Statement on Anti-Racism

The Princeton English Department supports and actively seeks to promote anti-racism within and beyond our teaching and research. We join with all people of conscience in the United States and across the world in condemning the police violence that has taken so many Black lives, and we mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Trayvon Martin, and many, many more.

We also celebrate the potential and the power of the teaching, writing, and scholarship of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to dismantle racism and challenge white supremacy past and present. As critical readers of literary texts, we confront firsthand how these values are created and defended. We also have access to a vast store of rich, moving, heart-breaking, and joyful stories in which we can witness the destruction of racist practices and ideologies.

We strive for active anti-racism in our classrooms and our scholarship as a means of raising awareness and changing consciousness. We seek to investigate racist beliefs and practices with rigor and compassion. We emphasize our determination to join together in this anti-racist work—work that has too often been carried mostly by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. We believe such work can be done most successfully together, in community, with freedom and shared values.

In this work we confront literary study’s long history as a prop to the worst forces of imperialism and nationalism, and its role in underwriting crimes of slavery and discrimination. Such a history compels us to continually reflect on how we read and teach literature and to actively dissociate literary studies from their colonial and racist uses. With renewed urgency, we can read the long history of dissidence and free imagination that is the best legacy of books across time and tradition. In this work we will depend upon the vast energies of writers now writing, in whose words the causes of abolition and racial justice burn with wisdom and exigency.

Simon Gikandi (Chair)
Sophie Gee (Associate Chair)
Eduardo Cadava (Director of Graduate Studies)
Jeff Dolven (Director of Undergraduate Studies)

and members of the Executive Committee:

Diana Fuss
Christina León
Paul Nadal
Sarah Rivett