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University of Chicago English department to accept only grad students interested in 'Black Studies' this year


'We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people'

South facade of the Cobb Gate at the University of Chicago with the Regenstein Library in the distance. (Getty Images)

The English department at the University of Chicago announced that it will be accepting only graduate student applicants who are interested in pursuing Black Studies in the upcoming admissions cycle.

In a faculty statement posted on the department's website in July, the English department expressed remorse about the university's role in perpetuating inequality and committed to emphasizing and amplifying black voices more strongly. From a highlighted portion of the statement:

The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.
For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.

There will be seven courses offered in the Black Studies field in 2020-2021: Hemispheric Studies; Toni Morrison, beloved and a mercy; Readings in Exile; Jamaica Kincaid and Naipaul; Black Shakespeare; and Uneasy Intimacies: Interracial Modernism.

"English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness," the statement said. "Our discipline is responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why. And while inroads have been made in terms of acknowledging the centrality of both individual literary works and collective histories of racialized and colonized people, there is still much to do as a discipline and as a department to build a more inclusive and equitable field for describing, studying, and teaching the relationship between aesthetics, representation, inequality, and power."

The University of Chicago recently experienced protests, including an "occupation" of the block on which the provost lives, as students pushed for the disbanding of the campus police department and a reallocation of the funds to other initiatives, such as a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department.

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