Rafia Zafar receives Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture abroad

Rafia Zafar, Ph.D., professor of English, of African & African American studies and of American culture studies, all in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture abroad during the 2007 spring semester.

She has been awarded the distinguished Walt Whitman Chair, which includes teaching an advanced undergraduate course and a graduate seminar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, according to the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Rafia Zafar
Rafia Zafar

The Whitman chair is part of the Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program and is considered among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program.

“Rafia Zafar has made an enormous contribution here to the study of American and African-American literature and culture, not least as a sought-after graduate adviser,” said David A. Lawton, Ph.D., chair and professor of English.

“She also performs great service, both in the university and in the profession nationally,” Lawton continued. “She has a broad field of expertise. She is an internationally acknowledged authority on the Harlem Renaissance, and her work on food is groundbreaking. It’s wonderful to see her receive this thoroughly deserved honor, which recognizes and will further enhance her national and international reputation.”

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., the Charles Rebstock Professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, also received a distinguished chair for the 2007 spring semester. He will travel to Israel as the Fulbright-Israel Distinguished Chair in the Natural Sciences and Engineering, beginning his six-month assignment in February. (See March 24, 2006, Record story.)

Zafar, a specialist in 19th-century American literature and in African-American literature, will teach a graduate seminar titled “Food, Race & Ethnicity in American Literature” and an undergraduate course on the Harlem Renaissance at Utrecht University.

During her four-month stay, which begins at the end of January, she will give lectures at other universities, including Leiden University in the Netherlands and the University of Regensburg in Germany.

Zafar, who is writing a book about the impact of food in creating American literary identity, will be a guest lecturer in Leiden’s lecture series titled “The Civil Rights Movement: Fifty Years After.” Scholars from the Netherlands and a number of prominent international scholars and civil rights activists from the United States will participate, including Martin Luther King biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winner David J. Garrow.

In Zafar’s talk, she will draw on her book in progress, “And Called It Macaroni: Eating, Writing, Becoming American,” and discuss how the act of eating together, specifically the famed lunch counter sit-ins, helped win the battle for civil rights.

In addition to her current book, Zafar co-edited the memoirs of her great-great-grandfather, “God Made Man, Man Made the Slave: The Autobiography of George Teamoh” (Mercer University Press, 1990), who during Reconstruction became one of the first black officeholders in Virginia. She also co-edited “Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: New Critical Essays” (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Zafar’s study of early black writers, “We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870,” was published by Columbia University Press in 1997.

Zafar, who joined the WUSTL faculty in 1998 and served four years as director of the African & African American Studies program, earned a doctorate in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University and a master’s in English & Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her bachelor’s degree in English is from City College of New York.

She is one of approximately 800 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad during the 2006-07 academic year through the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program’s purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the rest of the world.