Cherene Sherrard-Johnson

Position title: Senior Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2017-2021)

Sally Mead Hands-Bascom Professor of English, UW-Madison

portrait image of Cherene Sherrard-Johnson stanidng in front of book shelves wearing a maroon shirt and necklace and earrings made of metal circles

Interlapping Blackness: An Intimate Cartography

I’m researching and writing a trio of essays that consider belonging and global black identity through the theoretical frameworks of Island and Archipelagic American studies. The first, “Isle of Refuge,” (Water~Stone Review) follows nineteenth-century abolitionist life-writer Mary Prince’s journey from slavery to emancipation through colonial Bermuda’s archipelagic plantocracies; the second “Saltworks,” explores the significance of salt as commodity, practice, and pan-Caribbean archetype; the final, “Sanctuaries” (in-progress) mines the concepts of asylum, fugitivity, and marronage from an ecological, legal, and experiential perspective. These essays will ultimately fold into a larger book project addressing the flow of insurgency, of anti-colonial thought and action, manifest in the literature of the Americas through the hybridized bodies of black women. Some of the broader questions I address include: how is racial difference elided as we reconfigure the studies of early American literature or Afro-Caribbean literature along transnational lines? Why do particular locations, like Haiti, occupy a fractious space within the global South? In this book, “new world” literary mappings intertwine with personal inquiry and critical investigations about the nature of belonging, identity and indigeneity as I follow an elastic circuit that unveils relationships between fragile environments, dynamic objects, and the human/nonhuman beings that circulate through the archipelagic diaspora.

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson is the Sally Mead Hands-Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches nineteenth and twentieth century American and African American literature, cultural studies, and feminist theory. Recent publications include: A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance (Wiley, 2015), Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color (Rutgers, 2012), “Insubordinate Islands and Coastal Chaos: Pauline Hopkins Literary Land/Seascapes” in Archipelagic American Studies (Duke, 2017), “”Perfection with a hole in the middle”: Archipelagic Assemblage in Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning.” Journal for Transnational American Studies (Summer 2019, 93-123), and Vixen, a poetry collection (Autumn House Press, 2017). Her second poetry collection, Grimoire, was released in September from Autumn House Press.