DaMaris B. Hill, PhD
Statement of Research
This statement is a brief narrative account of my research. It underscores my accomplishments as a creative scholar. As my vitae demonstrates, I have a terminal degree in English and a graduate certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I am a scholar and literary artist whose work is historically informed and rooted in a Black feminist critical and creative tradition. Therefore, theories such as Saidiya Hartman’s critical fabulation, Toni Morrison’s rememory, and Deborah Willis’s insights on envisioning the Black body are essential to my creative and scholarly process.
In Morrison’s neo-slave novel, Beloved, Sethe states, “Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay…What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean even if I don’t think it, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.” Morrison’s theories concerning rememory speak to the ways some images permeate the lived experiences of Black women. “[E]ven if I don’t think of it… [it is] still out there” is integral to my considerations about literary craft. It aligns with the historical awareness that I bring to my writing.
In Western cultures, Black women are acutely aware of the power of archival photos to act as a type of visual ethnography and/or biography, some westernized pseudo-logic and "proof". Creative scholar, Deborah Willis says that art that reclaims archival photos “as a type of proof” is a way to “wrestle the black body from the grip of visual empiricism – where it has often been used by more [socially] powerful others observing it for evidence of deviance and difference.” During this process, the more powerful others use ideologies of race and gender etc.…as a technology of social subordination.
These ideas concerning Black women, archival photos, and constructions of truth couple well with methodologies like critical fabulation, introduced by recent MacArthur award winner Saidiya Hartman. Hartman’s theory of critical fabulation outlines the combination of historical and archival research with critical theory and a fictional narrative. I employ this method in print literature and digital poetry.
Being mindful of the aforementioned theories, I am intentional about the appropriation of archives and digital material in my literary works. These intentional remixes and uses of archival photos, digital material, and public narratives allow me to stake “claim to history." As I stake claim to history, I write and recontextualize the lived experiences of Black women that are often subordinated and/or erased. In my writing the lived experiences of Black women are privileged above dominant public histories as a means of renegotiating ideologies associated with white supremacy, sexism, and colonialism. Key questions in my work ask:
- How do individual poems and writings create a sense of permanence regarding national identity?
- How are the various theories concerning what it means to be a Black woman destabilizing and affirming what we know about national identity?
- How are stories about intersectional identity told in a world that blends physical, psychological, and digital spaces, particularly when each of these spaces are rapidly shifting and seemingly eroding?
I was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky in July 2013 and have published continuously. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018, authoring over 18 published works. The major works from my previous promotion include two books, a collection of poems entitled A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing (Bloomsbury 2019) and an edited collection entitled The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the Heartland (Rowman and Littlefield 2016, 2018 paperback). Other major digital poetry projects included the innovative “Shut Up In My Bones: A Remix” (MusiqologY 2017) and \ Vi-zə-bəl \ \ Teks-chərs \ (Visible Textures), a short collection of poems (Mammoth Publications 2015). My other publications from that period included “Concrete”. This essay was published as a book chapter in Introduction to Women’s Studies (Oxford University Press 2017, second edition 2020).
In 2022, I was promoted to Full Professor of English with another book and several additional publications. Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood was published with Bloomsbury Publications in January 2022. My major scholarly contributions include “Time Period: Aug. 20, 1634-Aug. 19, 1639. Theme – Tobacco” in the New York Times Best Selling 400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Drs. Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi (Penguin Random House, 2021) and “Nationalism, Print Capitalism and the Perversity of Propaganda: Imagining Zora Neale Hurston Coming of Age” in Neglected American Women Writers of the Long Nineteenth Century an edited collection by Drs. Verena Laschinger and Sirpa Salenius (Routledge, 2019). My creative non-fiction for this period includes “Formed>In” placed in Early American Literature, a literary journal (UNC Press). Along with the aforementioned, I published poems and other public opinion works. I am currently negotiating a contract for my next book Noble Bastards: An American History. This book is a cultural history that dates back to the American colonies and before. My major published works are summarized below:
Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood (Bloomsbury 2022)
Attention to the timeliness and intellectual dexterity of Black women is evident in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing and most of my work. Likewise, my next memoir-in-verse Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood presents unflinching interpretations of Black girlhood in American culture and beyond. The poems in this book are a type of ekphrasis that is inspired by an exhibit at The Colored Girl Museum in Philadelphia entitled “In Search of The Colored Girl.” These poems reflect a kind of meditation detailing some of the realities of Black girlhood in national and global contexts. Many of the poems are semi-autobiographical and extend from the collective “knowing” of Black girlhood culture, taking special care to talk about recent Black girlhood experiences that I have encountered in my “middle-aged womanhood.”
