Colin Dayan (also known as Joan Dayan), is the Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, where she teaches American Studies, comparative literature, and the religious and legal history of the Americas. She has written extensively on prison law and torture, Caribbean culture and literary history, as well as on Haitian poetics, Edgar Allan Poe, and the history of slavery. After receiving her Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 1980, she taught at Princeton University, Yale University, the City University of New York, the University of Arizona, and the University of Pennsylvania.
After publishing A Rainbow for the Christian West (1977), an introduction to René Depestre's poetry and a translation of his long poem Un arc-en-ciel pour l'occident chrétien, she turned to early American literature and published Fables of Mind: An Inquiry into Poe's Fiction (1987). Haiti, History, and the Gods (1995, 1998) reorients the study of Haitian history through what she calls "literary fieldwork". In the process, she recasts many boundaries: between politics and poetics, between the secular and the sacred, and between the colonizer and the colonized, those who deemed themselves masters and those who worked as slaves. The Story of Cruel and Unusual (2007), focuses on the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and traces the precedents for the torture of detainees in the "war on terror". Chosen as one of top-25 books for 2011, The Law is a White Dog, How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons was published by Princeton University Press in Spring 2011. Her new book With dogs at the edge of life has just appeared with Columbia.
Dayan has received an NEH fellowship (1986); a Guggenheim fellowship (2005) recognized her work on conditions of disfigured personhood and civil death that long outlive slavery itself. She has been a fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center in the Department of History and a fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs, both at Princeton. Her memoirs of growing up in Atlanta, Georgia have been published in The Yale Review, Southwest Review, and The Arizona Quarterly. A contributor to the London Review of Books and Boston Review, she writes on contemporary legal practices and the logic of punishment in supermaxes, Abu Ghraib, and Guantánamo. In 2012 she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- With Dogs at the Edge of Life
- Law School Bio
- "A Devilish Way of Thinking", Boston Review
- "The Secret History of the Haitian Earthquake", Boston Review
- "Into the Crud", Public Books
- "Destroying the Soul", The Washington Post
- "Barbarous Confinement", The New York Times
- "Like a Dog", Boston Review
- "The Law is a White Dog", Princeton University Press
- "Dead Dogs: Breed bans, euthanasia, and preemptive justice", Boston Review
- "Civilizing Haiti", Boston Review
- "Dangerous Dogs", London Review of Books
- "Between the Devil and the Deep Sea", Boston Review
- "Out of Defeat: Aimé Césaire's Miraculous Words", Boston Review
- "The Story of Cruel and Unusual"
- "Words Behind Bars", Boston Review
- "Cruel and Unusual", Boston Review
- Lecture "The Story of Cruel and Unusual" (November 7, 2007)
- Lecture "Words Behind Bars" (May 8, 2008)
- Colin Dayan Website