KAREN TONGSON, DIRECTOR
Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies, English and American Studies and Ethnicity
Tongson is the author of Why Karen Carpenter Matters (named one of Pitchfork’s best music books of 2020), and Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries. In 2019, she received Lambda Literary’s Jeanne Córdova Award for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction for her body of work to date. She is chair of gender & sexuality studies, and Professor of gender & sexuality studies, English and American studies & ethnicity. She is also co-editor of the award-winning book series, Postmillennial Pop with Henry Jenkins at NYU Press. Her writing and cultural commentary have appeared in NPR, LARB (Los Angeles Review of Books), The Los Angeles Times, The AV Club, Entertainment Weekly, L.A. Weekly, BuzzFeed Reader, The Washington Post, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Public Books, among many other public, as well as scholarly venues. Tongson is currently finishing a book called, NORMPORN: Television and the Spectacle of Normalcy (NYU Press). She co-hosts and executive produces the podcasts Waiting to X-Hale with Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh, and the limited series, The Gaymazing Race with Nicole J. Georges.
ALLYSON M. HOLLEY, PRODUCER
Allyson is a sound artist with a degree in audio engineering and music production, multi-instrumentalist, marketer, brander, and social media strategist. Before earning her degree, she worked as Web Editor at KUT Public Media writing and editing stories for Texas Standard, and was Community Manager at The Daily Dot, managing all social media presences and creating sales and marketing content. She currently edits podcasts and audio stories for a variety of clients.
SAM GLOVER, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
Sam graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Economics and a minor in History of Consciousness. While at University, he was an active member of UCSC’s student newspaper of record, City on a Hill Press, where he was the Co-Editor-in-Chief for the 2021-2022 academic school year. Using change management principles, he established and supported the organizations transition into a post-COVID-19 environment. His interests include Social and Economic Geography, philosophy, and movies.
Graduate Research Assistant
Neud’s Saint-Cyr is a third-year Ph.D. student from Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with honors in Africana Studies and a minor in chemistry in 2021. Neud’s’ Research interests include migration, Black immigrants in the U.S., Black refugees & asylum seekers, identity formation, Haitian studies, Caribbean Studies, and ethnographic research methods.
Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity
Evelyn Alsultany is a leading expert on the history of representations of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. She is an associate professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. She is the author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (2012). Professor Alsultany co-authored criteria, the Obeidi-Alsultany Test, to help Hollywood improve representations of Muslims. She has served as an educator and consultant for independent filmmakers and Hollywood studios (Disney, Netflix, NBC Universal) on how to better represent Muslim characters. She has published op-eds in The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post, and Newsweek. She serves as a consultant for Hollywood studios through the boutique firm, History Studio.
Alsultany hosts Muslims as Seen on TV.
Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Writing and Gender and Sexuality Studies
Chris Belcher is a writer, curator of queer nightlife, and a jointly-appointed Assistant Professor (Teaching) in the Writing Program and Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at USC. In 2016, she completed her PhD in English at USC, where she wrote about class, whiteness, and the queerness of rural America across the 20th and 21st centuries. Since then, under her working name, Natalie West, she edited the acclaimed anthology We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival, published by the Feminist Press in 2021. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the LA Times, Catapult, BOMB, Electric Literature, Autostraddle, Public Books, and them. She is broadly interested in sexual politics and sexual labor, and the history of feminist thought and activism as it intersects with both. She is working on a project that centers on the 1982 Barnard College “Towards a Politics of Sexuality” conference and the so-called “feminist sex wars.” Her debut memoir, Pretty Baby, was published in 2022 by Simon & Schuster’s Avid Reader Press, and she’s currently working on a pitch and pilot for its TV adaptation.
Professor of Communication
Sarah Banet-Weiser is Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is the founding director of the Center for Collaborative Communication at the Annenberg Schools (CCAS). Her teaching and research interests include gender in the media, identity, citizenship, and cultural politics, consumer culture and popular media, race and the media, and intersectional feminism. Committed to intellectual and activist conversations that explore how global media politics are exercised, expressed, and perpetuated in different cultural contexts, she has authored or edited eight books, including the award-winning Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (NYU Press, 2012) and Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke, 2018), and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and essays. In 2019-2020, she had a regular column on popular feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Artemisa is a Chicanx, disabled visual artist, scholar, and educator with degrees in Performance Studies and Visual Art. Working primarily in performance and installation, she explores the materiality of Latinx and Latin American erasure on multiple scales and fronts, from the individual to the institutional. She has taught courses in Visual Studies, Performance Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Art Practice at University of California, San Diego and Cal State San Marcos.
