A proud native of the Bay State, RJ Boutelle received dual BAs in English and Philosophy from UMass – Amherst before going on to complete his PhD in English at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on African American literature and hemispheric American studies in the nineteenth-century, analyzing the tensions between racial, national, and transnational identities that take shape through the lived experiences of diaspora.
His current book project, The Race for America: Manifest Destiny, Emigration, and the Antebellum Black Political Imagination, reveals how African Americans reappropriated the racial nationalism of US expansionism in the period between the Invasion of Mexico and the Civil War. Mining the archives of colonization, Black emigration, and Black nationalism, he contends that African Americans were central participants in discourses of USAmerican empire. Occasionally critiquing imperial aggressions against other people of color, occasionally fashioning opportunities for racial uplift through imperial projects, African Americans consistently foregrounded a role for themselves in Manifest Destiny, a project that ostensibly relegated them to expurgated objects rather than imaginative subjects.
He has received fellowships from Fulbright, the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami and the American Antiquarian Society, and his articles have appeared in Atlantic Studies: Global Currents and MELUS. He currently has works forthcoming in American Literature, African American Literature in Transition, 1880-1900 (Cambridge UP), and Caribbean Literature in Transition, 1800s-1920s (Cambridge UP).