David Kazanjian

Wolf Humanities Center Penn Faculty Fellow

20242025 Forum on Keywords

David Kazanjian

Associate Professor of English

David Kazanjian is Professor of English and Coordinator and Chair of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. He is also an affiliated faculty and executive council member in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; a core faculty and executive board member in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; a member of the graduate group in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; an affiliated faculty member in the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program; and an affiliated faculty member in the Middle East Center. He is the author of The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota) and The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (Duke) and the co-editor of Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California), The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Aunt Lute Books), and a book series on America and the Long 19th Century for NYU Press.

Ante-Possession: The Afterlives of Dispossession

My keyword is dispossession. My research focuses on colonial Yucatán and New England, and it speaks directly to our present. In my monograph in progress, Ante-Possession: The Afterlives of Dispossession, I examine legal cases from the turn of the 18th-century, showing how they call for a reimagining of contemporary challenges to dispossession. I argue that while dispossession entailed the theft of labor, bodies, and land, dispossessed people often challenged such theft without making claims of prior ownership and without seeking the return of their putatively prior possessions, thereby refusing or unsettling possession as such and theorizing an ante-possessive critical practice. I focus on the lives of particular historical subjects and the dramatic conflicts that shaped their lives, conflicts at once structural and quotidian.