Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance: Poetries of Abolition (A Conversation with Dwayne Betts & James Ford III)


Location: Zoom Webinar


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Reginald Dwayne Betts is the Founder and Director of the Million Book Project. A poet and lawyer, he transformed himself from a sixteen-year old kid sentenced to nine-years in prison to a critically acclaimed writer and graduate of the Yale Law School. He has written three acclaimed collections of poetry, the recently published FelonBastards of the Reagan Era, and Shahid Reads His Own Palm. His memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, is the story of a young man confined in the worst prisons in the state of Virginia, where solitary confinement, horrific conditions, and the constant violence threatened to break his humanity. Instead, Betts used the time to turn himself into a poet, a scholar, and an advocate for the reform of the criminal justice system.

He is the recipient of an American Book Award, PEN/New England Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Radcliffe Fellowship, and a 2019 National Magazine Award for Getting Out, his New York Times Magazine article about his journey from prison to becoming a licensed attorney, amongst numerous other awards and honors. He holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland; an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, where he was a Holden Fellow; and, a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is a Ph.D. in Law candidate at Yale and as a Liman Fellow, he spent a year representing clients in the New Haven Public Defender’s Office.

James Ford is Associate Professor of English and Black Studies and Chair of English at Occidental College.  His first book, Thinking Through Crisis: Depression-Era Black Literature, Theory and Politics won the MLA’s William Sanders Scarborough Prize. He is currently working on two book-length projects: Phillis, the Black Swan: Disheveling the Origins of African American Letters and Hip-Hop’s Late Style: Liner Notes to an Aesthetic Theory.

This conversation will be moderated by Francisco Robles, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. 

Francisco E. Robles teaches and researches in American Literatures of the twentieth century, focusing in particular on Multi-Ethnic American Literature. He has articles in Latino StudiesPost45: Peer ReviewedMELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United StatesASAP/JKilling the Buddha, and Post45: Contemporaries, reviews in the Journal of Popular Music Studiessx:salon, and The New Mexico Historical Review, as well as a chapter in the edited collection Decolonizing Latinx Masculinities.

This event is co-sponsored by the Archives of the Disappeared Research Seminar, University of Cambridge.

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Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is a research collective and lecture series co-sponsored by the College of Arts & Letters and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. We are proud to announce that we are now housed at Notre Dame University's newly launched Initiative on Race and Resilience, directed by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Africana Studies. Global in scope and comparative and interdisciplinary in critical approach, the Initiative on Race and Resilience is dedicated to challenging systemic racism and promoting racial equality through scholarship, education, and community empowerment.

The Literatures of Annihilation, Exile & Resistance research collective includes Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies faculty members Asher KaufmanEbrahim MoosaAtalia Omer, and Ernesto Verdeja and College of Arts and Letters faculty members Alison RicePerin GürelOlivier MorelErnest MorrellFrancisco Robles, and Mark Sanders.  External collaborators include Chana Morgenstern, co-founder of the Archives of the Disappeared Initiative and Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle Eastern Literatures at Cambridge University; Sinan Antoon, Iraqi poet, novelist and translator, and Associate Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University; Refqa Abu-Remaileh, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Film at Freie Universität Berlin and Principle Investigator of PalREAD; and Amir Ahmadi Arian, Iranian novelist, journalist, and non-fiction writer.