Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

Associate Professor of English and Gender and Sexuality Studies

Research & Practice Areas

Contemporary African Diasporic Literature, Film, and Art; Continental Philosophy; Contemporary Critical Theories; Feminist Philosophies of Science and Biomedicine; Aesthetics; Gender and Sexuality Studies; Disability Studies; Ecologies of Race


Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. Her research explores the literary and aesthetic aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature, film, and visual art with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack WorldBecoming Human is a call for rethinking the philosophical import of African diasporic literature and visual art. It demonstrates that gender, sexuality, and maternity are integral sites for producing a human-animal distinction that persistently reproduces the racial logics and orders of Western thought. Jackson argues that the literary texts and visual artistic practices featured in Becoming Human generate alternative possibilities for reimagining being by neither relying on animal abjection to define what we call human nor reestablishing “recognition” within liberal humanism as an antidote to racialization. Ultimately, Becoming Human reveals both the terrorizing peculiarity of reigning foundational conceptions of “the human” rooted in Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism and expressed in current multiculturalist alternatives as well as highlights generative, unruly senses of being/knowing/feeling existence put forward by black feminist theory, literature, and art. Becoming Human is the winner of the Harry Levin First Book Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Award from the National Women’s Studies Association, the Lambda Literary Book Award for LGBTQ Studies and is featured in Artforum magazine’s “Best of 2021” issue. 

Professor Jackson is at work on a second book, tentatively titled “Obscure Light: Blackness and the Derangement of Sex/Gender.” The project provides a critique of biocentrism (or biological reductionism and determinism) and elucidates the indistinction of sex/gender and race. It argues that antiblackness constitutes the bedrock of modern Western logics of sex/gender, in science and philosophy, and meditates on the transfiguring potentialities of blackness. Jackson’s work has appeared in scholarly journals such as Feminist Studiese-flux, Gay and Lesbian QuarterlyQui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social SciencesSouth Atlantic Quarterly, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience in addition to exhibition catalogues for the Whitney Museum, Hammer Museum, and The Studio Museum of Harlem. She has work forthcoming in Diacritics


  • Ph.D. , University of California, Berkeley
  • Journal Article

    • Jackson, Z. I. (2019). Suspended Munition: Mereology, Morphology, and the Mammary Biopolitics of Transmission in Simone Leigh’s Trophallaxis. e-flux journal. pp. 1-8.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2018). “Theorizing in a Void”: Sublimity, Matter, and Physics in Black Feminist Poetics. South Atlantic Quarterly. Vol. 117 (3), pp. 617-648.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2016). Sense of Things. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. Vol. 2 (2), pp. online.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2016). Losing Manhood: Animality and Plasticity in the (Neo) Slave Narrative. QuiParle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 25 (1-2), pp. 95-136.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2015). Outer Worlds: The Persistence of Race in Movement ‘Beyond the Human. Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ). Vol. 21 (2-3), pp. 215-218.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2013). Animal: New Directions in the Theorization of Race and Posthumanism. Feminist Studies. Vol. 39 (3), pp. 669-685.
    • Jackson, Z. I. (2011). Waking Nightmares. Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ). Vol. 17 (2), pp. 357-363.


    • Jackson, Z. I. (2020). Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. New York University Press. PubMed Web Address Publisher