Bryan Wagner

Bryan Wagner

Associate Professor
D25C Hearst Field Annex
bwagner@berkeley.edu


Professional Statement

Bryan Wagner is Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a PhD in English from the University of Virginia before coming to Berkeley in 2002. His research focuses on African American expression in the context of slavery and its aftermath, and he has secondary interests in legal history and popular music. He is the author of Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery (Harvard UP, 2009) and The Tar Baby: A Global History (Princeton UP, 2017). A book on The Wild Tchoupitoulas—a landmark recording of processional call-and-response music arranged as electric funk—is forthcoming in the 33 1/3 Series from Bloomsbury. Current projects include a digital cartographic archive, Louisiana Slave Conspiracies, and a critical edition, The Story of Bras-Coupé: The Fugitive Slave who Fought the Law, Ruled the Swamp, Danced at Congo Square, Invented Jazz, and Died for Love. A work in progress, The Sorrow Songs, considers the theology of the African American spirituals. Courses in regular rotation include both segments in the English Department's survey sequence in African American literature, an interdisciplinary seminar on Reconstruction, and undergraduate lectures on "Culture and Society in Silent Cinema" and "The Strange Career of Jim Crow."



Specialties

Books

Title Fields
Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery
W. C. Handy waking up to the blues on a train platform, Buddy Bolden eavesdropping on the drums at Congo Square, John Lomax taking his phonograph recorder into a southern penitentiary—some foundational myths of the black vernacular remain inescapable, even as they come under increasing pressure from skeptics. In Disturbing the Peace, Bryan Wagner revises the history of the black vernacular tradit....
The Tar Baby: A Global History The Tar Baby: A Global History
The Tar Baby offers a fresh analysis of a deceptively simple story about a wolf, a rabbit, and a doll made of tar and turpentine. Examining the story's variation and reception, Bryan Wagner argues that the tar baby is best understood not merely as a folktale but as a collective work in political philosophy. Circulating at the same time and in the same places as new ideas about property and politi....
The Wild Tchoupitoulas The Wild Tchoupitoulas
The Wild Tchoupitoulas is a definitive expression of the modern New Orleans sound, drawing upon carnival traditions stretching back a century. Music chanted in the streets with tambourines and makeshift percussion is transformed throughout the album into dense electric funk accented by calypso, charanga, and reggae. The album bridges not only genres but generations, linking the improvised flow fro....

Selected Publications and Papers Delivered

BOOKS

 

Bryan Wagner, Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Bryan Wagner, The Tar Baby: A Global History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).

Bryan Wagner, The Wild Tchoupitoulas (London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming).

Marianne Constable, Leti Volpp, and Bryan Wagner, ed., Looking for Law in All the Wrong Places (forthcoming).

 

 

CURRENT WRITING

 

Bryan Wagner, “Historical Method in the Study of Law and Culture,” in Markus Dubber and Christopher Tomlins, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Historical Legal Research (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

 

Bryan Wagner, “Police,” in Erica R. Edwards, Roderick Ferguson, and Jeffrey Ogbar, ed. Keywords for African American Studies (New York: New York University Press, forthcoming).

 

Bryan Wagner, “The Saga of the Junkyard Dog,” in Thomas J. Adams and Matt Sakakeeny, ed., Remaking New Orleans: Against Exceptionalism and Authenticity (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming).

 

Bryan Wagner, “The Trial of Romeo Rosebud,” in Marianne Constable, Leti Volpp, and Bryan Wagner, ed., Looking for Law in All the Wrong Places (New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming).

 

Bryan Wagner, Review of Risa Goluboff, Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s, Journal of Interdisciplinary History (forthcoming).



Recent English Courses Taught