Daniel McNeil is the new Ida B. Wells-Barnett Professor in the African and Black Diaspora Studies program, which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
As an educator, writer, and historian of media and culture, McNeil brings to DePaul an original perspective on some of the big ideas of the 21st century. The questions he asks — in public forums, in the classroom, and in his research — honor the legacy of Ida B. Wells-Barnett by combining activism and intellectual scholarship and by expanding our understanding of racism and social justice, not just in the United States but around the world.
In March, McNeil hosted the symposium “Race, Resistance, Representation: Cultural Criticism in the Digital Age” to engage with people inside and outside the DePaul community, as well as inside and outside academia, about issues relating to racial and cultural politics in the modern world.
“I’m interested in how the media ‘sells’ blackness, but even more in how we ‘talk back’ so that artistic works are never an end point but rather a starting point for constructive, insightful, and provocative conversations,” he says.
Events and courses for 2013/14 will explore similar topics, including an examination of freedom against a backdrop of slavery and incarceration, as McNeil explains:
“How does the concept of ‘freedom’ fit with ideas about citizenship and belonging? A question like that belongs to the public sphere and invites transnational and multinational analysis. In my work, I look at different types of black liberation struggles and identify the cultural, artistic, and political connections among black people in different countries and cultures.”
McNeil is no stranger to DePaul. In fact, several editors of his first book, “Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic,” participate in the African and Black Diaspora Studies program. (“Black Atlantic” refers to a transnational and intercultural connection forged, in the first instance, by the transatlantic slave trade). He’s currently researching the work of anti-colonial intellectuals in the 1950s and 1960s, including Jean-Paul Sartre, James Baldwin, and Frantz Fanon, and their impact on contemporary cultural critics in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa.
“Dan McNeil is a prolific scholar with a global perspective on race and race relations,” said Charles Suchar, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “His time at DePaul will be an enriching experience for him, his students, his colleagues, and the larger Chicago community.”
McNeil is on leave from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. He has also taught at the University of Toronto and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. McNeil holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Oxford University and an MA and PhD from the University of Toronto. He has published in academic and popular journals on topics ranging from multiculturalism in the media to the national and racial identity of Barack Obama.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist and civil rights crusader in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who fought for the rights of African-Americans and women and who turned a national spotlight on the practice of lynching and other injustices. Born to parents in slavery in Mississippi in 1862, she settled in Chicago in 1893, where she lived and worked until her death in 1931.