Sex in the African Diaspora,” African American Studies Collective, Emory University (Scheduled for February 8-9, 2013)

“An African Diasporic Critique of Violence: The Niobe Legend in the Writing of Walter Benjamin and Phillis Wheatley,” “System of Life: Economies, Politics, and the Biological Sciences, 1750-1850,”Huntington Library (Nov 8, 2012)

“Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain and Political Theology,” Presented at the Conference,“Novel Worlds,” Society for Novel Studies, Duke University (April 28-29, 2012)

“An Ode to the Raw: Dissonance in Hip-Hop Aesthetics,” Presented at the Conference, “Show and Prove,” Tisch School of the Arts, New York University (March 29 -31, 2012)

“‘Shadows of Tomorrow’: Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Archive,” Presented on the Panel “Theorizing Hip-Hop as Intellectual Production” at the Annual MLA Conference, Seattle (January 2012)

“Contemporary Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Tragedy of US Imperialism,” Presented on Panel, “The World is Yours: On Hip-hop and Global Liberation,” Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, University of Pittsburgh (November 2011)

“‘Down by the Riverside’: Race, Class, and Becoming-Citizen,” Presented at the Conference, “The Citizen-Subject: On the Work of Etienne Balibar,” Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Santa Barbara (March 4, 2011)

“Roundtable with Etienne Balibar, Warren Montag, Nancy Armstrong, and James Ford on the Citizen-Subject,” University of California, Santa Barbara (March 4, 2011)

“Martin Luther King’s Deconstruction of Messianism,”Presented in Special Session “Black Literary History after Obama,” MLA Conference, Philadelphia (December 2009)

“Interruption of the System: Negri, Spinoza and Maroon Political Desire,” Rethinking Marxism Conference: New Marxian Times, UMASS at Amherst (November 2009)

“The ‘Coming of the Lord’: W.E.B Du Bois’s John Brown and the Rethinking of Messianism,” John Brown Symposium, Harpers Ferry, WV (October 2009)

“Mob Rule in New Orleans and Ida B Wells’s Critique of Anarchy,” Rupture, Repression, and Uprising: Raced and Gendered Violence in the 20th Century, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (April 2008)

“The ‘Crisis’ in Trauma Theory,” Rethinking Marxism Conference (October 2006)

Memento: The End of History and the End of Ethics in Trauma Theory,” Midwestern Modern Language Association Conference (October 2005)

Conference Panels

“Marx(ism) and Black Studies,” (co-organized with Seth Markle) Panels 1 and 2, Rethinking Marxism Conference 2009: New Marxian Times

Other Conference Service

Workshop Facilitator and Respondent, “Show and Prove: The Tensions, Contradictions, and Possibilities of Hip Hop Studies in Practice,” New York University (September 19, 2010)

Chair of Panel, “Space and the Cartographies of Belonging” at Conference Unauthorized States: Subversive Geographies and Other National Antinomies, University of Notre Dame (April 2008)


“Towards a Du Boisian Critique of Violence,” Presented at Occidental College (April 2010)

“Towards a Du Boisian Critique of Violence,” Presented at University of Washington (March 2010)

“Black Presence in the White City: Ida B Wells and the World Columbian Exposition,” Africana Studies Brown Bag Lecture Series (February 2009)

Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Presented at Rutgers University, New Brunswick (February 2009)

Mob Rule in New Orleans: Anarchy, Governance, and Media Representation,” Presented at Wesleyan University (January 2009)

Guest Classroom Lectures

“Mapping the Delta: Richard Wright’s ‘Down by the Riverside’and the ‘New’ Aesthetic,” American Literature Colloquium, English Department, U of Notre Dame (April 2008)

“Redemption in Black Reconstruction,” Presented in Dr. Mark Hauser’s Course Comparative Slavery, U of Notre Dame (April 2008)

“Thinking Through Crisis: From Concept to Critical Project,” American Literature Colloquium Presentation, English Department, U of Notre Dame (October 2007)

“Organization in a Time of Crisis: WEB Du Bois’Writing of Black Reconstruction,”Presented in Dr. Antonette Irving’s course Our America: Exploring the Hyphen between African-American, U of Notre Dame (October 2006)

“Frederick Douglass and the Genre of the Slave Narrative,” Presented in Dr. Thomas Werge’s Course, American Literary Traditions I, U of Notre Dame (October 2005).

“Phillis Wheatley and the Origins of African American Literature,” Presented in Dr. Thomas Werge’s course, American Literary Traditions I, U of Notre Dame (September 2005)

“Hip-Hop and the Aesthetics of Sampling,” Presented at The Long Reach of African-American Poetics Conference, U of Notre Dame (October 2004)


“On Blackness: Literary, Theoretical, and Historical Explorations,” Upper-level majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011)

“American Experiences: Rhetoric of War,” American Literature Survey, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2011)

“The Death of Hip-Hop: An Aesthetic Interrogation,”Upper-level majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011, Spring 2012)

“Hip-Hop and Aesthetic Philosophy,” First-year course, Cultural Studies Program, Occidental College (Spring 2011, Spring 2012)

“Archaeologies of Black Memory: Archival Theory and Practice,” Lower-Level Majors course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Spring 2011)

“W.E.B. Du Bois and Hyperbolic Thinking,”Upper-level course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2010, Fall 2012)

“Black Reconstruction: Radicalism in African American Literature,” Lower-Level Course, English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College (Fall 2010, Spring 2012)

“African Americans in the US and the World: Thinking with W.E.B Du Bois,” Upper-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Spring 2010)

“Thinking Through Crisis: Reading 20thand 21st Century African American Literature and Culture,” Lower-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009)

“Black Reconstruction: African American Literature and US Society,” Lower Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009)

“Black Arts: Refiguring the African Diaspora,” Lower-Level Course, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall Semester 2008, Spring Semester 2009, Scheduled for Spring 2010)

Freshman Composition (Fall 2004, Spring 2005, Spring 2006)

Committee Services

Stafford Ellison Wright Endowment Committee for selecting the Black Studies Scholar-In-Residence, Occidental College (Spring 2012- Present)

Selection Committee for Erskine Peters Dissertation Fellowship, Africana Studies, U of Notre Dame (Fall 2009- Spring 2010)

Public Intellectual Service

“Hip Hop and Shakespeare,” for Steve Rowland’s documentary series, Shakespeare Is (January 7, 2012)

A Response to ‘Notes on a Dying Culture #666’” on blog NewBlackMan

Journal Service

Article Review, Novel (2012-Present)

Article Reviewer, Nineteenth Century Contexts (Fall 2011-Present)

Article Reviewer, Rethinking Marxism (Fall 2010-Present)

Article Reviewer, Décalage: An Althusser Studies Journal (2010-Present)

Editorial Assistant, Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture and Society (Fall 2006-2007)

Submission Guidelines Committee, Rethinking Marxism (Summer 2007-Fall 2007)

Article Reviewer, Religion and Literature, University of Notre Dame (Spring 2003-Fall 2007)


Assistant Professor, Occidental College (Fall 2012- Present)

Visiting Assistant Professor, Mellon Curricular Planning Fellowship, Occidental College (Fall 2011-Summer 2012)

Fellow, Mellon Fellowship for Digital Scholarship Institute, Occidental College (Summer 2011)

Postdoctoral Fellow, Africana Studies, University of Notre Dame (Fall 2009-Spring 2010)

Professional Memberships

Modern Language Association (MLA)

Society for Novel Studies (SNS)

Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD)

American Studies Association (ASA)