Irvin Joseph Hunt

Assistant Professor

Research Interests

20th century and contemporary African American cultural history, humor studies, cooperative economics, US social movements, Marxist political theory, performance studies, and affect theory. 

My forthcoming manuscript, No Hope for Tomorrow: A Cultural History of the Black Cooperative Movement, 1890-1977 will be the first book length study of the grassroots role American artists played in establishing cooperatives, businesses owned by their patrons, who democratically distribute the collective surplus. With material from over 27 archives across the US, the book uncovers how four generations of African American artists, in particular—W. E. B. Du Bois, George Schuyler, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and their circles—established local cooperatives as alternatives to global capital. Providing four new concepts that identify innovations to social movement development--sustained incipience, necromance, planned failure, and pluriprsence--I argue that these luminaries experimented with ways of forming a social movement beyond the promise of progress. Where do you move to, they asked, when not to a better tomorrow? In the end I show how one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history profoundly speaks to the challenges of our time. 


  • Ph.D., Columbia University (2014)
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley (2007)
  • B.A., Morehouse College (2005)

Courses Taught

  • Mourning in Comic Time (ENG 553)
  • Black Literature in America from the Beginnings to Today (ENG 150 / AFRO 105)
  • The End of Poverty in the African American Novel (ENG 461)
  • Writing about Literature: Love and Sound in the Age of Consumption (ENG 300)
  • American Literature after 1945 (ENG 452)
  • Afro-American Literature I & II (ENG 259 & 260)
  • The American Novel since 1914 (ENG 251)

Additional Campus Affiliations

Assistant Professor, African American Studies

Highlighted Publications

“How Literature Understand Poverty,” American Literature (Spring 2020): 7,000 words. 

“Necromance: Capital, Credit, and American Literary History,” American Literary History (Winter 2019): 4,000 words. 

“Unco-Opted: Cooperative Economies as Counter Surveillance.” African American Literature: In Transition, 1940-50, Cambridge UP (Winter 2019): 30,000 words.

“The Hesitations of Speculative History,” Contemporaries at Post45 (February 2019): 1500 words. 

“The Humor We Fear Most,” Contemporaries at Post45 (February 2019): 1500 words. 

“The Ethics of Reading Poverty: Charles Wright, Empathy, and the US Welfare State”  Revise and Resubmit at Contemporary Literature (2018): 11,000 words.  

“Planned Failure: George Schuyler and the Young Negroes Cooperative League” Revise and resubmit at American Quarterly (2018): 10,000 words. 

Get Out: Not An Invitation, But a Warning,” Public Books (May 2017): 1300 words.  

“On Ava Duvernay,” Public Books (Feb2016): 1276 words. 

Saints on the Dollar,” Public Books(Jul 2014): 1199 words.  

Everybody’s Protest Play?” Public Books(Jan 201): 1740 words. 

Recent Publications

Hunt, I. J., Nishikawa, K., Callahan, C., & Entin, J. (Eds.) (2020). How Literature Understands Poverty. American Literature.

Hunt, I. J. (2020). Unco-Opted: Cooperative Economies as Counter Surveillance. In African American Literature: In Transition, 1940-50 Cambridge UP .

Hunt, I. J. (2019). Review of Progress Compromised: Social Movements and the Individual in African American Postmodern Fiction. American Literary History.

Hunt, I. J. (2017). Not an Invitation, but a Warning. Public Books.

Hunt, I. J. (2016). On Ava Duvernay. Public Books.

View all publications on Illinois Experts