In addition, the poems in Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood explore the visible and invisible spaces that Black girls occupy in American culture. Some of the poems in the book seek to interrogate social justice issues like the hyper-sexualized visibility and stereotypical assumptions about Black girls. Other poems examine the tensions associated with the criminalization of Black girls in context of the school to prison pipeline.
A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing
My poetry collection, A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland, honors African American women that have experienced incarceration and other forms of oppression. A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing situates intersectionality and the legacy of resistance within the context of the prison industrial context and American culture. Some of the women in this book have organized resistance movements over the last two centuries. This collection of poems also takes into account the ripple effects and loses associated with Black Lives in America. A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, like much of my other work, incorporates archival photos and visual culture as a form of literary remix. This technique enhances the beauty and complexity of the women in the book.
I am the first American poet published with Bloomsbury Publications. A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing was released in January 2019. The digital aesthetic practices of the book are expressed in printed pages. As a result of this hybrid structure, the book has been marketed across literary genres. The book was nominated for a 2020 NAACP Image Award – Outstanding Literary Work. It was an Amazon Best Seller in African American Poetry. Publishers Weekly identified the book as a “Top 10 History Title.” Booklist identified it as a “Top 10 Diverse Nonfiction” titles for the year (2019). It made Book Riot’s "50 Must-Read Poetry Collections" and was called one of the “Most Anticipated Books of the Year” by The Rumpus and Nylon. The book is taught in several university courses (creative writing, literature, gender studies, American Studies, etc.…).
The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland
The ideas concerning Americanness that are expressed in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing extend theories I examined in my edited collection The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland (Lexington Books 2016, paperback 2018). The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland explores theories associated with intersectional American identities in context of environmental memory. I argue that the oversimplification and reduction of the racial and gender inequalities has resulted in an erasure of the long history of the Civil Rights Movement. This erasure contributed to the defensive political ideologies expressed in the Black Nationalist Movement, and the subsequent culture wars. The essays in this book extend Heartland histories beyond the promises of the American Creed into specific histories that explore the connections between environmental memory, intersectional identities, and regional histories of political engagement.
The book was my vision and as editor I sought contributors that intimately understood the nuances the American Heartland histories. The contributors are also deeply invested in exploring theories concerning intersectional identity. My written contributions include the “Introduction”, “Editor’s Note: Claims of Memory and Space”, and the “Conclusion”. The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland was published by Lexington Books in June 2016 and republished in a paperback edition in March 2018. Lexington Books is an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield, a prominent publisher of African American and gender studies books. It was the first book since Nell Irvin Painter’s Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction (Knopf 1977) to examine African Americans in a non-urban Mid-western context.
Digital Publications and Innovations
I spend a considerable amount of my creative energy exploring how theories associated with Americanness intersect with creative writing and twenty-first century technologies. I appropriate digital archives in my creative writing to emphasize the negotiations of American identity and collective memory. The recontextualizing of digital material is one of the ways I stake "claim to history." My appropriation of digital media allows me to show the complexities of race advancement and social justice in American culture. Using a limitless digital archive, the literary techniques in my projects resemble the artistic practices associated with pastiche and remix. Therefore, my work stands in the crossroads of literary (in the form of linguistic text), visual (archival photos and genre manipulation), cultural (abstracting/recontextualizing the historical narratives) and other forms of African Diasporic knowledge, logic and expression that extends into a type of Americanness/New World “knowing.”
