Ato Quayson

atoAto Quayson is Professor of English and Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, where he has been since August 2005. He did his BA at the University of Ghana and took his PhD from Cambridge University in 1995. He then went on to the University of Oxford as a Research Fellow, returning to Cambridge in Sept 1995 to become a Fellow at Pembroke College and a member of the Faculty of English where he eventually became a Reader in Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies.

Prof Quayson has published widely on African literature, postcolonial studies and in literary theory. His publications include:


General Editor,  Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry.

Oxford St., Accra; Urban Evolution, Street Life and Itinerarieof the Transnational (Duke University Press, 2014).

Blackwell Companion to Diaspora and Transnationalism Studies, ed. with Girish Daswani (New York: Blackwell, 2013).

The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed., 2 volumes. (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Labour Migration, Human Trafficking and Multinational Corporations (with Antonela Arhin; New York: Routledge, 2012).

Fathers and Daughters: An Anthology of Exploration, ed., (Oxford: Ayebia Publishers, 2008).

Aesthetic Nervousness: Disability and the Crisis of Representation
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

African Literature: An Anthology of Theory and Criticism (with Tejumola Olaniyan; Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

Calibrations: Reading for the Social (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2003).

Relocating Postcolonialism (with David Theo Goldberg; Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice or Process? (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

Strategic Transformations in Nigerian Writing
(Oxford and Bloomington: James Currey and Indiana University Press, 1997).

He also wrote the Introduction and Notes to the Penguin Classics edition of Nelson Mandela's, No Easy Walk to Freedom (London: Penguin, 2002).


Essays from 2004

“Winnie’s Penelope: On Solitude and the Comfort of Strangers”, Stanford Arcade

“If you don’t know Mandela, please shut up!: Victims of Enchantment and the Reign of Emblems”, Stanford Arcade.

“I can, therefore I shall: Identifications from the Novel to Facebook”, Stanford Arcade.

“Concerning Street Life in the African City (1). Stanford Arcade.

“Concerning Street Life in the African City (2): Aspects of an Expressive Fragment”, Stanford Arcade.

“Transitive Measures: Tragedy and Existentialism in African Literature”, Stanford Arcade.

“’I move into the gates, demanding. . .’: A Tribute to Kofi Awoonor”.

“The Sighs of History: Postcolonial Debris and the Question of (Literary) History, New Literary History 43.1, (2012): 359-370.

“Periods versus Concepts: Space Making and the Question of Postcolonial Literary History:, PMLA 127.2 (2012): 342-348.

“Coevalness, Recursivity and the Feet of Lionel Messi”, Special Forum on Jean and John Comaroff, Theory from the South, Cultural Anthropology 27.1, 2012.

“Self-Writing and Existential Alienation in African Literature: Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God”, Research in African Literatures 42.2 (March, 2011): 30-45.

“Kòbòlò Poetics: African Urban Scripts and Readerships”, New Literary History 41.1 (2010): 413-438.

“Signs of the Times: Discourse Ecologies and Street Life”, City & Society 22.1 (2010): 77-96.

“Autism, Narrative, and Emotions: On Samuel Beckett’s Murphy” Special Issue on Narrative and the Emotions, The University of Toronto Quarterly, 79.2 (2010): 838-865.

“Colonial Space-making and hybridizing history, or ‘Are the Indians of East Africa Africans or Indians?’” in Diasporas: Concepts, Intersections, Identities, eds. Kim Knott and Sean McLoughlin, (London: Zed Books, 2010), pp. 243-248.

“Transitive Measures: Tragedy and Existentialism in African Writing”, The Johannesburg Book Salon, Vol. 1 (2009).

“Untinkable Nigeriana: The Social Imaginary of District 9” JWTC Blog, October 16, 2009.

“Magical Realism and African Literature” in The Cambridge Companion to the African Novel, edited by Abiola Irele, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, 2009), pp. 159-176.

"Bobo, the Snowflake Catcher" in Fathers and Daughters: An Anthology of Exploration, ed. Ato Quayson (Oxford: Ayebia Publishers, 2008), pp. 131-144.

“Diaspora Studies, Area Studies, and Critical Pedagogies”. Guest Editor of special issue of Comparative Studies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 27.3 ( 2007): 580-590.

“’I no Be Like You: Accra in Life and Literature”, PMLA, 122.1 (January), 2007.

“Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative and History” in The Novel Vol 1: History, Geography, and Culture, edited by Franco Moretti (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 726-758.

“Translations and Transnationals: Pre- and Post-Colonial”, Epilogue to Postcolonial Approaches to the Middle Ages: Translating Cultures, eds Ananya Kabir and Deanne Williams, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005), pp. 253-268.

Modernism and Postmodernism in African Literature,” Cambridge Companion to African Literature, edited by Abiola Irele and Simon Gikandi, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 824-852.

In Progress

African Literary Theory: A Critical Introduction, Ato Quayson and Tejumola Olaniyan

Current Research
“Oxford Street, Accra: Urban Evolution, and the Itineraries of Globalization in an African City: The project is interdisciplinary, taking in insights from urban studies, anthropology, history, and political science among others.  It is a mixture between a personal memoir and a biography of the city of Accra from the focal point of “Oxford Street”, perhaps the most globalized street in the country. 

His teaching interests include:
Postcolonial and Diaspora Studies
Tragedy (from the Greeks to the Present Day)
African and African American Literature
Literary Theory
Literature and Disability
Magical Realism and Postmodernism

Membership of Editorial Boards, etc.

Member Executive Board of the African Studies Association, 2010-2013
Member, MLA Divisional Committee on Postcolonial Literature 2007-2011
Member Editorial Board of Research in African Literatures, 2010-
Member, Diaspora and Migrations Project Committee of the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK 2005- 2010
Member Editorial Board of African Diasporas, 2009-2010
Member Editorial Board, New Literary History, 2009-
Member Editorial Board, University of Toronto Quarterly, 2008-
Member Editorial Board, Postcolonial Text, 2007-
Member, The Round Table, September 2000-September, 2005.
Member of the Management Committee, The C L R James Institute, New York, July 1997- 2004
Chief Examiner in English, International Baccalaureate, 2004-2007.

Prof Quayson was a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar from 1991-1994 and is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society. In 2004 he held a Fellowship at the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard University. He has also been Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and has lectured widely in places such as Istanbul, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Cape Town, Bergen, and on many campuses in the US, the UK, and in Europe more generally.

He was elected to a five-year term on the Modern Language Association's executive committee of the Division on Postcolonial Studies and Literature in Culture in 2008 and also as a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Prof. Quayson was elected a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada in 2013.

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