SA Smythe


Assistant Professor, Department of African American Studies

SA Smythe is a poet, translator, and transdisciplinary scholar whose research is focused on Black Italian, migrant, and postcolonial literature and other cultural responses to colonialism, racial capitalism, and other relational aspects of dispossession and inequality stemming from citizenship, borders, and belonging in the wake of self-initiated “crises” of migration across Europe (in particular, Italy), East Africa, and the Mediterranean. 

Smythe is currently working on several projects. The first is a monograph provisionally titled Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. The second is a collection of poetry, titled proclivity, which focuses on trans embodiment, emancipation, and their familial history of Black migration (between Jamaica, Britain, and Costa Rica). 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 the editor of Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity, a special issue of Postmodern Culture that is forthcoming in 2020. They are also on the research and translation team for the organization Saving Humans, which oversees the Mediterranea boat monitoring and rescue operation dedicated to the safety and relief of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the Mediterranean Sea.

Smythe earned a PhD in History of Consciousness from UC Santa Cruz, with designated emphases in Feminist Studies and Literature. They were formerly UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality Studies at UC Irvine; 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 (UK), and a Visiting Fellow in the Centers for Cultural Memory (CCM) and Contemporary Women’s Writing (CCWW) at the Institute of Modern Language Research at the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies. Smythe is a founder and organizing member of the Queer Studies Caucus of the American Association for Italian Studies and former publishing editor of THEM: Trans Literary Journal. They have performed and organized with Black QTIPOC and abolitionist writing collectives in London, New York, Bologna, Berlin and recently in Los Angeles.

PhD, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz

In addition to ongoing writing projects, Dr. Smythe’s work has appeared in several academic venues including Middle East Report, Italian Studies, National Political Science Review, Critical Ethnic Studies Journal, Postcolonial Studies, gender/sexuality/italy, and elsewhere, including several forthcoming chapters in edited volumes. Their public, poetic, and editorial engagement has been featured in The Feminist Wire, okayafrica, contemporary, Johannesburg Salon, Critical Contemporary Journal, and elsewhere. Their personal website is

  • UCHRI 2019-20 Conference Grant, “On the Matter of Blackness in Europe”
  • UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship (Gender & Sexuality Studies/Anthropology at UCI),  2017-19
  • UCHRI Research Residency, “Queer of Color Formations in Europe,” 2017 (Winter) 
  • Black Studies Academic Fellow, UC Santa Barbara, 2016-17
  • Consortium for Black Studies in California Research Grant, 2016-17
  • UCHRI Multi-Campus Graduate Research Grant, “Black Studies: Vocab & Genealogies,”  2016-17   
  • British Arts & Humanities Research Council Network Grant (w/ Charlotte Ross (PI) & Julia Heim), 2016-18 (£60,000)
  • UC President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2015-16