After growing up in Hawai‘i, Indonesia, and Tennessee, Brian Roberts received a PhD in English from the University of Virginia in 2008. His scholarship and teaching focus on American Studies, African American and black diasporan literature and culture, modernism/modernity, and archipelagic studies. He has been a Fulbright Senior Scholar twice (Universitas Sebelas Maret, 2015; Universitas Airlangga, 2023), and his work has appeared in journals including American Literature, American Literary History, Modern Fiction Studies, African American Review, and PMLA.
His first book, Artistic Ambassadors: Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era (University of Virginia Press, 2013) examines the literary and diplomatic performances of African American writers who traveled as US diplomats during the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries, tracing how these performances contributed to the formation of the Harlem Renaissance. Since then, he has published, with Keith Foulcher, Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference (Duke University Press, 2016), which contains English translations of myriad Indonesian-language documents related to Wright’s travel in Indonesia to attend the postcolonial Bandung Conference of 1955. With Michelle Ann Stephens, he has also edited Archipelagic American Studies (Duke University Press, 2017), a volume of essays that departs from conventional narratives of the United States and the Americas as fundamentally continental spaces, instead theorizing America as constituted by and accountable to an assemblage of interconnected islands, archipelagoes, shorelines, continents, seas, and oceans. Dovetailing with Martinican philosopher Edouard Glissant’s commentary on the question of translation as crucial to archipelagic thought, Roberts has collaborated with Keith Foulcher and Harry Aveling to translate Oceans of Longing: Nine Stories (Silkworm, 2018), a book of short stories by the modern Indonesian writer Sitor Situmorang.
His book Borderwaters: Amid the Archipelagic States of America was published by Duke University Press in 2021.
Professor Roberts has given invited talks and workshops in Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Spain, Germany, and at several institutions in the United States including Yale, Northwestern, University of Connecticut, Rutgers-New Brunswick, the German Historical Society in DC, and the University of Virginia. At Brigham Young University, he has been a Humanities Center Fellow and currently holds a Humanities College Professorship.
PhD, University of Virginia, 2008
American studies; modernism/modernity; African American and black diasporan literature and culture; archipelagic studies; environmental humanities