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Kiana Murphy




2021 Ph.D. Graduate
Dissertation Advisor(s): Dagmawi Woubshet, Salamishah Tillet
"Speculative Black Girl Ethics: Reading Practices, Visual Culture, and The Urgency of the Present"

Assistant Professor of American Studies, Brown University

Kiana is a scholar-artist whose work lies at the intersection of Black Studies, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Black Girlhood Studies, Archive Studies, and Visual Culture. Her dissertation is entitled ”Speculative Black Girl Ethics: Reading Practices, Visual Culture, and the Urgency of the Present,” which explores how 20th and 21st century Black women writers and artists, such as Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Jaqueline Woodson, Gloria Naylor, Deborah Roberts, and Eve L. Ewing, speculatively re-narrate girlhood. This interdiciplinary project examines various mediums such as novels, film, music, poetry, comics, and graphic novels, to illustrate the ways Black girls generate new ethical ways of reading cultural forms, and also complicate our understandings of care, relation, resistance, intimacy, friendship, and Black futures. Building on recent work in law, education, and social sciences that examines how Black girls are criminalized in school settings, this project focuses on the practices, dreams, and aspirations of Black girls that are misread as delinquent, and yet paradoxically makes room for alternative modes of Black survival. In these texts, Black women artists illustrate how centering the Black girl is key to imagining and creating intersectionally capacious Black worlds.


Her creative work, including short fiction and poetry, examines the effects of gentrification in Washington, D.C. on Black children’s imaginations and intergenerational healing between Black women. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Black Scholar, American Studies Quarterly, University of Mississippi Press, and elsewhere. She is currently working on two scholarly manuscripts: one focused on Black girls and visual culture and another on Black women's archives.


For three years, Kiana served as the co-organizer of the Black Cultural Studies collective, a Black studies working and reading group based in Philadelphia, and co-founded the SPEC country working group, a working group inspired by the recent show Lovecraft Country that hosts virtual screenings and discussion around speculative film and television. She also worked as an assistant curator for the Joanna Banks Collection and Exhibit in February 2020 at UPenn’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, which included Black women’s fiction and poetry, periodicals, cookbooks, and children’s books.


She is a proud scholar of the Posse Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Foundation, and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars programs.


Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania (August 2021)

M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania (2016)

B.A., English and Sociology, The University of Wisconsin-Madison (2015)

Articles and Book Chapters

Courses Taught

spring 2019

spring 2017