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Dr. SA Smythe (they / them)  is a poet, translator, and assistant professor of Black European Cultural Studies, Contemporary Mediterranean Studies, and Black Trans Poetics at UCLA. One facet of Smythe’s research is about relational aspects of Black belonging beyond borders. This is represented by their forthcoming edited volume titled Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity, and their first book project, Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. Another facet of Smythe’s work is about Black trans poesis (that is, poetics and the philosophy of creation/creativity related to Black trans theory, reading praxis, and embodiment). Forthcoming in that vein are two articles in TSQ (Transgender Studies Quarterly) and Palimpsest, and a full volume of poetry titled proclivity, which centers around a familial history of Black migration (between Britain, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Italy), trans embodiment, and Black emancipation. SA is a statewide coordinating committee member of the faculty wing of California Cops Off Campus (UCFTP) and organizes with students and other comrades in the broader Cops Off Campus Coalition and other abolitionist/anti-carceral groups across Turtle Island and in Europe.

Longer Version:
Dr. SA Smythe (they / themis a poet, translator, and scholar of Black European Literary & Cultural Studies, Contemporary Mediterranean Studies, and Black Trans Poetics. Smythe’s scholarship and political investments are broadly about otherwise black belonging and what they term “a nonbinary approach to black studies.” One facet of their research focuses on 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. Another facet is about black trans poesis (that is, both poetics and the philosophy of creation/creativity in relation to black trans theory, reading praxis, and embodiment). Dr. Smythe 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.

At present, Smythe 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 racialized 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. Smythe is also completing a special issue of Postmodern Culture titled Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity. Their work has appeared in several academic venues including Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, 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.

Smythe is an editorial advisory board member of punctum books and 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. 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 is a former UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender & Sexuality Studies (2017-18) and Anthropology (2018-19) at UC Irvine. They were also formerly an Academic Fellow in the Department of Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara, a Visiting Researcher in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval 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 Centers 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 designated emphases in Literature and Feminist Studies. They previously studied Russian, Linguistics, and Italian (Honors) at the City University of New York; Italian Studies and Gender & Women’s Studies as a Research Fellow at UC Berkeley; and Semiotics at the Università di Bologna in Italy. Smythe’s transdisciplinary intervention agitates across black cultural studies, the Black Radical Tradition, Italian literary criticism, postcolonial historiography, Mediterranean studies, queer and trans studies, and critical human geography.

Smythe organizes within QTBIPOC feminist and abolitionist writing collectives between NYC, the Bay Area, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles, and as an organizing member of Cops Off Campus (in the UCFTP faculty contingent across California, and in the larger continental coalition across Turtle Island). Smythe’s meditations on black genders, loss, belonging, and aberrance manifest most clearly in their poetry, 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, traveling, reading, knitting, and cultivating home with feline companion Mlle. Winslow Audre Gigglepeppers-Smythe III and a neat glass of scotch. 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. 

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© 2021 SA Smythe. All rights reserved.

cover images 📸: Sorrell Scrutton &

former image: Finnish-Nigerian photographer Uwa Iduozee