Sophia Azeb

Sophia Azeb
Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in English
  • Department of English
Walker 411

My research and teaching engage how blackness and Black identity is variously translated, mobilized, and circulated by African American, African, and Afro-Arab cultural figures in North Africa and Europe during the twentieth century. I am particularly interested in how conflicting articulations and translations of blackness and Black identity from across the Atlantic, Sahara, and Mediterranean are debated in Anglophone, Francophone, and Arabophone cultural spheres – primarily literature, music, and African cultural festivals - before and during the Cold War and Non-Aligned era.

In my current book project, Another Country: Constellations of Blackness in Afro-Arab Cultural Expression, I read canonical texts on blackness, pan-African, and pan-Arab identity by such figures as Claude McKay, Youssef el-Sebai, Frantz Fanon, and Shirley and David Graham Du Bois alongside heretofore untranslated cultural archives that reveal the extent to which the concepts of Arabness and Blackness have long been entangled in the cultural and political constellations of the African diaspora.

Another Country takes up questions of blackness in the Afro-Arab world alongside Arab belonging to and estrangement from differing conceptions of the African diaspora. Do Arab North Africans have a claim to Black identity or a part in the politics and culture that characterize what scholars have termed the Black transnational? How did Black diasporic writers, musicians, and artists from the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa living in North Africa and among North African communities in Europe reconcile their experience of North Africa as a symbol of anti-colonial resistance and a home to Black antiquity with the legacy of the trans-Saharan slave trade and enduring racism in the Arabic-speaking world?

To think through such tensions, I excavate an alternative, additional genealogy of Black transnational culture and politics to explore how the creative figures at the heart of my project’s archive imagined translational, variable, and contested blacknesses in the midst of a broader global push for solidarity amongst pan-Africanist, Third Worldist, and Non-Aligned national movements and peoples throughout the twentieth century.

I have also devoted a number of years to the study of an African literary magazine entitled Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings, and I am writing on the Cairene literary establishment’s relationship – or lack thereof - to the development of an “African” literature in the mid-twentieth century. My interest in interrogating the place of Arabic-speaking Africans in broader conceptualizations of the African diaspora and Black transnational politics and cultures extends to the world of sport, and particularly how football has historically instigated unique trans-Saharan and pan-African political collaborations. These include the joint Sudanese and Egyptian boycott of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 1958 and the subsequent thirty-one nation African boycott of the 1966 World Cup, both in protest of overtly colonialist FIFA policies and practices. I have written on both topics for the Chimurenga Chronic, and continue to develop this research for my next project.


2018-2019 Courses:
Graduate: Winter 2019, The Afro-Arab World


Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2016 . Teaching at Chicago since 2018.