“Shut Up In My Bones”
My most innovative creative project was born out of A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing. It is entitled “Shut Up in My Bones.” The digital poem is a remix of a literary poem of the same name. It was published and republished in three venues: The Project on the History of Black Writing, Mammoth Publications, and MusiqologY at the University of Pennsylvania. A recent review in MusiqologY by John Villanova, Villanova refers to may work as a form of digital poetics compared the digital poem to the work of other artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar. He goes on to describe my work as “Afro-postmodernism, which uses pastiche, intertextuality, and irony as strategies of identity formation to remember and honor a specific cultural past, while at the same time working to construct visions of a better future.”
\Vi-zə-bəl \ \ Teks-chərs \ (Visible Textures)
\ Vi-zə-bəl \ \ Teks-chərs \ (Visible Textures), a chapbook of approximately 25 poems, uses digital tools to contrast an 1854 Indian Reservation map of the Kansas-Nebraska Territory with a 2013 highway map of Kansas. The poems are inspired by methodologies familiar in digital humanities and geography disciplines. Using GPS (global positioning software) technologies, I explore the public histories of Kansas and the iconic Santa Fe Trail. These poems about memory and migration are in conversation with public histories and the American imagination about the frontier. I elected to publish with Mammoth Publications, a small Indigenous press that is highly selective press with many decorated authors, including Xanath Caraza winner of the 2015 International Poetry Award. The press releases 3 to 5 publications a year. The chapbook was released in April 2015.
“Formed>In” is an origin story that addresses a broader theme of “inventions” in Early American Literature in 2019. The work is a critique of the invention of “America” in the context of the English imperial expansion and the collective memory of the colonial Americas. In kind, the work critiques early ideas about identity and socially constructed hierarchies. The work is set in colonial America. The work refuses to centralize English geographic settlements and Anglican claims to colonial settlements. The work centralizes the Atlantic Ocean as a space of origin and “collective” identity.
I have published creative non-fiction in national and international venues. My creative non-fiction essay, “Concrete” details how my religious convictions intersect with my Black feminist and intellectual identities. These intersections result in the morally based assertiveness that is evident in my writing. The essay is featured as a chapter in Introduction to Women’s Studies, a textbook and reader, edited by L.A. Saraswati, Barbara Shaw, and Heather Rellihan (Oxford University Press 2017, second edition 2020). This reader is one of the foremost books on intersectionality and widely distributed in academic circles.
“Only Boys Have Fans”
In addition, my creative non-fiction essay “Only Boys Have Fans” was published with espnW. The “Only Boys Have Fans” essay details my admiration for Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo-Jo) and her stellar wins as a member of the US Olympic Team. In honor of Black History Month, espnW decided to run a weekly personal essay about the influence of black female athletes. The essay was the first to be published in this series and continued to be published by various outlets throughout The Walt Disney Corporation in partnership with Hearst Corporation, including ESPN, ABC, and several others.
“Time Period: Aug. 20, 1634-Aug. 19, 1639. Theme – Tobacco” in 400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
“Time Period: Aug. 20, 1634-Aug. 19, 1639. Theme – Tobacco” is inspired by early American and colonial history. The essay was published in the New York Times Best Selling 400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 (Penguin Random House 2021). The editors, Dr. Keisha N. Blain and Dr. Ibram X Kendi, requested that I write the experiences associated with tobacco labor, specifically in context of race and gender, between 1634-1639. In writing this piece, I took special care to rely on historical records and incorporate research-intensive narrative methods such as critical fabulation and rememory.
“Nationalism, Print Capitalism and the Perversity of Propaganda: Imagining Zora Neale Hurston Coming of Age” in Neglected American Women Writers of the Long Nineteenth Century.
I continued to expand the international reach of my research by participating in working group of scholars within the European Association for American Studies. I contributed to a collection of edited essays entitled Neglected American Women Writers of the Long Nineteenth Century, published with Routledge. My chapter “Nationalism, Print Capitalism and the Perversity of Propaganda: Imagining Zora Neale Hurston Coming of Age” explores ideas about Black women and the nationalist propaganda associated with print capitalism that the nineteenth-century American literary canon. The paper considers how negative stereotypes about Black girls were reinforced with in American literature. The paper also speculates about how these stereotypes may have impacted Zora Neale Hurston’s Black girlhood and intellectual journey. In this paper, I am also very interested in whether or not Hurston (like Jessie Fauset and W.E.B. DuBois, the editors of The Brownies’ Book) wrote her memoir, Dust Tracks On a Road, as a type of defensive propaganda that countered the negative stereotypes about Black girls/women in late nineteenth and early twentieth American literature and culture.
