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Joseph Slaughter


The Occupation of Literature and Books That Are Difficult to Get

[Barbara Harlow and Joseph Slaughter in Beirut. Image via the author.]

When I was one of Barbara Harlow’s beginning PhD students in Ethnic and Third World Literatures at the University of Texas at Austin, I had the temerity one day to ask her in her office how she justified sitting behind a desk, reading and writing, when she was so acutely aware of all the terrible things going on in this world, was so attuned to the “imperative to take sides,” as she would insist on any number of occasions. “We can’t afford to give up any space,” was her very ...

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Joseph Slaughter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Human Rights, Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Fordham, 2007), which won the 2008 René Wellek Prize for comparative literature and cultural theory, and of essays and articles that have appeared in PMLAAlif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, The Journal of Human Rights, Research in African Literatures, and Human Rights Quarterly, among others. He is a founding co-editor of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development and was elected to serve as President of the American Comparative Literature Association in 2016.