Jafari S. Allen

Jafari S. Allen

Research Interest


Jafari Sinclaire Allen is Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies, in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS) at Columbia University, where he is the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), and Editor-in-Chief of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Society, and Culture.

His latest book, There’s a disco ball between us: a theory of Black gay life was published by Duke University Press in 2022. A social-cultural anthropologist and critical ethnographer by doctoral training, Dr. Allen’s work pursues generative connections and disarticulations among anthropology, feminist and queer studies, and Black studies, through a re-signification of the methodologies, theories, politics, and habits of mind of each of these sites. Engaged in ethnographic research in Cuba and the Caribbean since 1998, he has transnational research interests in a number of other sites in the Americas. Recent research has also taken him to East Africa and Western Europe. Professor Allen is also the author of ¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba; editor of Black/Queer/Diaspora; and “The Anthropology of ‘What is Utterly Precious’: Black Feminists, Black Queer Habits of Mind, and the ‘Object’ of Ethnography,” in the forthcoming Unsettling Queer Anthropology: Foundations, Reorientations, and Departures, edited by Margot Weiss. His recent reflections on art can be found in a 2023 conversation with Shamel Pitts at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and a chapter in Lyle Ashton Harris: Ektachrome Archive, published in 2022 by the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), Miami based on his Animating Archives seminar at ICA; where he and Gean Moreno curated the museum’s 2019 semester “The Black Hemisphere” He wrote the new introduction (“Crucial Palimpsest: Re-Reading Brother to Brother”) to Brother to Brother: New Writings By Black Gay Men, originally edited and introduced by Essex Hemphill, and a number of other publications.

Dr. Allen was the Principal Investigator of the Mellon Foundation-supported Miami Initiative on Global Black Studies (2019), which catalyzed the creation of the University of Miami Center for Global Black Studies, which he founded and co-directed (with Dr. Donette Francis). Prior to the founding of the Center for Global Black Studies, Allen was Director of the Program in Africana Studies, Associate Professor of Anthropology, and affiliated faculty in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies at University of Miami. While Africana Studies director, he also briefly chaired University of Miami’s Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. While an Associate Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Yale University, Dr. Allen also taught ‘A Genealogy of Black LGBTQ Politics and Culture’ as a Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology at his alma mater, Morehouse College.

Allen with his co-winners Darren Byler and Maya Mikdashi was awarded the 2023 Gregory Bateson Book Prize from the Society for Cultural Anthropology section for the American Anthropological Association for "There's a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life "The Gregory Bateson Book Prize is awarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA), the largest section of the American Anthropological Association. Named after distinguished anthropologist, semiotician, cyberneticist, and photographer Gregory Bateson, the award reflects the SCA’s mandate to promote theoretically rich, ethnographically grounded research that engages the most current thinking across the arts and sciences. Welcoming a wide range of styles and arguments, the Gregory Bateson Prize looks to single out work that is interdisciplinary, experimental, and innovative.

Educated in New York City Public Schools, he graduated from Springfield Gardens High School in Queens, NY in 1986. An alumnus of Morehouse College (1990) and New York University (1998), he earned a PhD in Social-Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University in 2003.

Related links

Listen to an Interview with Jafari S. Allen on the Busy Being Black Podcast

Listen to an Interview with Jafari S. Allen on the New Books Network African American Studies Podcast

Read a Public Books post by Jafari S. Allen that includes a musical playlist

Public Books Best Books of 2022

“Black/Queer/Diaspora”   2012. A Special Issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies

¡Venceremos?: The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba
2011. Perverse Modernities series. Duke University Press. https://read.dukeupress.edu/books/book/1536/Venceremos-The-Erotics-of-Black-Self-making-in