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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 new book, Speaking Out of Place: How to Get Our Political Voices Back, is a consideration of the idea of political voice, and will be published by Haymarket Books in Dec 2021.
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.
"Fearless, timely, and nececessary, In this bracing, multivalent analysis of our troubled political culture, David Palumbo-Liu offers us a clarion call to action. Reading it, I feel emboldened, encouraged, and powerfully amplified." 
--Ruth Ozeki, author of Booker Finalist novel, A Tale for the Time Being.
“In Speaking out of Place David Palumbo-Liu has brought to the fore the type of text that is rare in our current culture. There is a sort of transversal vector in play that brings with it the unexpected and at the same time the familiar. It is a gem. I loved reading it.” 
--Saskia Sassen, Columbia University. Author of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy.
"David Palumbo-Liu masterfully paints a global picture of the daunting challenges to our very survival. Rather than use the weight of that challenge to terrify us into action or to crush our hope, he pieces together the most quotidian stories of courage and resistances to show us that revolution is latent within us and that the technologies of our salvation are ones that we have long known and fiercely protected. Speaking Out of a Place is profoundly humane, self-aware in its humility, and generous in its thoughtful offerings. Palumbo-Liu reminds us that the horizon before us is not an end but an opportunity for new beginnings."
--Noura Erakat, Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine (Stanford UP, 2021).
"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.
“It’s not enough to be against the rising tide of authoritarianism and climate chaos. David Palumbo-Liu examines how only through “a positive obsession with justice” and a collective willingness to learn to speak a new language and remake the places do we have a chance at saving the planet and building the world we all need.”
— Nick Estes, activist, co-founder of Red Nation; author of Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance (Verso, 2019)
I help convene "Scholarship and Activism" (CL316), a Focal Group in the DLCL.  My public writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation,  Jacobin, Truthout, The Boston Review, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Vox, Salon, AlterNet, The Hill, and other venues. 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.
Please visit my web site for more information, essays, blogs, events:


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


COMPLIT 316 Scholarship and Activism for Justice
COMPLIT 325 Realism and the Impossible Nation
COMPLIT 397 Graduate Studies Colloquium



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