University of Rochester

Cilas Kemedjio to Lead Frederick Douglass Institute

April 29, 2011

Three New Faculty Hires Planned for Institute's Expanded Role

Cilas Kemedjio, associate professor of French and Francophone studies, has been named the new director for the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester.

"Professor Kemedjio will bring vision and scholarship to the institute during a period of growth," says Peter Lennie, senior vice president and the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. "During the coming year, the University is committed to searching for three additional tenure-track faculty members to broaden the institute's expertise and intellectual reach."

For the past quarter-century, the Frederick Douglass Institute has provided critical focus and support for scholarship and teaching in African and African-American studies. The institute is a major campus center for multicultural programming, hosting regular film and lecture series and organizing conferences. Eighteen faculty currently teach courses that serve the major and minor in African and African-American Studies.

During his three-year appointment, Kemedjio plans to strengthen the institute's role as a research center by bringing to campus leading scholars for extended stays, from a week to entire semesters. In the search for the new faculty hires, Kemedjio looks forward to "working with all departments within the College in an effort to expand intellectual diversity."

Kemedjio also sees the institute continuing the work of its namesake through its commitment to transnational Black Studies and to the civic mission that was at the heart of Frederick Douglass's struggle for civil rights. "The spirit of Frederick Douglass is his intellectual activism, which is also the foundation of Black Studies in the 1960s," says Kemedjio.

Kemedjio, who served the institute for the past decade, most recently as curriculum director, succeeds interim director Victoria Wolcott, associate professor of history. "Professor Wolcott," says Kemedjio, "guided the institute for the past year with passion and distinction."

Kemedjio is an expert on Francophone African and Caribbean literatures, French theory, and the French novel during the 20th century. He is the author of De la Négritude à la Créolité. Édouard Glissant, Maryse Condé et la malédiction de la théorie (Hamburg: LIT Verlag, 1999) and guest editor of a special issue of Présence francophone (No. 62, 2004) on Postcolonial Mythologies. Kemedjio's latest work, a biography of Cameroonian novelist and activist Mongo Beti titled The Alien Condition, is nearing completion.