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For each episode, our guest will be asked to choose five pieces or items that have influenced their intellectual life and their work. These five items can be books, art, music, poetry, photographs, performance, a person, an event, or an experience. The choices then become the basis of a free-flowing conversation that discusses our guest’s life, their personal, political and intellectual journeys and histories. At the end of the programme, our current guest will nominate the person to be interviewed next in the series making this podcast an exercise in serendipity and an intellectual history of a new generation of writers/ scholars/ artists and activists.

For this episode, Suchitra Vijayan spoke to Nijah Cunningham

Image by Joshua Begley.

Nijah Cunningham is a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an Assistant Professor of English at Hunter College, CUNY (where he is currently on leave). His teaching and research focus on issues of time, aesthetics, and historiography in 20th century African American and African diasporic literature and culture.

He is currently working on a book manuscript titled “Quiet Dawn,” which considers the ambiguous legacies of black radical politics. His work has appeared in Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of CriticismWomen, and Performance, and The New Inquiry, where he coauthored a piece called “Blue Life” with Tiana Reid. He is also the coordinator of the Small Axe Project—an integrated publication platform devoted to Caribbean intellectual and artistic work. In addition to his scholarly work, Nijah has co-curated several visual art projects including the Small Axe exhibitions Caribbean Queer Visualities and the forthcoming exhibition, “The Visual Life of Social Affliction,” which will showcase how Caribbean artists respond to the region’s uninterrupted history of structural violence. At Princeton University Art Museum he curated the exhibit Hold: A Meditation on Black Aesthetics. In June 2018, he received Princeton’s Phi Beta Kappa award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. Nijah received his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and his B.A. in Communication and Faith, Peace, and Justice from Boston College, where he was a McNair Scholar and part of the Global Justice Project.

Nijah’s Choice:

1) Notorious B.I.G, “Everyday Struggle” from Ready to Die (1994)

2) David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives 

3) Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography 

excerpts-from-Assata-Shakur_An-Autobiography

4) Guy Debord, “The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy” read alongside the cover the other Splasher Manifesto )

decline-and-fall-spectacle-commodity-economy-1-1

0628webPAPER7

0628webPAPER1

5) White Phosphorus

6. Ras Daniel Hartman’s Grace 

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