Z'étoile Imma


Assistant Professor of English

Specialties: Contemporary African and African Diaspora Literature and Film; Postcolonial Theory; Feminist, Gender, and Sexualities Studies; Globalization, Space, and Race

Degrees: BA Brooklyn College CUNY; PhD University of Virginia

Z’étoile Imma's work studies gender and sexuality in contemporary Anglophone African literature, visual culture, performance, and new media. Through her teaching and research, Dr. Imma seeks to contribute to African gender analysis, Black feminisms, postcolonial queer studies, and the larger project of decolonizing knowledge production. Due to her commitment to exploring transdisciplinary spatial epistemologies, with the support of the Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship, Mellon Mays Fellowship, and numerous travel grants, she has engaged in literary-critical fieldwork in Ghana, Benin, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, The Gambia, and Eritrea. Dr. Imma is concurrent faculty in the Gender Studies program at the University of Notre Dame and has served as visiting lecturer of English at the University of Witwatersrand. Her major work in progress, Our Queer Mandela: Simon Nkoli, the Archive, and the Making of an African Queer Icon, analyzes a diverse set of visual and discursive texts which archive the life and times South African anti-apartheid, gay and lesbian rights, and AIDS activist Simon Nkoli. Imma is currently developing her second project, Love Stories from Africa, in which she considers how representations of love and urban desire in emergent African literary and visual texts interrupt long-standing local and global discourses on African bodies, spaces, sexualities, and gender, as well as, challenge increasingly pervasive homonationalist ideologies. She has published and forthcoming essays in Representation and Black Womanhood: The Legacy of Sarah Baartman (Palgrave), Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Africa (Carolina Academic Press), Research in African Literatures, and Journal of Lesbian Studies. Alongside her scholarly work, Imma, a Cave Canem affiliate, continues to write creatively and has published poems in African Voices, ShadowBox, and The Brooklyn Review.

Recent Publications:

  • “Rewriting the SLTRC: Masculinities, the Arts of Forgetting, and Intimate Space in Delia Jarrett-Macauley’s Moses, Citizen, and Me and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love.” Research in African Literatures, Forthcoming, Winter 2016, Vol. 47, No. 4
  • (Re)Visualizing Black Lesbian Lives, (Trans)Masculinity, and Township Space the Documentary Work of Zanele Muholi,” Journal of Lesbian Studies Special Issue on Female Same-Sex Sexualities in Africa, Fall 2016, Vol. 20, No. 4
  • Emerging from the Shadows of History: An Interview with Maaza Mengiste,” World Literature Today, March 2014
  • “I am the Rape”: Exile, Sexual Violence, and the Body in the Poems of Dambudzo Marechera” In Women, Gender, and Sexualities in Africa. Edited by Toyin Falola and Nana Amponsah, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, (2013): 39-51.
  • “Helen Oyeyemi” and “Joyce Sikakane” In Dictionary of African Biography. Edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Emmanuel Akyeampong. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • “‘Just Ask the Scientists’: Troubling the ‘Venus Hottentot’ and Scientific Racism in Bessie Head's Maru and Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy” In Representation and Black Womanhood: The Legacy of Sarah Baartman. Edited by Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, (2011): 137-147.
  • "Under Western Eyes: The Gaze and the African Woman Body in Ousmane Sembéne’s MoolaadéVisions: An Academic Journal of the English Department of Medgar Evers College, CUNY, Issue 1, Vol 1, (2009): 40-50.

Recent Awards:

  • Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship 2015-2016
  • Moreau Postdoctoral Fellowship for Faculty Diversity at the University of Notre Dame 2012-13
  • Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Women and Gender Studies at Rutgers University 2012-2014 (declined)
  • Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Virginia 2010-2012


Contact Information:
202 Decio Faculty Hall
(574) 631-9035

Mailing Address:
Department of English
356 O’Shaughnessy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556