Professor Ato Quayson is a leading academic and literary critic whose works on African literature, postcolonial studies, urban studies and in literary theory have been widely published and recognised. He was born in Ghana on 26 August 1961.He graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon with his first degree in English and Arabic with First Class Honors (1989).
In 1991, he was admitted to Pembroke College as a commonwealth scholar at the University of Cambridge to study for a PhD in English (his dissertation was on Nigerian literary history from the late nineteenth century to the late late twentieth century) which he completed in 1995. He spent some time at Oxford University after being awarded the Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College in 1994 but shortly thereafter returned to Cambridge when he was appointed as a lecturer on a 3 year fellowship in the Commonwealth Literature in the Faculty English. He also had a Fellowship position at Pembroke College, and was serving as the Director of the University's Centre of African Studies (1997).
By the following year, Quayson received his tenure at Cambridge and was subsequently promoted Reader in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures in 2004. At this time he was also a Fellow of the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard. To this date, he stands out as the first black person to have gained full tenure in the entire 800+ years history of the University of Cambridge.
In 2005, Quayson moved to the University of Toronto and became a Professor of English and the inaugural director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. He has since held the position of Chief Examiner in English for the International Baccalaureate and is a member of the European Research Council. In 2009, he was awarded a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for his interdisciplinary research on urban Accra. During this period, he released the book, Oxford Street, Accra (which went on to become the 2015 co-winner of the Urban History Association’s Best Book Prize in the non-North American category). In 2016, the book is as featured in a special forum on “Concepts and Methodologies” in the Proceedings of the Modern Languages Association (PMLA).
His numerous publications include 14 books and 5 monographs (all highlighted further below). He is the founding editor of the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. His many other accolades include:
A Fellowship with the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (from 2006), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (from 2013). He was a Corneille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities Wellesley College from 2011 to 2012.
His publications include:
Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing (1997), Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice, or Process? (Polity/Blackwell, 2000), Calibrations: Reading for the Social (Minnesota University Press, 2003), Aesthetic Nervousness: Disability and the Crisis of Representation (Columbia University Press, 2007), and Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2014). His major edited collections include African Literary Theory: An Anthology of Literary Criticism and Theory (with Tejumola Olaniyan; Blackwell, 2007), the 2-volume Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature (2012), the Companion to Diaspora and Transnationalism (with Girish Daswani; Blackwell, 2013), and the Cambridge Companion to the Postcolonial Novel (2016).
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