Title: Associate Professor
Office: 401 Benson Hall
- Ph.D. (Duke University, 1999)
- B.A. (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1994)
- U.S. African American Literature and Popular Music (Nineteenth Century and Harlem Renaissance; Worldviews and Transnational Engagements)
- Caribbean Literature and Popular Music (The Diaspora in the Latin America, North America, and England)
- Using Life Narratives in Aging Research and Translation
- Humanities-based Youth Programs
- English 271: Life, Literature, and Music in the Caribbean Diaspora
- English 355: Beneath the Mask: Subjectivity, Suppression, and Swagger in African American and Caribbean Autobiography
Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo earned her Ph.D. in English, with certificates in Latin American Studies and African American and Diaspora Studies, from Duke University in 1999. Her research centers on nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. African American and Caribbean literature and culture (including that from the portions of Central America that border the Caribbean Sea). In particular, Professor Nwankwo’s work has focused on encounters between these peoples in the areas of culture, identity, and ideology, with the goal of understanding recurrent paradigms for intercultural interaction and barriers to progressive cross-group engagements. For this work, Dr. Nwankwo has been awarded fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the DeWitt-Wallace Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Her book, _Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness, and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas_ (University of Pennsylvania Press 2005), is a comparative study of people of African descent in Cuba, the U.S., and the British West Indies in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. In it, she reveals that fear fostered by the revolution determined and has continued to determine the ways African-descended peoples in this hemisphere relate to each other, as well as to other American populations. Professor Nwankwo has also provided new insight into U.S. African American-Latino/Latin American-Caribbean relations through articles on a number of topics, including the portrayal of Latin America in the novels of U.S. African American writers Gayl Jones and Martin Delany, on the mechanics of memory in Panamanian West Indian writing, on the politics of intra-racial translation in Langston Hughes’ translations of Nicolas Guillen’s poetry, and on Zora Neale Hurston’s ethnographic engagement with the Caribbean.
Her recent projects both build on and depart from this earlier work by using ethnographic methodologies alongside literary studies approaches to shed new light on Inter-American engagements in the realms of cultural memory, identity, and language as they appear in poetry, music lyrics, and autobiographical narratives. Among these projects are _African Routes, Caribbean Roots, Latino Lives_ (a special issue of the _Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies_), _Rhythms of the Afro-Atlantic World_ (a collection of essays co-edited with Mamadou Diouf), and _Critical Approaches to Louise Bennett_ (a special issue of the _Journal of West Indian Literature_). She is currently working on two books on historical and contemporary connections between Panama, the United States, and the Caribbean. Nwankwo is also the Founding Director of Voices from Our America, an international project linking academic research, K-12 curriculum development, and community engagement. The project uses ethnographic and archival research to uncover new aspects of communities’ histories, then develops and runs workshops for teachers, youth, and community members in addition to creating digital archives and innovative educational materials and programs based on the new information uncovered.
Nwankwo often connects her Voices project work with her teaching by having her students engage with and learn from "living primary sources," including individuals in the Nashville and Vanderbilt communities as well as members of the students' own families. Through this approach to teaching, she enacts her belief that it is absolutely crucial that U.S. youth grasp the historical and contemporary realities of the many cultured worlds within and beyond the United States and come to understand how their own existence and worldviews have been shaped by those realities. This mission drives her pedagogy, alongside her commitment to hands-on, eyes-on, and ears-on learning inside and outside of the classroom.