About

Brief Bio: 
Dr. SA Smythe (they / them is a poet, translator, and scholar working as an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Smythe is at work on an academic monograph titled Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. It is a transdisciplinary study of black literary and other cultural production. The book addresses racialized notions of citizenship and black belonging in the wake of Europe’s self-initiated migration crises and the attendant anti-black and xenophobic violence across Europe, East Africa, and the Mediterranean. Smythe is completing a full volume of poetry titled proclivity, and an edited volume titled Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Palimpsest, The Middle East Reportgender/sexuality/italy, the National Political Science ReviewThe Johannesburg Salonokayafrica, California Italian Studies, and elsewhere.

Longer Version:
Dr. SA Smythe (they / them) is 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 is an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at UCLA. At present, they are working on several book-length projects. The first is a monograph provisionally titled Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. It is a transdisciplinary study of black Italian, migrant, and postcolonial cultural production focused on the 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, and Jamaica), 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. Smythe’s work has appeared in several academic venues including Palimpsest, Middle East Report, National Political Science Review, 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.

Smythe is an editorial advisory board member of punctum books and Imagining Black Europe, network co-editor of H-Black Europe, founder and 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. Their 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 old classic films with 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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📸: Afro-Finnish photographer Uwa Iduozee

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