Nijah Cunningham 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. He joined Princeton from a teaching position at Hunter College, CUNY. He specializes in African American and African diasporic literature, and his fields of interest include black studies, performance studies, visual culture, gender and sexuality, and postcolonial criticism. Titled “Quiet Dawn: Time, Aesthetics, and the Afterlives of Black Radicalism,” his current book project reconsiders the legacies of the revolutionary past by exploring questions of embodied performance, temporality, and historiography within the context of the 1960s. Ultimately, this project attends to modes of experience and practice that fall outside of normative accounts of black radical politics but, nonetheless, gesture to worlds that could have been. He has published in Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory; Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism and The Studio Museum of Harlem exhibition catalogue, Fore. In collaboration with Erica James (Art History, Yale University) and David Scott (Anthropology, Columbia University), he recently curated an exhibition entitled Caribbean Queer Visualities, featuring contemporary visual art works by Caribbean artists that focus on the question of queerness. He is the project coordinator of The Small Axe Project.
While at Princeton, he is affiliated with the Department of African American Studies and the Department of English, teaching courses on black aesthetics, catastrophe in modern Caribbean literature, and fictions of black urban life, and serves as a faculty fellow at Mathey College. The recipient of a grant by the Princeton University Art Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Faculty Innovation, his fall 2017 course on Black Aesthetics situated visual objects from the Museum’s collection in conversation with literary works in order to rethink notions of racial identity and representation; he curated the corresponding exhibit Hold: A Meditation on Black Aesthetics. In June 2018, he received Princeton's Phi Beta Kappa award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.
Fall 2018 Course: AAS 499 / ENG 499 / AMS 499 Theoretical Approaches in Black Studies