Michael Sawyer

Associate Professor

Michael Sawyer is an Associate Professor of English. His work focuses on the revolutionary potentiality of Black people and takes a multi-disciplinary approach to exploring the works that authorize, accompany, sustain, and depict Black Being. Michael has published two monographs, An Africana Philosophy of Temporality: Homo Liminalis (Palgrave:2018) and Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X (Pluto: 020). He has begun work on three new book projects. The first, The Door of No Return: Being as Black, endeavors to articulate a theory of the Black subject that reaches beyond the limitations of the notion of anti-Blackness as an irreducible and omnipresent feature of the world as we know it. The second, Ramifications of Ramifications: A Hermeneutics of Toni Morrison, is preoccupied with the oeuvre of the Nobel Laureate, presupposing that the author is engaged in a long philosophical meditation on the nature of Blackness. The third project is a trade book that is entitled Sir Lewis Hamilton: Maybe it’s because I’m Black. The book examines the activism of seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton’s activism with respect to police violence, and diversity and equity in motorsport as the vehicle for thinking about a new form of radical Black cosmopolitanism that is exemplified by the example of Hamilton who happens to be the only Black person in the history of Formula One.

Additionally, Michael recently debuted a sonic-assemblage composed with Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Payton at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center entitled: Reclaiming: Eight Minutes and Forty-six Seconds of Ju Ju that explores the sound-space of police violence through the vehicle of the Blues.

Professor Sawyer will spend academic year 2022-2023 as a Visiting Scholar in the Humanities Institute at Penn State University.

Professor Sawyer joins the University of Pittsburgh from Colorado College (2015-2021) where he was appointed Assistant Professor of Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies and the Department of English. He was also recently appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor of English and the Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy. He holds a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy, an M.A. from the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations, and a Masters in Comparative Literature and PhD in Africana Studies from Brown University. He is a lifetime member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Research and Publications

Books in Press

• An Africana Philosophy of Temporality: Homo Liminalis Palgrave Press (ISBN 978-3319985749 Nominated for the First Book Award by the American Philosophical Associationand the MLA October 2018

• Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X (ISBN 978-0745340746) Pluto Press March 2020

Books in Preparation

• The Door of No Return: A Phenomenology of Black(ness)

• Check Point-Lima (Under Review) Literary Fiction

• If Holden Caulfield Was Black (Literary Fiction)

Single-Authored Articles/Reviews/Chapters in Press

• “Shattering Perspectives” a review of a Teaching Collection of African Ceramics installed at Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University African Arts Journal (Forthcoming)

• “Crépuscle with RA Judy: A Review of Sentient Flesh: Thinking in Disorder, Poiēsis in Black” New Formations: A Journal of Culture / Theory / Politics (Forthcoming)

• Book Review: “Peniel Joseph’s The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.” American Political Thought 

• “Post-Truth, Social Media, and the ‘Real’ as Phantasm” chapter in the volume Relativism and Post-Truth in Contemporary Society: Possibilities and Challenges edited by Steve Fuller, Mikael Stenmark, and Ulf Zackariasson Palgrave Press (ISBN 978- 3319965581) September 2018

• “Temporalità radicale, realismo fittizio e rivoluzione come contesto” Filosofia politica. 3 Dec 2017. ISBN: 0394-7297. Pp. 445-458

• “Undoing the Phaedrus: Melville’s Re-Reading of Plato” The C.L.R. James Journal November 2017 ISBN: 2167-4256

• “Two Silenced Instruments” Front Row Center: Photography by Larry Hulst. Exhibition Catalog: Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs: 2017

“Sacrifice” Political Concepts, October 2015

Book Review: Archipelago: A Novel by, Monique Roffey Small Axe Salon: 15, Fall 2015

• “Critical Intervention/Review of Keith Sandiford, Theorizing a Colonial Caribbean- Atlantic Imaginary: Sugar and Obeah” The C.L.R. James Journal 20:1, Fall 2014 (pp. 17-24)

Book Chapters/Articles in Preparation or Under Review

• “Melville’s Meditation on the Long Shipwreck of the Middle Passage” book chapter in Companion to Melville edited by Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge, Wiley Blackwell (Forthcoming Fall 2021)

Awards and Distinctions

• Lloyd E. Worner Teacher of the Year Award 2017

• Recipient of the Professor R. Bruce Lindsay Graduate Fellowship (Brown University)


Black Minded The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X  

An Africana Philosophy of Temporality Homo Liminalis  

Research Interests

Africana Political Thought and Philosophy; Post-Colonial Studies; Critical Race Theory; Political Theory; Political Philosophy; Naval History and Tactics; Revolt, Revolution & Rebellion; Literary Theory & Criticism; History of the American, French, & Haitian Revolutions; Slavery; Mass Incarceration; Creative Writing; African American Music: The Italian Renaissance