About Rafia Zafar

Rafia Zafar received her degrees from the City College of New York (BA, English), Columbia University (MA, English & Comparative Literature), and Harvard University (Ph.D., History of American Civilization).   Before joining Washington University in St. Louis in 1998 in the departments of English and African & African American Studies and the Program in American Culture Studies, she was a professor at the University of Michigan.  From 2017-2021 she was Faculty Director of Washington University’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.  Zafar has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Virginia Center for the Humanities and in 2007 held the Walt Whitman Distinguished Fulbright Chair at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.  In 2014-2015 she was National Endowment for the Humanities  Scholar in Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Since May 2022, Zafar has served as Visiting Professor in the Master of Gastronomy: World Food Cultures and Mobility program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy during the spring term. In spring 2024 Zafar will also guest lecture at Åbo Akademi in Turku, Finland. She is a member of the editorial collective for the journal Gastronomica.

Zafar’s Recipes for Respect:  African American Meals and Meaning appeared in March 2019 (Southern Foodways Alliance/University of Georgia Press) and was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and numerous scholarly periodicals. Other major publications include God Made Man, Man Made the Slave (co-editor; Mercer 1990); Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl:  New Critical Essays  (co-editor; Cambridge UP, 1996); We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870 (Columbia UP, 1997);  and Harlem Renaissance Novels: The Library of America Collection (two volumes; Library of America, 2011).  Her monograph, “Fictions of the Harlem Renaissance”, appeared in The Cambridge History of American Literature, Volume 6: Prose Fiction (2003).  

Her administrative portfolio at Washington University has included Director of the Program in African & African American Studies (1999-2003) and Director of Undergraduate Honors in the Department of English (2007-2010).  From 2011 to 2014 she served as Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusiveness in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, where she directed the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship program, aimed at increasing the number of under-represented groups in academic positions, and worked to expand and develop other minority recruitment and diversity initiatives for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her commitment to graduate education began as a member of the MLA ad-hoc committee on the Professionalization of the Ph.D.; she co-authored that committee’s report, “Professionalization in Perspective”  (2002).