Spotlight On: Badia Ahad
Badia Ahad, Professor in the Department of English and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at Loyola University Chicago, is the author of Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture, published by the University of Illinois Press.
We are pleased to focus our first Faculty Friday Spotlight of the fall 2021 semester on Badia Ahad, PhD, Professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, who has published Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture (2021, University of Illinois Press).
In the 18th century, it was a widely held scientific belief that African-descended peoples could not experience nostalgia. In recent decades, Black historical life has been largely narrated through the lens of trauma and social death. Ahad’s book instead seeks to capture romantic recollections of the Black historical past. Toward this end, Ahad mines literature, visual culture, performance, and culinary arts to form an archive of Black historical joy.
Because nostalgia is known to amplify “good feelings,” specifically hope, happiness, and a sense of social connectedness, Ahad is interested in how nostalgia might offer a framework for interpreting the Black historical past in ways that do not reduce Black life to a one-dimensional site of injury.
“Dr. Ahad’s work combines scholarly depth and historical perspectives with a contemporary lens on Black experiences and culture,” says Peter J. Schraeder, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola. “This kind of creative, transdisciplinary scholarship leads to new insights and deeper understanding, as we in the United States seek to create a more inclusive union.”
Ahad’s research interests include contemporary African-American literature and cultural and memory studies. She is particularly interested in questions concerning Black interiority (feeling, emotion, affect). Aside from her work on Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture, Ahad has just finished editing a special issue for the journal South Atlantic Quarterly on “Black Temporality and Times of Crisis” which will be released in April 2022.
It is Ahad’s hope that readers come away with a redemptive and optimistic view of Black cultural and historical life. Although there is ample terror and trauma to be found in the Black historical past–and present–there is also radical joy, love, and abundant “pretty memories,” all of which serve as important modes of coping and survival.
Ahad is deep in the archive researching material for her next book, which focuses on race and real estate in Hyde Park. The book will be part family history/memoir, part ethnography, and part social critique.