Abdul R. JanMohamed


Born and raised in Kenya and educated in the US (Univ. of Hawaii, BA; Brandeis Univ., PhD), Abdul JanMohamed has taught in the English Department at UC, Berkeley since 1983.  His publications include Manichean Aesthetics: The Politics of Literature in Colonial Africa; The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse (co-edited with David Lloyd); The Death-Bound-Subject: Richard Wright's Archaeology Of Death; (ed.) Reconsidering Social Identification: Race, Gender, Class, and Caste. He was the founding editor (along with Donna Przybylowicz) of Cultural Critique, a journal initially designed to provide a venue for the theorization of postcolonial and American minority literary and cultural discourses and for contemporary cultural theory.

Current Research: 

Whereas The Death-Bound-Subject explored the central role of the threat of death (aka, lynching) on the formation of individual and collective subjects in slave and Jim Crow societies, his current research, provisionally entitled Thick Love: Birthing the Death-Bound-Subject, focuses on black feminist neo-slave narratives that depict the vicissitudes of giving birth to and nurturing life in a culture organized around the production of death-bound-subjectivity.  More generally, his current research is animated by an attempt to theorize why and how people “allow” themselves to be coerced and exploited so thoroughly and relentlessly.

Selected Publications

Reconsidering Social Identification: Race, Gender, Class, and Caste. ed., Routledge (India), 2011.

The Death-Bound-Subject:  Richard Wright’s Archaeology of Death. Duke University Press, 2005.

The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse, ed., with David Lloyd, Oxford University Press, Fall 1990.

Manichean Aesthetics: The Politics of Literature in Colonial Africa, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1983; 2nd edition, 1988.

“Literary Criticism as Archaeology of Identity Politics:  A Critique of Poststructuralist Heterophelia and a Reading of Beloved,” published by the International Comparative Literature Association, Expanding the Frontiers of Comparative Literature: Toward an Age of Tolerance, vol 2, ed. Sung-won Cho, Chuang-Ang University Press, 2013

“Specularity as a Mode of Knowledge and Agency in Richard Wright’s Work,” in Philosophical Meditations on Richard Wright and His Work, ed. James Haile, Lexington Books, January 2012, pp 143-63.

“Renegotiating the Death Contract,” in Translation Series of 21st Century Western Critical Theories, Henan University Press, June 2011 (Chinese translation of chapter 8 of The Death-Bound-Subject)

“Between Speaking and Dying: Some Imperatives in the Emergence of the Subaltern in the Context of U.S. Slavery,” in Can the Subaltern Speak?  Reflections on the History of an Idea, ed Rosalind Morris, Columbia University Press, 2010, pp. 139-55.

"Richard Wright as a Specular Border Intellectual: The Politics of Identification, in Black Power," in Beyond Dichotomies: Histories, Identities, Cultures, and the Challenge of Globalization ed. Elisabeth Mudimbe-Boyi. NY: SUNY press, forthcoming.

"Theory, Practice and the Intellectual: A Conversation with Abdul R. JanMohamed," interview by Sean Goudie, Jouvert (an on-line journal of postcolonial studies), vol. 1, No. 2. (

"Refiguring Value/Power/Knowledge, or Foucault's Disavowal of Marx," Whither Marxism, eds., Bernd Magnus & Steve Cullenburg. London: Routledge, 1994, pp. 31-64.

"Some Implications of Paulo Freire's Border Pedagogy," Cultural Studies, vol. 7, no. 1 (January 1993), pp. 107-117.

"Worldliness-without-World, Homelessness-as-Home: Toward a Definition of the Specular Border Intellectual," in Edward Said: A Critical Reader, ed., Michael Sprinker. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1992, pp. 96-120.

Out of Africa: The Generation of Mythic Consciousness in Isak Dinesen: Critical Views, ed. Olga A. Pelensky. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 1993, pp. 138-56. (Extract from Manichean Aesthetics)

"Sexuality on/of the Racial Border: Foucault, Wright, and the Articulation of 'Racialized Sexuality,' in Discourses of Sexuality: From Aristotle to Aids, ed. Domna Stanton, Ann Arbor, Univ. of Michigan Press, 1992, pp. 94-116.

"Dennis Brutus," Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth Century Caribbean and Black African Writers, vol. 117. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992, pp.98-106.

"The Economy of Moral Capital in the Gulf War," introduction (co-authored with Donna Przybylowicz) to special issue of Cultural Critique on The Economies of War, No. 19 (Fall, 1991), pp. 5-14.

"The Degeneration of the Great South African Lie: Occasion For Loving," in Critical Essay on Nadine Gordmier, ed. Rowland Smith. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990, pp. 90-96. (Extract from Manichean Aesthetics)

"Negating the Negation as a Form of Affirmation in Minority Discourse: The Construction of Richard Wright as Subject," Cultural Critique, no. 7, Fall 1988 pp. 245-66.

"Minority Discourse--What Is To Be Done?" introduction to Cultural Critique issue on The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse II, no. 7, Fall 1988, pp. 5-17; co-authored with David Lloyd.

"Dominance, Hegemony, and the Task of Criticism," The Griot, vol. 6, no. 2 (Summer, 1987), pp. 7-11.

"Toward a Theory of Minority Discourse", introduction to Cultural Critique issue on The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse, no. 6, Spring 1987, pp. 5-12; co-authored with David Lloyd.

"Rehistoricizing Wright: The Psycho-Political Function of Death in Uncle Tom's Children," in Modern Critical Views: Richard Wright, ed., Harold Bloom. New Haven, CT: Chelsea House, 1987, pp. 191-228.

"The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature," Critical Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 1 (Autumn 1985), pp. 59-87.

"Sophisticated Primitivism: The Syncretism of Oral and Literate Modes in Achebe's Things Fall Apart," Ariel, vol. 15, no. 4 (Oct. 1984), pp. 19-39.


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