Sophia Azeb, assistant professor in English Language and Literature, works at the intersection of Black studies, American studies, and Middle East studies. She received her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California and was previously a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at New York University. Her current book project, “Another Country: Constellations of Blackness in Afro-Arab Cultural Expression,”examines transnational and translational Black literature, narrative, festival, and music to reveal how varying conceptions of Blackness and Black racial, cultural, and political identity are imagined, articulated, and mobilized from their origins in the often tense encounters between Black writers, musicians, activists, and intellectuals from the Americas, Africa, and Europe, and Arabic- or French-speaking North Africans in Egypt, Algeria, and France.

Drawing from canonical literary and narrative writings and adjacent forms of cultural expression by figures including Claude McKay, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, and Ali Hassan Kuban, “Another Country” traces the North African presence in Black transnational political and cultural work informed by Non-Alignment, pan-Africanism, pan-Arabism, and Third Worldism. Azeb identifies, explores, and reimagines the mutual mistranslations that emerged within these social, cultural, and political moments of relation through the framework of the “Afro-Arab”: a racial identity, diasporic community, transnational space, and political project articulated through the overlapping cultural practices made possible through the encounters of Black and Arab peoples, cultures, and languages. Azeb’s theorization of these cultural and political histories aims to develop an expansive genealogy of North Africa’s contentious mode of belonging to the African diaspora.

Azeb’s writing on sport and politics, and African, African diasporic, and Afro-Arab arts, politics, and cultures, has appeared in the Chimurenga Chronic and on the media blog Africa Is a Country. She is a regular contributor to the Funambulist magazine. Her latest publication is “Crossing the Saharan Boundary: Lotus and the Legibility of Africanness” (Research in African Literatures, Fall 2019).

Natalia Bermúdez, assistant professor in Linguistics, has worked extensively to describe and document Indigenous languages in Latin America, primarily Chibchan languages, especially Naso (Panamá). Her current research focuses on verbal art (linguistic forms that are interpreted as salient, e.g., ideophones, puns, poetic couplets) through humanistic, grammatical, and social perspectives.

She is examining how Indigenous people resist depictions of themselves and practice self-determination using verbal art. She is also interested in the multilingual expressions and experiences of Latinx and queer identities. Bermúdez received her PhD and MA in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation focused on verbal art among the Naso (Teribe) people, an Indigenous people of Panamá and Costa Rica. She was also the principal investigator for, and editor of, the Naso Cultural Encyclopedia, a multivolume study undertaken as a collaboration between scholars and the Naso people.

Her recent paper in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, “Ideophone Humor: The Enregisterment of a Stereotype and Its Inversion” (2020), discusses how Naso women mock the stereotype of the Naso rube character for social and political commentary.

Sarah Johnson, assistant professor in English Language and Literature, studies seventeenth-through nineteenth-century archives of slavery and marronage in the United States and Caribbean. She researches how resistance practices and flight from enslavement by Black and Native individuals in the Caribbean and North America shaped textual and visual production in the colonial period. She teaches transnational literary histories of slave and maroon narratives, courses on archival theory and method, as well as the constructions of gender, race, and forms of bondage before 1850, and courses on archival theory and method. Her work on marronage includes Anglophone and Francophone texts concerning resistance and revolution, archives of slavery, transatlantic flight and fugitivity, and translation.

Johnson’s current project is provisionally titled “Forms of Escape: Eighteenth-Century Narratives of Maroons and Marronage.” She has published a translation of “Bras Coupé,” a Francophone short story from Louisiana; a chapter on translation in Caribbean Literature in Transition, volume 1, 1800–1920 (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming); and recent articles in the interdisciplinary journals Portable Gray and Call + Response. She also collaborated on the project Room with artist Marisa Williamson at Cleveland’s SPACES gallery (May–July 2019).

Johnson holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. She received a BA from Harvard in history and literature with a minor in French language and literature and also studied at SciencesPo and UniversitéParis 8.