Assistant Professor of English
Corrine Collins’ research focuses on interracial sociality and sexuality in 20th and 21st century African diaspora literature and popular culture, and her book-in-progress Injurious Love: Interracial Intimacy and the Post-Racial Future (working title) examines the racialization of familial and social love in interracial families and friendships. Collins is also at work on a second book project which examines British culinary nationalism.
Her articles and essays have appeared in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Public Books, Air/Light Magazine, and Mixed-Race Superheroes (Rutgers UP, 2021). She teaches classes on Black British literature, Caribbean literature, multiraciality, and African Diaspora foodways.
ADRIAN DE LEON
Assistant Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity
Adrian De Leon is an award-winning public historian, poet, and multimedia educator. He is the author and editor of three books of creative writing, most recently barangay: an offshore poem (2021), which was named one of 2021’s best Canadian poetry collections by CBC Books. His first scholarly book, Bundok: A Hinterland History of Filipino America (University of North Carolina Press, Fall 2023), is a history of U.S.-Philippine relations told from the rural interfaces between Indigenous peoples, migrant farmworkers, and colonial plantations. It will be followed by two books: The Conditional Commonwealth (under contract, University of Washington Press), which examines how the political imaginations of non-elite Filipinos in the 1920s and 1930s were indelibly shaped by counterinsurgency; and After Homeland, a political theory of the return migrant written as a lyric essay. De Leon is also a co-host of two shows on PBS: A People’s History of Asian America (2021) and Historian’s Take (2022). His work has been featured in venues such as: the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, PBS NewsHour, ABC Nightline, Public Books, and The Conversation.
Postdoctoral Fellow (Teaching) in Gender and Sexuality Studies
Eliot Dunn is a researcher who works at the intersection of trans studies, contemporary literature, and queer digital cultures. Their work is primarily focused on articulating forms of trans temporality as reliant upon, but distinct from, theories of queer time from the 2000s and 2010s. Eliot completed their doctorate in English at USC in 2023, where their dissertation addressed the temporal intricacies of queer digital objects from video games to memes to short fiction. Interested in phenomenology, the social construction of the body, and gender-punk aesthetics, Eliot is currently at work on a project examining the post-apocalyptic futures imagined by trans authors, media makers, and communities.
Associate Professor in Cinema and Media Studies
Lan Duong is the author of Treacherous Subjects: Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism. Dr. Duong’s second book project, Transnational Vietnamese Cinemas and the Archives of Memory, examines Vietnamese cinema and its history through the lens of the archive. Duong is a Founding Member of the Critical Refugee Studies Collective (criticalrefugeestudies.com) and co-edits the Collective’s book series for UC Press. Her poetry appears in the journals Oberon and Spoon
Associate Professor of French and Italian and American Studies and Ethnicity
Professor Hill’s first book, Black Soundscapes White Stages: The Meaning of Sound in the Francophone Black Atlantic (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)considers the torn aesthetic and ideological relationships between Antillean music and literature from the 1920s to 1960s to be a colonial struggle over the meaning ofCaribbean vernacular culture. Informed by an interdisciplinary formation (BachelorDegree in Music Performance, PhD in French and Francophone Studies). Hill’s current book project, Black Static, locates rage as a sonic/affective vibration routed through the circuits of African diasporic musical culture, travel, and communication. It focuses on a range of musicians and writers, from Nina Simone and militant rap artist Casey to Frantz Fanon and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Professor Hill is also at the beginning stages a third book project: a critical biography of Léon Gontran-Damas.
Hill hosts Dance Hubs.