“Black Women and the Prison Industrial Complex.”
“Black Women and the Prison Industrial Complex” was published with The North Star on August 8, 2019. The piece focused on women and incarceration. It considers the experiences of Elizabeth Key and the aftermath of her lawsuit in which she was awarded her freedom in the 1660s. I draw connections between Key’s suit and the contemporary criminal justice system. I explore the ways Black women are still entangled in the American court system that seeks to criminalize them and by extension exploit their labors. I addition, I show parallels between the modes of production and profits garnered by institutions within the prison industrial complex. I discuss how this production and profit structure is akin to the plantation business model that legalized the exploitation of chattel slave system.
In addition to publishing, I have received many special invitations for readings and keynotes addresses. I would consider the 2018 Arts Envoy to the nation of eSwatini/Swaziland with the Furious Flower Poetry Center as the most prestigious among them. This Arts Envoy to eSwatini/Swaziland was sponsored by the United States Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Exchange Programs in the Summer 2018. The purpose of the Arts Envoy Program is to engage American artists and arts professionals in cultural exchange programs. The program shares the best of the U.S. arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, to demonstrate shared values and aspirations, and to address foreign policy themes and objectives. In this program the American arts professionals -- including performing artists, visual artists, poets, playwrights, chefs, dancers, theatrical and film directors, curators, and others -- travel overseas to conduct these workshops, give performances, and mentor young people.
Since 2018, I presented a few readings and talks that were related to digital studies and twenty-first century literary studies. In 2019, I was invited to give the keynote address for the French Association for American Studies at the University of Nantes in Nantes, France. This talk detailed my theories about identity, innovations, and literary writing in Twenty-First Century American Literature. In addition to this keynote address, I was invited to read from A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing and discuss poetry at the University of Sorbonne-Nouvelle and the University of Lille. Prior to my readings, many of the poems from the book were translated into French by affiliated faculty and graduate students in American Studies. Former readers for this poetry and protest series in France include poets Martin Espada (2016), Deborah Paredez (2107) and Mary Kate Azcuy (2018).
Another invited lecture that centered digital humanities and twenty-first century literary studies includes my address at the 2nd Annual University of Southern California mHealth Collaboratory Symposium on April 25, 2019, with the University of Southern California’s Center for Economic and Social Research. The main themes of the Symposium were diversity, Big Data, the inherent bias in digital algorithms. The symposium discussed how science could benefit from artistic theories and creativity in order communicate findings. The organizers of the symposium felt that my work as a cultural/digital scientist as well as an artist would enrich the symposium.
I received five grants during this promotion period. They include the Igniting Research Collaborations grant from the Office for the Vice President of Research at the University of Kentucky. The grant was “Stimulating Higher Education Leadership Progression- an Institutional Framework for BIPOCs” was funded during the 2020-2021 academic year and valued at $30, 950. The grant funding was a seed grant to establish base data for a pilot project that analyzes the experiences of BIPOC faculty, staff members, and administrators at the University of Kentucky in order document their employment experiences and identify potential university leaders outside of the context of implicate and/or complicate bias.
Additionally in 2018, I was awarded a special grant opportunity, Girls of Color: Voice and Vision Grant Award with Kentucky Foundation for Women. The grant funded Giggles, Guts, and Glitter-a writers’ workshop that centered on the voices of Black girls and young women of color in Lexington. The purpose of this grant was to elevate the voices and lived experiences of Black girls and girls of color through shared stories and art making. This grant covered nearly half of the program expenses, including the technical equipment and private library costs for Giggles, Guts, and Glitter.
Noble Bastards: An American History
Noble Bastards: An American History is a meditation on home and the journeys that that help us define what home is and what treasures are there. I am thinking about love and home. How do we make such mysterious things, like “love” and “home”? I am writing about journeys toward wisdom, returning and resurrections. I am imagining - how we [collectively] give the love we need. And I am also meditating on ideas of home in terms of geology, ecology, migrations, and the moments that collectively define us.
