Author: tavia-nyongo

Tavia Nyong’o is a cultural critic and professor of African American studies, American studies, and theater studies at Yale University. He writes on art, music, politics, culture, and theory. His first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (2009), won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African American theatre and performance studies, and a new book, Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life, is forthcoming from NYU Press in the fall of 2018. Nyong’o has published in venues such as Radical History Review, Criticism, GLQ, TDR, Women & Performance, WSQ, The Nation, Triple Canopy, The New Inquiry, and n+1. He is co-editor of the journal Social Text.

Authored by Tavia Nyong'o

Maypole

Tavia Nyong'o

Snapshot from May Day demonstration in New York’s Union Square.

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Occupying Gender in the Singular Plural

Tavia Nyong'o

Call me a sissy, but I’ve never particularly cared for being referred to as cisgender. Still, the work of transgendered activists within Occupy Wall Street has been one of things that keep me optimistic. At a November 13th teach-in at Zuccotti Park, just days before the brutal eviction, trans activists took over the people’s mic for an hour-long lesson in occupying gender, educating their non-trans listeners on the unearned privileges we enjoy whenever we conform to ascribed gender; outlining the work that groups like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project have long been engaged in, against police violence and medical pathologization; and outlining pragmatic and principled tactics for an occupation open to trans and cis-gendered people alike.

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I was a Wall Street zombie

Tavia Nyong'o

Technically, I never worked on Wall Street. But, for a difficult year in my early twenties, I did don a suit at the crack of dawn and schlep down to one bank or another in the financial district or, occasionally, to one of its outposts in Long Island City, Queens, or Stamford, CT. Citibank, Chase Manhattan, American Express, Swiss Bank. I was a perma-temp in a series of glorified secretarial pools, the highest paid work my liberal arts degree could secure me, even in the middle of the Nineties dot com boom.

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HBO's postcolonial melancholic

Tavia Nyong'o

Season Three of HBO’s therapy verite series is now airing, so of course I am glued to the tube. This season’s analysands — whose sessions grants us a fly-on-the-wall view of — are especially engrossing. Jesse, the promiscuous, talented gay teen; Frances, the narcissistic mid-career actress; and Sunil, the postcolonial melancholic.

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Counting Towards Tenure

Tavia Nyong'o

Who is counting on tenure? We are all counting on tenure, it seems, as the professional horizon of intellectual work, as the foundation of security upon which any edifice of independent thought might withstand the forces of erosion in our time. However, as far as the New York Times can tell, tenure primarily counts as a politically neutral reward for professionalism and an accommodation to a hierarchical ideal of expertise. Missing from this is any body count of those intellectuals whose activity inside and out of the academia, while crucial to its functioning, are not tracked for tenure.

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Postcard from NYC

Tavia Nyong'o

Dancing in front of the May Day march against the state of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration laws down Broadway in New York City, one protestor in festive spring drag.

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Postcard from Berlin

Tavia Nyong'o

125 years after the Berlin Conference inaugurated the Scramble for Africa, Black Berliners and their allies marched through the streets of the Kreuzberg neighborhood.

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Water No Get Enemy

Tavia Nyong'o

I’m no native informant. But I gather that the song featured prominently in the Broadway show Fela! means something like “nobody hates something as useful as water.” Make yourself as indispensable as this, goes the implied wisdom, and any detractors you gain will just look silly. An appropriate motto for a musician like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti …

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Justice for Don Belton

Tavia Nyong'o

Don Belton, a professor of English at Indiana University, was tragically killed by an assailant who, many in his local queer community are concerned, may seek to use a variant of the notorious “gay panic” defense. They are also concerned that hateful, racist, and homophobic remarks have been circulating on messaging boards under articles about Don’s murder.

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