ZAKIYYAH IMAN JACKSON
Associate Professor of English
Jackson’s first book, Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (2020) argues that key African American, African, and Caribbean literary and visual texts generate conceptions of being and materiality that creatively disrupt a human-animal distinction that persistently reproduces the racial logics and orders of Western thought. These texts move beyond a critique of bestialization to generate new possibilities for rethinking ontology: our being, fleshly materiality, and the nature of what exists and what we can claim to know about existence. She is at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex-Gender.” It argues that antiBlackness constitutes the bedrock of modern Western logics of sex-gender and meditates on how its terrorizing vertical orders might be toppled by the transfiguring potentialities of Blackness. Ultimately, the project provides a critique of biocentrism (or biological reductionism and determinism) and elucidates the indistinction of sex-gender and race. Her work appears in Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Science; Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience; South Atlantic Quarterly (SAQ); e-flux; and twice in Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ).
Assistant Professor of English
Kessler’s interdisciplinary research spans the fields of comparative media studies, queer and gender studies, voice and sound studies, and television studies. Her articles and essays have appeared in Camera Obscura, Film Quarterly, In These Times, Public Books, Theory & Event, Triple Canopy, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is the TV section editor at Public Books. Her book-in-progress, Anachronism Effects: Ventriloquism and Popular Media (working title), argues that the seemingly archaic cultural phenomenon of ventriloquism is a key site for understanding Western processes of racialization, gendering, and sexualization through audiovisual media, performance, and other technologies of the voice. Kessler is also in the early stages of working on two additional book projects. Stemming from her TV criticism, she is developing a single-authored collection of critical essays on binge-watching. Her second academic monograph-in-progress, A Sentient Animal: Whales and Media in the Anthropocene(working title), will take her interest in the interplay between the human and the non-human in an eco-critical direction, investigating how the whale—as animal, idea, and cultural medium—became an object of human projection in the decades that fomented today’s fascination with environmental decay.
Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and Anthropology
A cultural anthropologist, Kondo’s books include Crafting Selves: Power, Gender and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace (J.I. Staley Prize from the School for Advanced Research, for a book that has influenced the field of Anthropology), and About Face: Performing Race in Fashion and Theater (Cultural and Literary Studies Prize, Association for Asian American Studies). Her new book, Worldmaking: Race, Performance, and the Work of Creativity, based on twenty years of participation in theater as dramaturg, scholar, and playwright, brings the aesthetic sublime back to earth by theorizing backstage creative labor. Worldmaking bends genre, combining first-person entr’actes, the political-economic mise-en-scène of the theater industry, theoretical/ analytical essays spotlighting the creative process of artists Anna Deavere Smith and David Henry Hwang, and Kondo’s full-length play Seamless, based on family history, about memory, the (im)possibility of knowing the past, and the historical trauma of Japanese American incarceration.
Kondo hosts The Arts of Racial Reckoning.
Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity &
Gender and Sexuality Studies
LaBennett is the author of She’s Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn (NYU Press 2011), and co-editor of Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century (UC Press 2012). The only ethnographic monograph on Brooklyn’s Caribbean adolescent girls’ identity mediations vis-à-vis popular culture, She’s Mad Real anticipated the emerging subfield of Black girlhood studies as a critical departure point for addressing questions related to coming of age in the African diaspora, Black feminism, and the delineation of raced/gendered/age-based/classed power.
LaBennett’s OpEds and public commentary have appeared in platforms such as Ms. Magazine, The Guardian, and Politico. Elle Magazine ranked her course, “Women in Hip Hop,” among the top ten in a list of “College Classes that Give Us Hope for the Next Generation.”
Her forthcoming book, Global Guyana: Shaping Race, Gender, and Environment in the Caribbean and Beyond will be published by NYU Press (2024). Previously ranked among the hemisphere’s poorest countries, Guyana is poised to become the world’s highest per capita oil producer—offering a critical vantage point for parsing the environmental consequences of the resource extraction that fuels our modern world, as well as pernicious forms of erasure that structure Caribbean women’s lives. Global Guyana develops a powerful set of heuristics to trace the entwined histories of descendants of enslaved Africans and Indian indentured laborers, alongside the contemporary dynamics of the outsized Guyanese diaspora, and the broad reach of the nation’s extractive industries. The book explores distinct yet interrelated realms, including media depictions, women’s kinship ties, sonic routes, and the circulation of oil and sand, to uncover how this understudied place reshapes transnational gendered racializations and the very topography that has come to be emblematic of the Caribbean region—beaches and shorelines.
