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School of Cinematic Arts Directory Profile

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Kara Keeling

Director of Graduate Studies and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies
Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Research areas: Afrofuturisms and Radical Imaginations, Black and Queer Cultural Politics, Sound and Music Studies, Digital Media

Affiliated Divisions:

Division of Cinema & Media Studies


Kara Keeling's research has focused on African American film, representations of race, sexuality, and gender in cinema, critical theory, and cultural studies. Keeling’s most recent monograph, Queer Times, Black Futures, was published in 2019 by New York University Press. It considers the promises and pitfalls of imagination, technology, futurity, and liberation as they have persisted in and through racial capitalism by exploring how the speculative fictions of cinema, music, and literature that center black existence provide scenarios wherein we might imagine alternative worlds, queer and otherwise. Keeling’s first book, The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007), explores the role of cinematic images in the construction and maintenance of hegemonic conceptions of the world and interrogates the complex relationships between cinematic visibility, minority politics, and the labor required to create and maintain alternative organizations of social life. Keeling is co-editor (with Josh Kun) of Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies, a collection of writings about sound and American Studies and (with Colin MacCabe and Cornel West) of a selection of writings by the late James A. Snead entitled European Pedigrees/ African Contagions: Racist Traces and Other Writing. Keeling’s essays have appeared in the journals GLQ, The Black Scholar, Women and Performance, and elsewhere.

Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Chicago, Keeling worked at the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Keeling is past editor of the Moving Image Review section of Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (GLQ) and currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals Cultural Studies, Feminist Media Studies, and is part of the editorial collective of boundary2.


Racist Traces and Other Writings: European Pedigrees/African Contagions (co- editor, Palgrave-MacMillan, 2003)

The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007)

Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies (co-editor, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012)

Queer Times, Black Futures (New York University Press, 2019)