Dr. SA Smythe (they / them) is a poet, transdisciplinary artist, translator, and critical theorist committed to black belonging beyond all borders and studying how archives of otherwise possibility come to be narrated, realised, and remembered. They are the editor of Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity special issue for Postmodern Culture and author of the forthcoming monograph, Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean and poetry collection, proclivity. Smythe organises with students and other comrades in the broader Cops Off Campus Coalition and other abolitionist and migrant support groups across Turtle Island and in Europe. Their transmedia artwork has been featured in collaborative and solo projects, installations, and festivals. Winner of the 2022 Rome Prize, Smythe is currently based between Rome and occupied Tongva land (Los Angeles). They are a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Transgender Studies and serve on the advisory council of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2i2). Currently an assistant professor in the Depts. of Gender Studies and African American Studies at UCLA, Smythe will join the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information as Assistant Professor of Black Studies and the Archive in July 2022.
Dr. SA Smythe (they / them) is a poet, transdisciplinary artist, translator, and critical theorist invested in black belonging beyond all borders and studying how archives of otherwise possibility come to be narrated, realised, and remembered. Smythe’s intervention and commitment to deepening the Black Radical Tradition agitates across black cultural studies, trans poetics, literary criticism, postcolonial historiography, contemporary Mediterranean studies, queer and trans feminist studies, and critical human geography. Their primary research is on 20th and 21st century literature and other cultural responses to racism, misogyny, colonialism, and other relational aspects of inequality and oppression between Europe (in particular, Italy), East Africa, and the Mediterranean. They are also invested in black trans poiesis (that is, both poetics and the philosophy of creation/creativity in relation to black trans theory, reading praxis, and embodiment) as practitioner and theorist. Dr. Smythe currently works as an assistant professor in the Departments of Gender Studies and African American Studies at UCLA, where they are also affiliate faculty of the Black Feminism Initiative, an advisor on the scholars council for the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry (C2I2), and a faculty collective member within the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. They are also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Transgender Studies based in Chicago, IL. Smythe will join the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information as Assistant Professor of Black Studies and the Archive in July 2022.
Smythe recently edited Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity (2021), a special issue of Postmodern Culture, and is working on several book-length projects. The first is a forthcoming monograph provisionally titled Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. This is a transdisciplinary study of black Italian, migrant, and postcolonial cultural production that addressed racialised notions of citizenship and belonging in the wake of self-initiated “crises” of migration and the attendant levels of dispossession in the Mediterranean. The second is a collection of poetry, titled proclivity, which focuses on a familial history of black migration (between Britain, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Italy), trans embodiment, and emancipation. The third is a translation of trans rights activist Porpora Marcasiano’s 2018 political memoir, L’aurora delle trans cattive [The Rise of the Bad Trans Women], from Italian to English. Their work has appeared in several academic venues including Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, TSQ, Middle East Report, National Political Science Review, Forum for Modern Language Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies Journal, Postcolonial Studies, gender/sexuality/italy, and elsewhere, including several forthcoming chapters in edited volumes and encyclopedias. Their public and poetic engagement has been featured in The Feminist Wire, okayafrica, contemp(t)orary, Johannesburg Salon, Critical Contemporary Journal, and elsewhere, including several anthologies and edited volumes. Smythe is a transdisciplinary artist who integrates poetry, sound installation, performance, and black feminist, trans, and other political theory to envision otherwise possibilities. They have performed or exhibited their work internationally at Kampnagel (Germany), Scuderie del Quirinale (Rome), the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco), GXRLSCHOOL (Los Angeles), as a member of the Dark Matter Cypher in collaboration with Ni’Ja Whitson (Fathomers/CAAM), as a headliner for the Africa Writes Literary Festival (London) and elsewhere in collaborative and solo projects, installations, and festivals.
Dr. Smythe is an editorial advisory board member of punctum books, Imagining Black Europe, They are network co-editor of H-Black Europe and the founder and former advisory board member of the Queer Studies Caucus of the American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS), and former publishing editor of the (now defunct) trans literary journal THEM. Smythe is the recipient of the 2022 Rome Prize for Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy of Rome. They are a former UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender & Sexuality Studies (2017-18) and Anthropology (2018-19) at UC Irvine. They were a co-investigator of the British Arts & Humanities Research Council network grant “Queer Italia,” along with Charlotte Ross (PI) and senior researcher Julia Heim (2016-18). Smythe was also formerly an Academic Fellow in the Department of Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, a Visiting Researcher in the Faculty of Modern and Mediaeval Languages at the University of Cambridge, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Modern Language Research at the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies in the Centres for Cultural Memory (CCM) and Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW). Their Master’s (with Distinction) and PhD are from UC Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness Department with graduate concentrations in Literature and Feminist Studies. They previously studied Russian, Linguistics, and Italian (Honours) at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Centre and Queens College; Italian Studies and Gender & Women’s Studies as a Research Fellow at UC Berkeley; and Semiotics at the Università di Bologna in Italy.
Smythe has organised within QTBIPOC feminist and abolitionist writing collectives and migrant support groups between NYC, the Bay Area, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, and as a coordinating committee member of Cops Off Campus (in the UCFTP faculty contingent across California and in the larger coalition across Turtle Island). Smythe’s meditations on black genders, loss, belonging, and aberrance manifest most clearly in their poetry and performance art, which they’ve performed in/across English, Italian, and Spanish. They are also a translator and editor of academic and literary texts in/across several languages. SA really enjoys composing music, baking scones, travelling, reading, knitting, and cultivating home with feline companion Mlle. Winslow Audre Gigglepeppers-Smythe III. While classic films featuring Chaplin, Dietrich, Mastroianni, or Poitier are some favorites to watch, nothing beats anything at all starring Dame Angela Lansbury, especially Mame (1966) and Murder, She Wrote, a show to which SA is unironically devoted and willing to re-watch until the end of time, period.
© 2022 SA Smythe. All rights reserved.
cover images 📸: Sorrell Scrutton &
former image: Finnish-Nigerian photographer Uwa Iduozee