Northwestern University professor Christopher Abani was elected to the 2015 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. One of the country’s most prestigious honorary societies, the academy supports independent research, ranging from technology policy and global security to issues involving the humanities and education.
Abani is a poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright.He joins a class that also includes Pulitzer Prize-winning Holland Cotter, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, Nike co-founder Philip Knight, Nobel Prize-winning Brian Kobilka, Tony Award-winning Audra McDonald, superstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, public radio host and producer Terry Gross and novelist Tom Wolfe.
Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, Abani’s work reflects his bi-cultural, bi-lingual and bi-racial upbringing and education. His popular TED Talks, public speaking and essays have made him an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics and shared political responsibility.
Abani recently received a $50,000 United States Artists Ford Fellowship, which honors America’s most innovative artists. Last month, the city of Jackson, Tennessee, proclaimed April 24 as “Chris Abani Day” for his overall body of written work and for “elevating art, culture and humanity with his public speaking.”
His many research interests include African poetics, world literature, 20th century Anglophone literature, African presences in Medieval and Renaissance culture, the living architecture of cities, West African music, postcolonial and transnational theory, robotics and consciousness, Yoruba and Igbo philosophy and religion.
Abani is the author of six novels, including his most recent work, “The Secret History of Las Vegas”(Penguin, 2014). At Northwestern, he teaches creative writing and is Board of Trustees professor of English at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.