Assistant Professor of English
Jonathan Leal is a scholar-musician from the South Texas borderlands who studies the long echoes of colonial encounter. His scholarship has appeared in numerous journals, including the Journal of Popular Music Studies, ASAP/Journal, Journal of the Society for American Music, Jazz & Culture, and elsewhere; and his essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Air/Light, The Rumpus, LARB, and elsewhere. His recent musical work has included creative design for The Mathematics of Love, a decolonial feminist play by Cherríe Moraga; Wild Tongue, a collaborative album featuring music by nine Latinx bands from the Rio Grande Valley; Futuro Conjunto, a speculative transmedia cast album; After Now, a jazz record exploring post-utopian sentiment; as well as several singles. His musical collaborations have been featured in Pitchfork, Democracy Now!, Texas Monthly, Remezcla, Latino USA, Bandcamp, and elsewhere. Leal is the co-editor of Cybermedia: Explorations in Science, Sound, and Vision (Bloomsbury 2021) and the author of Dreams in Double Time (forthcoming Fall 2023 from Duke University Press).
ELDA MARIA ROMÁN
Associate Professor of English
Ramon is an associate professor of English. As a scholar in literary and cultural studies, she researches the effects of race and class across groups, disciplines, and genres. Her first book, Race and Upward Mobility (StanfordUP, 2017) examines class dynamics in African American and Mexican American literature, television, and film from the 1940s-2000s. In this book, she analyzes narratives about socioeconomic stratification and demonstrate how these narratives give form to social patterns intertwined with issues such as residential segregation, violence by law enforcement, underrepresentation in workplaces and in the media, and alarmist discourse against the racialized poor and immigrants. She continues to examine how cultural production participates in shaping the way we think about socioeconomic hierarchies and group boundaries, as her current project explores redistributive efforts and narratives about fears of changing demographics.
Associate Professor (Teaching) of Gender and Sexuality Studies
Her interdisciplinary research and teaching engage with the fields of Comparative Literature, Medical Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Critical Race Theory, Motherhood Studies, and Mindfulness. Atia has practiced mindfulness for 10 years, started the BIPOC Mindfulness Practice Group at USC in 2018, and is currently a teacher for Mindful USC.
Her writing emphasizes the significance of personal, lived experience as a site for knowledge production. Most recently, she is exploring the embodied intersections of gender, race, mindfulness, and motherhood. Her articles and essays have appeared in Academe, Journal of Medical Humanities, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, and elsewhere. She has a forthcoming poem in Rogue Agent: A Journal for Work that Inhabits the Body.
LAURA ISABEL SERNA
Associate Professor of History and Cinema and Media Studies
Serna is the author of Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture (Duke University Press, 2014). Making Cinelandia is a historical account—based on deep research in multiple archives in both the United States and Mexico—of the circulation, presentation, and reception of films and film culture in Mexico during the late teens and early 1920s, a moment when U.S. films dominated Mexican movie screens on both sides of the border. She has published essays on a range of topics in Mexican film culture during the silent era including border film production, censorship and nationalism, and regional film cultures in journals such as Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies and The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History and edited collections including Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space (2014) and Land of Necessity: Consumer Culture in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (2010). She has also published essays on Latino Stardom and the commercial practices, specifically the translation of intertitles, that enabled early Hollywood to reach global audiences.
Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History
Nayan Shah is a historian whose books uncover how people struggle with illness, migration and incarceration in the United States and across the globe from the 19th century to the present. Shah is Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California. Nayan Shah is the author of three books: Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (2001), Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (2012), and Refusal to Eat: A Century of Prison Hunger Strikes (2022).
Shah is featured in documentaries and podcasts on Asian American history and the history of contagion and pandemics including for PBS and the History Channel. He has worked with the National Park Service, Angel Island Foundation, California Historical Society, and the New York Historical Society to interpret Asian American past and present.
Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies
A.E. Stevenson is an assistant professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at USC who teaches advanced gender studies and Black feminist futures. In 2021–2022, Stevenson was a Penn Predoctoral Fellow for Excellence through Diversity. Stevenson received her doctorate in Cinema and Media studies from UCLA where her dissertation, “Niggas on the Internet: Scenes of a Black Social Life,” analyzes Vine, TikTok, the Shade Room, and the music videos of Solange, to argue that Black people have fundamentally changed the visual language of the internet. Born and raised in DeSoto, Texas, she received her bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Chicago.