Chijioke Onah


Chijioke K. Onah is a Ph.D. candidate in the Literatures in English Department, at Cornell University. He specializes in African and African Diaspora Literature, Anglophone Postcolonial Literature, and Environmental Humanities. He had his Bachelor’s degree in Combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. For his Masters degree, he studied at the Goethe University of Frankfurt, with an Erasmus-funded exchange at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Before coming to Cornell in 2020, he spent a year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His dissertation, which won the inaugural 2023 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowship, focuses on the politics of toxic waste disposability in Africa and the global Black diaspora. It interrogates the environmental and existential implications of toxic waste and pollutants for the various lifeforms in the ecosystem. Drawing on close and comparative analyses of contemporary African and Black diasporic cultural materials such as literary texts, films, photographs, ethnography, and the media; it employs insights from Black feminist environmental humanities and postcolonial literary criticism to read toxic sites in Africa as a contrast to the idealized progress of the high-tech economy. The project imagines new forms of living that promote a shared vision of a sustainable future for humans and non-human beings in a toxic saturated world.

Chijioke’s publications have appeared in or forthcoming from several journals such as ASAP/J, Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society, African Literature Today, Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, etc. His most recent article, “Remembering the Dead: Testimonial Narratives and the Politics of Memory in the Representation of Boko Haram Terrorism,” is published in the Postcolonial Text (2021). A public-facing version of the article also appeared in The Conversation. He is currently co-editing a special issue of Matatu journal on “Civic Dissent in Nigerian literature and films” as well as editing a special issue of the The Global South journal focused on the toxic ecologies of the Global South.

Research Focus

  • African and African Diaspora Literature
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Global Black Atlantic Ecologies

  • Anglophone Postcolonial Literature

  • Trauma/Memory Studies

  • New Media Studies

  • Terrorism Studies

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