Calvin Warren

Calvin Warren

Assistant Professor of American Studies
Faculty: Assistant
Room 101A
Address: 609 22nd Street
Phone: 202-994-7311

Areas of Expertise

African American Philosophy/Literary Criticism; 19th Century African American History; Contemporary Continental Theory; Psychoanalysis (Lacanian); Ethics; 

Calvin Warren’s research and teaching interests are located at the intersection of contemporary continental theory (semiotics, deconstruction, postmodernism, and psychoanalysis), Afro-pessimism, Ethics, and African American History.  Prof. Warren’s work limns the relationship between humanism, anti-black violence, and ethics.  He has held a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee (Africology) and received research support from The Ford Foundation, The Mellon Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a faculty grant from George Washington University.

Current Research

Warren’s current book project, Beyond Death: Antebellum Free Blacks and Political Nothingness examines the anomalous position of free blacks in antebellum society. Instead of “freedom status” providing antebellum blacks with political inclusion and fundamental rights, it often functioned as a deceptive marker for exclusion, statelessness, and vulnerability, within a context of arbitrary legal protections and social hostility. Beyond Death argues that free blacks constituted a peculiar “antebellum political interstice”—a political being situated on the precarious boundaries of life/death, freedom/bondage, subject/object, and citizen/non-citizen.  Although the historiographical research on free blacks is substantial and informative, free blacks are often diminished, or even pretermitted, within critical discourses that investigate issues of barelife, social death, and liminality in antebellum society. Beyond Death contends that the slave/fugitive binary limits our understanding of both transgression and freedom; “sanctioned freedom” provided the possibility for fugitive acts—transgression within the law. Beyond Death argues that antebellum free blacks are significant theoretically because their existence unraveled legal concepts of temporality, metaphysics, and citizenship in unique ways and, thus, caused the law to rebound upon itself in paradox, indeterminacy, and absurdity. 


A.B., Cornell University, 2002

Ph.D., Yale University, 2010


Beyond Death: Antebellum Free Blacks and Political Nothingness (in progress)

“Onticide: Toward an Afro-pessimistic Queer Theory” (in progress)

Classes Taught

African American Cultural Criticism (Graduate)

The African American Experience (Undergraduate)

Representing Black Men (Undergraduate)

Critiquing Culture (Undergraduate)

Anti-humanist Cultural Theory (Graduate)