Sharese King, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in Linguistics, is a sociolinguist investigating language variation and change. She was awarded the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and obtained her MA and PhD in linguistics from Stanford University. Prior to attending Stanford, she received her BA from the University of Rochester, where she majored in linguistics and minored in American Sign Language.

King’s research examines the relationship between race, place, and language, studying cross-regional variation in African Americans’ identity and speech. She asks, “How are African Americans using linguistic resources to construct multidimensional identities, and how do linguistic styles come to be racialized as Black?” In exploring racialized language, her research also aims to address the social and political consequences of this racialization in the courtroom and beyond.

She has researched African Americans’ speech in Bakersfield, California, and Rochester, New York, and she plans to expand this work to Chicago through the Chicagoland Language Project. Her work has been published in the field’s flagship journal Language, as well as, most recently, in the Annual Review of Linguistics. She also recently coauthored a piece with UChicago deputy dean and psychology professor Katherine D. Kinzler in the Los Angeles Times. She has been featured on outlets including The Vocal Fries podcast and Outside the Lines with Rap Genius, discussing topics such as linguistic discrimination, rappers’ linguistic styles, and the history of the word lit.

Thomas Lamarre, AM’87, PhD’92, professor of Cinema and Media Studies and East Asian Languages and Civilizations, earned his UChicago degrees in East Asian Languages and Civilizations after receiving a doctorate in oceanology from Université d’Aix Marseille II. He was previously a professor at McGill University.

Lamarre studies the history of media, an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary pursuit overlapping with art history, communications, the history of science and technology, and the study of culture. His research focuses on building bridges between what are today loosely called “old materialisms”and the “new materialisms.” Old materialisms—associated with engineering, feasibility studies, communications and technology studies, and Marxism—entailed empirical studies of infrastructures, communication networks, and technologies. In contrast, new materialisms mobilize ontological approaches that stress the experience and use of media.

In addition to monographs focused on specific sociohistorical contexts, he has sustained a strong profile in media theory and philosophy, publishing substantial theoretical essays and introducing the work of important philosophers and media theorists, both French and Japanese. His major publications include Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription (Duke University Press, 2000), a study of the formation of media networks that connected the Heian court of Japan (AD 794–1183) to other quasi-dynastic political communities across Korea and China, and Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō on Cinema and “Oriental” Aesthetics (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, 2005), which explores the relation between the emergence of global cinema and the “racial solution” of imperial nationalism.

More recently, he has published two books on anime: The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), which shows how technologies of anime production spurred the formation of distinctive lineages of technological thought in Japan of the 1980s and ’90s, and The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), which builds across domains of inquiry that have been held apart—infrastructures and platforms, social practices, psychological complexes—to offer a new set of conceptual terms for the study of new media and social media.

Khalid Lyamlahy, assistant professor in Romance Languages and Literatures, holds a PhD in French and Francophone studies from the University of Oxford (St Anne’s College). Lyamlahy’s research interests include contemporary fiction and poetry in French, literary theory, and translation. His work focuses on North African Francophone literature in relation to political, social, and cultural debates in the region and beyond.

His current research explores questions of identity and alterity in post-2011 fiction from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Lyamlahy wrote the preface to Abdellatif Laâbi’s complete poetic work and recently coedited a collective volume on Moroccan thinker and writer Abdelkebir Khatibi (Liverpool University Press, 2020). He is now working on a new book project on Moroccan poet Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine. Besides his academic work, Lyamlahy has published a novel, Un Roman Étranger  (Présence Africaine, 2017), and is a regular contributor to literary magazines in France and the United States.

He received a master’s degree in comparative literature from l’Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3. He also holds a master’s degree in engineering from the École des Mines d’Alès and has previously worked as a consultant and project manager in Paris and London.

