David Porter is the principal investigator for the Detroit River Story Lab project, which works with regional organizations to co-produce and disseminate historically nuanced, contextually aware, and culturally rooted stories recasting the role of the Detroit River in the lives of adjacent communities from an anti-racist perspective and documenting its history as part of the Underground Railroad.
As a professor of English and comparative literature, his work focuses on the problem of how to think China and England together in the eighteenth century and early modern period. His first book, Ideographia, explored various patterns that seemed to shape European responses to Chinese cultural achievements in language, religion, the arts, and trade between 1600 and 1800.
His second book, The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth Century England, focused more specifically on the remarkable assimilation of Chinese aesthetic ideas within English literature, gardening, and decorative arts, with special attention to the gendered dimensions of this response. My current book project, a comparative study of literary trends in China and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, has involved excursions into world literature, translation theory, comparative political and economic history, and Ming dynasty philosophy.
Alongside this project, he has also begun exploring facets of the literary, environmental, and sociocultural history of the Great Lakes region.
Ph.D., Stanford University