David Palumbo-Liu

Professor of Comparative Literature
Professor, by courtesy, of English
Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor
Chair of Graduate Studies, Comparative Literature
1988: Ph.D., Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley

I am most interested in issues regarding environmental justice, race and ethnicity, human rights, globalization, and the specific role that literature and the humanities play in helping us address each of these areas.  My latest book, Speaking Out of Place: How to Get Our Political Voices Back, is a consideration of the idea of political voice, and was published by Haymarket Books in Dec 2021. I am currently working on a book tentatively entitled, Re-Placing Education.

Reviews of Speaking Out of Place include:

  • "David Palumbo-Liu's most recent work is a clarion call, an incisive commentary on our times, and an impressive work of passion and moral clarity... This book takes us through the wretched landscape of our world to the ideals of social transformation, calling for a place, the planet, where collective passions can bring about a true and radical democracy."  — Judith Butler 
  • "David Palumbo-Liu’s Speaking out of Place is a deeply moral and utterly human meditation on the nature of our despair but also the means by which it can be transformed. Most of all, he argues that what is missing is our sense of place, belonging and mutuality that, when intact, showcases our connection and potential for solidarity in our shared struggle for a humane and just world. Is the exact book we need for the troubled historical moment through which we are living."  — Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
  • "Speaking Out of Place is a radical and original reassessment of democratic deliberation and political transformation...True democracy, Palumbo-Liu shows, is a raucous polyphony, a chorus emanating from specific communities and contexts and struggles that reverberates widely, unsettling and challenging those accustomed to controlling the terms of the debate."  — Astra Taylor, activist, film-maker (What is Democracy? 2018), author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We'll Miss It When It's Gone, Metropolitan Books, 2019.

My podcast, "Speaking Out of Place," is an extension of the book. It can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon. We touch on topics such as academic labor strikes, US politics, teaching "political" subjects in the academy, and fighting sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus. We interview human rights experts, climate activists, abolitionists, and more. 

I help convene "Scholarship and Activism" (CL316), with support from The School of Humanities and Sciences and the Office of the President. This is a collaborative project that focuses on the intersection of learning and acting for positive change.

I am committed to nurturing decolonial and radical classes in which every one is a full participant and co-creator.  For an example of my style of literary criticism, and my sense of what literature can and should do, please read my review of Ruth Ozeki’s Book of Form and Emptiness.

My public writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation,  Jacobin, Truthout, The Boston Review, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Salon, The Hill, and other venues.  All my blogs and media appearances are on my website (palumbo-liu.com).

I have served on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association, and as President of the American Comparative Literature Association.  I am a former Chair of the Stanford Faculty Senate.



(650) 725-4915
Pigott Hall, Bldg 260, Rm 229

Office Hours

By appointment.

Research Interests

  • Literary and Cultural Theory


  • Marxism, Literature, and Society


  • Political History, Theory & Culture


  • Postcolonial Studies