Kaneesha Cherelle Parsard, assistant professor in English Language and Literature, is a cultural critic whose research concerns the legacies of slavery and emancipation in the Caribbean and broader Americas. She examines how these events shape Caribbean literary and visual works, with an emphasis on how gender and sexuality structure race, labor, and capital.

Parsard’s book project, “An Illicit Wage: Economies of Sex and the Family after West Indian Emancipation,” explores informal economies in the century after British West Indian emancipation and the start of West Indian indenture. Colonial administrators and observers hoped that wage relations would train Black West Indians not only to be responsible for their affairs but also to form nuclear families. Her book examines the reverse of this fantasy. Through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Parsard traces informal relations of wage earning and the concomitant development of a literary and visual repertoire of figures by which West Indians and Britons registered and thought about these relations. She looks to indentured women who stored their wages in gold and silver bangles and to kept women who exchanged sex and companionship for resources.

Her scholarship appears in American Quarterly, Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought, and Small Axe. Most recently, Parsard contributed an essay to the Small Axe exhibition catalog, The Visual Life of Social Affliction, about which she spoke at its opening at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019.

Before coming to UChicago, Parsard was the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Race Studies at Northwestern University’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. She holds a PhD in American studies and African American studies, with a certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, from Yale University.

Julia Phillips, assistant professor in Visual Arts, primarily works with ceramics and metal, creating pieces reminiscent of functional objects. Her sculptures often incorporate body casts alongside mechanical accoutrements, interrogating physical relations as metaphors for social dynamics. Her exhibitions include Fake Truth at Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2019); the group exhibition Performing Society: The Violence of Gender at Tai Kwun, Hong Kong; Feminist Histories: Artists after 2000 at Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil; Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2020); and Failure Detection at MoMA PS1 (2018).

She received her MFA from Columbia University and completed the Whitney Museum of American Art’s independent study program for studio art. In addition to a semester at Universidad Complutense de Madrid, she has attended international residency programs, such as Vila Sul in Salvador, Brazil.

Tina Post is an assistant professor in English Language and Literature, a faculty member of the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, and an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. She joined UChicago in 2018 as a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow after completing a joint PhD in African American studies and American studies at Yale University. She also holds an MFA in creative writing and literary arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a BA in English literature from Wells College.

As a scholar of racial performativity, Post studies the ways that embodiment can forward or subvert identitarian belonging or dis-belonging. Her scholarship draws from literature, visual culture, fine art, theater, and movement.

Post’s current book project, “Deadpan,” examines performances of inexpression and affective withholding in Black arts and culture, arguing that purposeful withholding is an underappreciated critical tool in Black cultural production. Her creative writing is similarly preoccupied with the effects of formal/performative decisions in communicating—or in failing to communicate—one’s position, identity, or view. She is particularly interested in nonfiction writers’ experimentation with nontraditional essay structure.

Erik Zyman, assistant professor in Linguistics, is a theoretical syntactician. He elucidates the rules and principles governing how words (and smaller linguistic units) can and cannot be combined to form larger syntactic units, how these rules and principles do and do not vary across languages, and what their cognitive (and other) underpinnings are. A priority of Zyman’s research is identifying, as precisely as possible, the fundamental operations that build the syntactic structures of human language and determining why they have the properties they do.

Zyman’s work has been published in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, in Glossa, and elsewhere. He is currently developing a new argument that failing to obey a grammatical requirement imposed by a particular word—which would normally result in an ungrammatical sentence—can actually yield a well-formed output if a larger phrase containing that word subsequently undergoes a syntactically triggered process of ellipsis (deletion).

For his next research project, Zyman will be developing a novel definition of the fundamental syntactic operation Merge (which takes two words or phrases and combines them to form a larger phrase)—one that preserves the theoretical and empirical successes of previous definitions of Merge while overcoming some of their drawbacks. Zyman earned his PhD in linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz; his undergraduate degree, also in linguistics, is from Princeton University.

Photo Creds: 
Photograph courtesy Julia Phillips