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Britt Rusert

Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Picture of Britt Rusert with black dress and red background

(413) 545-2751

325 New Africa House

Britt Rusert is Associate Professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (New York University Press, 2017) and co-editor of W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018), a collection of the visual graphics Du Bois and his students at Atlanta University prepared for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Fugitive Science received sole finalist mention for the Lora Romero First Book Prize from the American Studies Association as well as an honorable mention for the MLA’s Prize for a First Book.

Rusert received her Ph.D. in English and certificate in Feminist Studies from Duke University. Her research and teaching focus on black speculative fiction and visual culture, race and science, slavery and abolition, feminist and queer approaches to science and culture, and critical theory, especially Marxism, psychoanalysis, and Black radical thought. With Adrienne Brown, she is also editing W. E .B. Du Bois’s short genre fiction. Their edition of Du Bois’s fantasy story, “The Princess Steel,” was published in PMLA in 2015. Her new project is an intensive study of William J. Wilson’s Afric-American Picture Gallery (1859), a text that imagines the first museum of Black art in the United States. That project is supported by a 2019 NEH Summer Stipend and a 2019-20 ACLS Fellowship. 

Rusert is also writing a short history of abolition that uses abolitionist experiments from the antebellum period to make concrete connections to radical organizing today, especially to movements around environmental justice, mutual aid, prison abolition, and community defense initiatives led by QTPOC and Black Women.



picture of book coverW. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, co-editor, with Whitney Battle- Baptiste (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018



Picture of book cover for Fugitive ScienceFugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (New York University Press, 2017)


“Naturalizing Coercion: The Tuskegee Experiments and the Laboratory Life of the Plantation,” Captivating Technology: Race, Technoscience, and the Carceral Imagination, ed. Ruha Benjamin, Duke University Press (Forthcoming)

“‘The Art of Waiting’: Robert Roberts’s The House Servant’s Directory and the Politics of Stasis in African American Literature, 1800-1830,” for African American Literature in

Transition, 1800-1830, ed. Jasmine Nichole Cobb, Cambridge University Press (Forthcoming)

“Visionary History: Recovering William J. Wilson’s Afric-American Picture Gallery,” with John Ernest, Rian Bowie, and Leif Eckstrom, Infrastructures of African American Print, ed. Jonathan Senchyne and Brigitte Fielder, University of Wisconsin Press (Forthcoming)

“From Black Lit to Black Print: The Return to the Archive in African American Literary Studies," Review Essay for American Quarterly 68.4 (Spring 2016): 993-1005

“New World: The Impact of Digitization on the Study of Slavery,” American Literary History 29.2 (Spring 2017): 267-86

“Disappointment in the Archives of Black Freedom,” Social Text 33.4 (December 2015): 19-33

“Plantation Ecologies: James Grainger’s The Sugar-Cane and the Rise of the Experimental Plantation," Early American Studies 13.2 (Winter 2015): 341-73

“Framing Finance: Rebellion, Dispossession and the Geopolitics of Enclosure in Samuel Delany’s Nevèrÿon Series,” with Jordy Rosenberg, Radical History Review 118 (Winter 2014): 64-91

“Delany’s Comet: Fugitive Science and the Speculative Imaginary of Emancipation,” American Quarterly 65.4 (December 2013): 489-518.

  • 2014 Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies (INCS) Essay Prize
  • Finalist Mention, Constance Rourke Prize, for best article published in American Quarterly in 2013

“The Science of Freedom: Counter-archives of Racial Science on the Antebellum Stage,” African American Review 45.3 (Fall 2012): 291-308; Special Issue: On Black Performance

  • Honorable Mention, Darwin T. Turner Award, for best essay published in the African American Review in any period of African American or pan-African Literature, 2012

“Grassroots Marketing in a Global Era: More Lessons from BiDil,” with Charmaine D.M. Royal. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 39.1 (Spring 2011): 79-90

“Black Nature: The Question of Race in the Age of Ecology,” Polygraph: An International Journal of Culture & Politics Issue Topic: Ecology & Ideology 22 (September 2010): 149-66

“‘A Study in Nature’: The Tuskegee Experiments and the New South Laboratory,” Journal of Medical Humanities 30.3 (September 2009): 155-71