Harriet’s Crown: A Remix
In terms of digital literary projects, I am in discussions about the possibilities of a commissioned piece with The Museum of Dreams, which is a hub for exploring the social and political significance of the subconscious mind. This project would extend my work on intersectional identity and Harriet Tubman from A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing. This commission would incorporate poetry, archives, digital narratives, and gaming software.
The Moss on the Mountain
Toni Morrison reminds us that “[e]verywhere, everywhere, children are the scorned people of the earth.” With this in mind, I am also in the process of completing a novel that I am referring to as The Moss on the Mountain. The novel centers on the institutional and individual lives of young women. It considers how the intersections of age, race, gender, and class make some American citizens particularly vulnerable to incarceration. The novel takes the form of fictional ethnography that questions how incarceration impacts young women of different ages, races, and classes. With an emphasis on sexuality and reproductive rights, the characters in the novel negotiate individual agency in the context of institutional mandates and more powerful others.
#21C: An Intimate Look at Twenty First Century American Literature
In 2019, I began a conversation with Bloomsbury Academic Publishing about serving as an editor for a series of books that focuses on twenty-first century American literature. The books in this series will examine contemporary authors and contemporary themes associated with twenty first century literature in context with the digital innovations of the last several decades. The series will also be mindful to include books that examine how classical and innovative forms of literary criticism seek to expand the scope of the discipline. In kind, this series will establish whether or not American Literature in the twenty first century continues to honor or departs from the cultural legacies outlined by the writers from the nineteenth century and twentieth century American literary canons.
University of Kansas, PhD in English - Creative Writing, 2012
Dissertation title: Willows in the Spring
Certificate: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, 2011
Morgan State University, MA in English, 2005
Thesis title: Knowing: Lucille Clifton and the Great Mother’s Guiding Light
Morgan State University, BA in English, Minor Studies in Psychology, 1999
ADDITIONAL PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS
Holocaust Educators Network (HEN), City University of New York and Lehman College, 2010
Research Administration 101; KU Research and Graduate Studies, University of Kansas, 2008
Teacher Consultant Certification, National Writing Project, Towson, Maryland, 2004
- Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood, memoir-in-verse/poetry. Bloomsbury Publishing, January 2022.
- A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland, memoir-in-verse/poetry. Bloomsbury Publishing, January 2019 (several reprints). Paperback, January 2020.
- Nominated for an NAACP Image Award – Outstanding Literary Work for Poetry
- An Amazon Best Seller in African American Poetry
- A Publishers Weekly Top 10 History Title for the season
- Booklist's Top 10 Diverse Nonfiction titles for the year
- Book Riot’s "50 Must-Read Poetry Collections"
- Most Anticipated Books of the Year--The Rumpus, Nylon
- The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland. Lexington Books, June 2016. Reprint. Paperback. Lexington Books, March 2018.
- Hill, DaMaris B. and Nicole LaMonaca. National Writing Project 2008 Professional Writing Retreat Anthology. National Writing Project, 2009.
- #21C: An Intimate Look at Twenty First Century American Literature, an edited series of ten or more volumes. Bloomsbury Academic. Being Processed.
- \ Vi-zə-bəl \ \ Teks-chərs \ Visible Textures. Lawrence: Mammoth Publications, April 2015.
PUBLISHED BOOK CHAPTERS
- “Time Period : Aug. 20, 1634-Aug. 19, 1639. Theme – Tobacco.” 400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 (New York Times Bestseller Book). Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi, Eds. New York: Penguin Random House, 2021. (peer reviewed)
- “Nationalism, Print Capitalism and the Perversity of Propaganda: Imagining Zora Neale Hurston Coming of Age.” Neglected American Women Writers of the Long Nineteenth Century. Verena Laschinger and Sirpa Salenius, Eds. London:Routledge, 2019. (peer reviewed)
- “Concrete.” Introduction to Women’s Studies. L.A. Saraswati, Barbara Shaw, and Heather Rellihan, Eds. New York: Oxford University Press. February 2017, 2020. (peer reviewed)
- “Introduction”, “Editor’s Note: Claims of Memory and Space” and “Conclusion.” The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland. Lexington Books, 2016.