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The Project on the Future of Black Writing: Portia Owusu

Editor’s Note: HBW consistently seeks out new and upcoming scholars that contribute to the canon of black literature. We feel that this new generation of scholars is crucial to both adding to and critiquing existing scholarship. HBW presents The Project on the Future of Black Writing. 


Portia Owusu first came to KU as an exchange student in 2006, where she first encountered the work of HBW. She enjoyed the experience and work with Dr. Graham so much, she decided to return a long nine years later. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Portia and learn more about her background and her studies.

Me: Portia, tell me about yourself.

Portia: I would describe myself as British-Ghanaian because I was born in Ghana but grew up in London, England. In hindsight, I would describe my upbringing as a privilege that has positively impacted my academic and personal interests because living in London, which is multicultural city (owing to the fact that it was once centre of the British Empire), I was immersed in the British culture whilst at the same time interacting with people from all over the world. This, in addition to the Akan culture I was exposed to at home, developed my interest in histories and literatures from different geographical spaces.

Me: You are here writing the dissertation for your PhD, correct? Tell me about your academic past. What are some of your current interests and projects?

Portia: I have a BA (Honours) in English and American Literature from the University of Kent; MA in Postcolonial Literatures from the University of York and currently, I am pursuing a PhD in West African and African-American literature (looking at slavery and the politics of history and memory in both bodies of literature) at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I am currently in the dissertation phase of my PhD and the chapter I am working on now is examining the uses of memory in Amiri Baraka’s The Slave Ship.

The Project on the History of Black Writing frames itself in both a domestic and international presence, and many of our projects deal not only with African American literature but black people across the world. Portia’s contributions to Project HBW help us to continue to expand and solidify the project’s international influence.

[By Matthew Broussard]