Ato Quayson

Ato Quayson

PhD, University of Cambridge, English (1995)
B.A., Hons (First Class), University of Ghana, English and Arabic (1989)


"I joined Stanford's Department of English in the fall of 2019. I did my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge and had my first job as a Research Fellow at Wolfson College at Oxford University before returning to Cambridge to become a Reader in the Faculty of English, Director of the Centre for African Studies, and Fellow of Pembroke College. After a decade teaching at Cambridge, I left in 2005 for the University of Toronto where I became the inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University Professor, and Professor in the Department of English. I moved to NYU in 2017 and am looking to settle finally at Stanford.

"I have published widely in areas as diverse as African literature, postcolonial studies, disability studies, diaspora and transnational studies, and urban studies, among others. Along with a long-standing interest in postcolonial literature, Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I also have a strong interest in learning about cities. One book I wrote–Oxford Street, Accra–retells the history of the city in which I grew up from the perspective of a single street. The Oxford Street of the title acts as an urban key which, turned in different directions, gives access to the history of colonial and post-Independence urban planning, street life, the accretion of neighborhoods, the history of salsa in the city, and the facts of urban boredom, among other things. 

"In my down time, I enjoy dancing, traveling, and comparing places, but a new hobby I have picked up recently is studying about trees as a way of understanding built environments as well as nature. I recently started a YouTube channel called Critic.Reading.Writing in which I use literature to discuss various topics of interest. Here is a link to the introductory episode:"

Ato Quayson is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2019 was elected Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. He is Professor of English at Stanford. He studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Ghana and took his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge after which he held a Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford before returning to Cambridge to become Reader in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literature in the Faculty of English from 1995-2005. He was also Director of the Centre for African Studies and a Fellow of Pembroke College while at Cambridge. Prior to Stanford he was Professor of African and Postcolonial Literature at New York University (2017-2019) and Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto (2005-2017). In 2016 he was appointed University Professor at the University of Toronto, the highest distinction that the university can bestow. Professor Quayson has published 5 monographs and 8 edited volumes. His monographs include Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing (1997), Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice, or Process? (2000), Calibrations: Reading for the Social (2003), and Aesthetic Nervousness: Disability and the Crisis of Representation (2007). Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (2014) was co-winner of the Urban History Association's 2015 Best Book Prize (non-North America) and was named in The Guardian as one of the 10 Best Books on Cities in 2014. His edited books include Relocating Postcolonialism (with David Goldberg, 2001), African Literary Theory: An Anthology of Literary Criticism and Theory (with Tejumola Olaniyan, 2007), Fathers and Daughters: An Anthology of Exploration (2008), Labor Migration, Human Trafficking, and Multinational Corporations, (with Antonela Arhin, 2012), The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, 2 volumes (2012), A Companion to Diaspora and Transnational Studies (with Girish Daswani, 2013), and The Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (2016). He also wrote a new Introduction and Notes to Nelson Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom (2003). He is currently completing Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature for Cambridge University Press and also working with Grace Tolequé on Accra Chic: A Locational History of Fashion in Accra for Intellect Books and Chicago University Press. Professor Quayson was a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar (1991-1994), Chief Examiner in English for the International Baccalaureate (2005-2007) and member of the European Research Council (2010-2017). He has also held Fellowships at the Du Bois Institute for African American Studies at Harvard (2004), and the Research Centre in the Humanities at Australian National University (2015). He was the 2011-12 Cornille Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College and is the founding editor of The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. He has lectured widely in Africa, Europe, Canada, the United States, Singapore, Turkey, Hong Kong, Australia, and various other places. He is currently Vice-President, African Studies Association, and will become President of the ASA in November of 2019.

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