2021–2023 Postdoctoral Fellow, English
PhD in English, University of Pennsylvania
Ajay Kumar Batra is a literary and cultural historian working at the intersection of early American studies, Black studies, and slavery studies. His research illuminates the heterodox visions of liberation and of the good life that Atlantic African diasporans generated during early modernity and the Age of Revolutions. His current book project, Radiant Ephemera: Abolition in the Black Atlantic, examines how Black diasporans in the United States and the British Caribbean theorized abolition during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It illustrates that Black poets, preachers, rebels, and maroons, among others, embraced abolition not as the event of slavery’s legal annulment, but rather as the interminable practice of building a new, more livable world from the ground up.
His other areas of study include political philosophy, racial capitalism, Marx, global histories of race and caste, PIC abolition, and theories of the archive. His article on the latter topic, “Reading with Conviction: Abraham Johnstone and the Poetics of the Dead End,” appeared in Early American Literature and, in 2020, received the American Literature Society’s 1921 Prize for best essay in the field of American literary studies. In 2019–20, he was a dissertation fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.A. in English (with a minor in philosophy) from the University of Chicago.