Tavia Nyong’o is Chair and Professor of Theater & Performance Studies, Professor of American Studies, and Professor of African-American Studies at Yale University. He was previously acting Chair and Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. His current research and teaching interests span black queer cultural and performance studies, contemporary art and aesthetic theory, speculative genres, afrofuturism, and black sound studies. Nyong’o’s first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (2009) won the Errol Hill award for the best book in black theater and performance studies. In it he showed how ‘race mixing’ had been alternately presented as the solution to anti-black racism and a threat to white supremacy in the nineteenth century, arguments sustained by locating ‘amalgamation’ in some distant past or future. Black performance, he argued, with its insistent relationship to the ‘now,’ consistently disrupted those fantasies. His second book, Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (2018) won the Barnard Hewitt award for best book in theater and performance studies. Departing from millennial debates over post-blackness and afro-pessimism, Nyong’o argued that the drama of black life exceeds the social conditions that seek to negate it. Taking up a broad spectrum of performance and performative aesthetics, Afro-Fabulations locates the intersection of blackness and queerness in speculative modes of social life. He is currently embarking on a study of critical negativity in the twenty-first century.
Nyong’o also writes for contemporary art and culture publications such as Artforum, Texte Zur Kunst, Cabinet, n+1, NPR, and the LA Review of Books. In 2019, he curated “Dark as the Door to a Dream” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as part of the Studium Generale Rietveld Academie. In 2017, he curated “The Critical Matter of Performance” at the New Museum for Contemporary Art, with Johanna Burton and Julia Bryant-Wilson.
A long-standing member of the editorial collective of Social Text, Nyong’o has served as both print editor and web editor of the journal for many years. He is also on the editorial boards of TDR: A Journal of Performance Studies, Theatre, and Contemporary Theatre Review. He edits the Sexual Cultures book series at NYU Press with Ann Pellegrini and Joshua Chambers-Letson.
Nyong’o has received fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the American Society for Theatre Research, Ford Foundation, Jacob K. Javits Foundation, and the British Marshall Foundation.