Joshua Aiken is a poet, black studies scholar, and winner of the 2022 Palette Poetry Chapbook Prize for his manuscript “to be in and of” (forthcoming, August 2023) as selected by Chen Chen. In April 2023, the de Groot Foundation named Joshua a 2023 “Courage to Write” Writer of Note.


A Cave Canem Fellow and winner of the Martin Starkie Prize, his poetry can be found in publications like Apogee, Assaracus, BOAAT, Boulevard Magazine, Copper Nickel, Green Mountains Review, The Indianapolis Review, Muzzle Magazine, Pleaides: Literature in Context and Sixth Finch. Joshua is currently a J.D./Ph.D. Candidate in History and African-American Studies at Yale where his research focuses on the relationship between the regulation of firearms in the United States, state-sanctioned violence, and racial hierarchy since the Civil War. His research more broadly is concerned with 20th-century histories of how violence sanctioned and facilitated by “equal justice under law” has shaped and been shaped by racial capitalism, settler empire, and anti-blackness. He is interested in how race, gender, sexuality and ability relate to legalized notions of danger, safety, criminality, depravity and deviance. Joshua received the 2020 Esposito Memorial Scholarship from the Point Foundation which continues to support his academic work. 

Joshua is the former Policy Fellow at the Prison Policy Initiative and received graduate degrees from the University of Oxford in History and Forced Migration Studies where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar (Missouri & Pembroke 2014). His research on the criminal legal system has been featured in The New York Times, he has presented his research on gender and gun laws in the Reconstruction South at the American Studies Association Conference, and written about blackness and captivity in Transgender Studies Quarterly. He is the former co-convenor of the Racial Capitalism and the Carceral State Working Group and in 2020 served as the Researcher-in-Residence at Artspace New Haven for their exhibition on the New Haven Black Panther Party for Self-Defense entitledRevolution on Trial.”

Joshua is the 2022-2023 Research Affiliate at the Duke Center on Firearms Law where he will continue his research on guns, race, and violence in American social life.

He can be reached at joshua.aiken[at]yale.edu


Photo credit: Marcus Jackson