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David Palumbo-Liu


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cultural studies
social theory
Asian Pacific American studies
literary theory

David Palumbo-Liu

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor

Professor of Comparative Literature and, by courtesy, English


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 wake-up call to the twin dangers of fascism and a no-less cruel and ecocidal neoliberalism. Brilliant, clear-eyed, wide-ranging and erudite without being esoteric, this book is a vital assault on the repressive amnesia that obliterates the memory of even our most recent struggles. Palumbo-Liu reminds us that we already have all that we need to reimagine our societies and ourselves, to re-forge the solidarity necessary to get us through such catastrophic times, to make this planet a place where voices clamor outside of the violent control of capital, loudly and freely, alive." 
--Ben Ehrenreich, author of Desert Notebooks: A Roadmap for the End of Time and The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine.
"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
“The historical and contemporary stories in Speaking Out of Place are as instructive as they are inspiring. Palumbo-Liu gives us a global landscape of many dimensions, pulling us into the infinite number of spaces we can disrupt, reshape, and build when we find the courage to insert our "unauthorized" voices,. The activists in this book, both well known and not, speak in words, in dance, in pictures, in food and even in silence. Read this, and raise your voice.”—Rinku Sen, Executive Director, Narrative Initiative, Co-President, Women’s March Board of Directors.
"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.
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 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, Vox, Buzzfeed, Salon, The Hill, and other venues.  All my blogs and media appearances are on my website (
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.


1988: Ph.D. (Comparative Literature), University of California, Berkeley


COMPLIT 101 What Is Comparative Literature?
COMPLIT 316 Scholarship and Activism for Justice
COMPLIT 346 Comparative Literature Pro-seminar
COMPLIT 397 Graduate Studies Colloquium



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