Tao Leigh Goffe ’09

Taking a class with literary giant Toni Morrison at Princeton proved to be a pivotal moment for Tao Leigh Goffe ’09. The way Morrison framed the role of African Americans in the American literary imagination “really preoccupied me,” Goffe recalls. She went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale in 2015, penning a thesis that explored literary depictions of Black people and Chinese people in the Americas. — Jennifer Altmann

  • Eight years ago, while she was halfway through graduate school, Goffe began DJ-ing at nightclubs and parties. “I needed to do something nonacademic,” she says. In the last six years, she has been a DJ at a variety of venues, from a linguistics conference to events at New York’s Museum of Chinese in America to Reunions. Her hobby has become an important part of her academic research, which focuses on the narratives that emerge from histories of imperialism, migration, and globalization.
  • After a postdoctoral fellowship in Princeton’s Department of African American Studies, Goffe taught at New York University before becoming an assistant professor of literary theory and cultural history at Cornell in 2019.
  • Her latest venture is Dark Laboratory, a humanities incubator that supports and promotes Black and Indigenous storytelling. Its programs include a podcast, a lecture series, a photography competition, and various academic resources, all accessible at darklaboratory.com
  • The lab “reckons with the history of slavery,” Goffe says. “It’s a collective for people interested in this entanglement at the crossroads of Black studies and Native studies.” The advisory board — composed of experts in technology, academia, and Hollywood — includes Princeton professors Ruha Benjamin and Tracy K. Smith. 
  • Mission: “To write more complete and thus ethical histories and textbooks. We all have stories to tell.”

The Journey Here is a new feature appearing occasionally. To nominate someone with an interesting career path, please email paw@princeton.edu.