Hip Hop Scholar Offered Tenure

Morgan, denied position under Summers three years ago, may return

Harvard has extended a tenured professorship to hip hop expert Marcyliena Morgan, an offer denied three years ago under the presidency of Lawrence H. Summers.

Members of the Department of African and African American Studies said yesterday that an ad hoc committee and Interim University President Derek C. Bok approved the case about a week ago and a formal job offer was extended to Morgan, currently the executive director of Stanford University’s Hiphop Archive.

It is not known whether Morgan has accepted the offer, and she could not be reached for comment.

“I am overjoyed,” Professor of Anthropology and of Af-Am Studies J. Lorand Matory ’82 said of Morgan’s possible arrival.

“First, because she has unique gifts to bring to the academy, and she is probably the leading scholar of hip hop and of the collecting and history of hip hop music which has influenced the entire planet.”

Morgan’s return would also mean the rehiring of her husband Lawrence D. Bobo, who directs Stanford’s Af-Am program and its Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Bobo could also not be reached for comment yesterday.

After Morgan was denied tenure in 2004, the duo headed west, where Morgan became an associate professor of communication, which at Stanford is a tenured position.

Matory cited Bobo’s return as another reason for his elation.

“He’s probably the leading statistician of race relations and we couldn’t be Harvard without him,” Matory said.

Since his departure, Bobo, who was previously the Tishman and Diker professor of sociology and Af-Am studies at Harvard, has had an outstanding offer to resume a tenured position in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said Professor of Psychology and of Af-Am Studies James Sidanius, who is a personal friend of the couple.

Sidanius said the probability of Morgan rejoining the Faculty was “at least 50-50.”

If Morgan does take Harvard up on its offer, she will most probably reappear in Cambridge in the fall of 2008, on account of the short notice of the approval of her case, Sidanius said.

In 2002, Morgan started The Hiphop Archive at Harvard, a project which her former colleague Francis A. Irele said has been on hiatus since Morgan left.

“I’m hoping that she’ll come back because we have this big project here on hip hop,” said Irele, a visiting professor of Af-Am studies and of Romance languages and literatures.

Hip hop is “a very important social phenomenon which needs investigation and she’s been working on it for years,” Irele said. “She’s ahead of anybody in this area, and she’s looking at it from a very sophisticated standpoint—not just some kind of popular, populist approach, very theoretical.”

Af-Am Department Chair Evelyn B. Higginbotham and Stanford’s Department of Communications Chair James S. Fishkin could not be reached for comment last night.

While the department is poised to gain two familiar faces, Af-Am studies will be losing two newly added members.

Rosen Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies Kofi Agawu is returning to Princeton University after he was hired last year from the New Jersey school by former Af-Am Department Chair Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. His wife, Christiana Agawu, who is the director of African outreach at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, will leave with him.

“We decided to leave because we believe that Harvard is great but Princeton fits us better professionally and in family life also,” she said.

—Staff writer Lulu Zhou can be reached at luluzhou@fas.harvard.edu.