This fall, we were thrilled to have Dr. Daniel Coleman join the faculty of the Institute for Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies as an Assistant Professor.
This semester, he is teaching Black Feminist Thought, and in Spring 2023 he will teach Intro to WGSS and New Directions in Feminism: Trans Study and the Question of the Human.
In this interview, we talk with Dr. Coleman about his research interests and his experiences in the WGSS Institute this semester.
Introduction: Where did you go to school? What are your areas of specialization?
My name is Daniel Coleman (he/they) and I am an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and an Affiliate Faculty Member in Africana Studies. I received my Ph.D. in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Performance and Cultural Studies from UNC Chapel Hill. My work is interested in subjectivity formation as political subjects for Black and brown cisgender women and trans folks in the U.S. South and the Mexican South. I also focus on decolonizing practices; particularly how social movement work and artistic forms of rebellion and resistance shape many worlds. I’m also very invested in activist-scholarship or scholarly work that challenges epistemic norms. For instance, I am invested in the role of Afro-diasporic and Native/Indigenous cosmologies and spiritualities in shaping knowledge production about people and worlds.
What drew you to WGSS?
I have found a scholarly home in WGSS because of the interdisciplinary nature of my work. I also appreciate how much WGSS values embodied and materially based knowledge construction and an ethos that understands social movement work as intellectual work. I also do not take for granted that my existence as a queer and trans Black person is one that would not be as welcomed in other disciplines as it is in WGSS. I have found that it is a discipline that can hold all of me, without having to compromise in the classroom or in my scholarship.
Why did you pursue teaching at GSU and in the department of WGSS? What were you doing before you joined the department?
Prior to joining the department, I was an Assistant Professor of WGSS at UNC Greensboro. I left Greensboro and the institution because I needed to be in a geographical location that supported my full self. The center of my Black community in the U.S. is in Georgia (and within a one-hour radius of Atlanta). I needed and desired to be with my chosen family members and in a Blacker city and university to fully thrive. The blackness of the student population was also a primary draw to coming to GSU. Also, the intellectual history of the department and the scholars that preceded me here also made me excited to stand in a lineage of scholars doing work that has been central to my own development as a scholar.
What have you enjoyed the most about your first semester? What has surprised you?
What I have enjoyed most about my first semester is how much time I have had to think and re-engage with myself as a writer. Georgia State has given me room to breathe and to remember the joy and freedom that I find in writing. It is a discipline and a challenge to write academically, and we really need as much spaciousness as possible to do it well. I have been given that spaciousness and my work is that much better for it.
What has been challenging?
What has been most challenging is constantly revising my understanding of trauma-informed pedagogy.
What are your favorite classes and lessons to teach to students? What do you see students get most excited about?
So far, I have only taught Black Feminist Thought and my students in that class have set the bar very high for the classes that will follow. I have heard from several of my students this semester about how special and necessary it has been for them to be in a classroom space where blackness and the Black experience are centered. We really got to create a beautiful community for learning and talking about the tremendous richness and diversity of blackness and the challenges that arise intracommunally.
What’s something memorable that has happened in a class?
There have just been so many mic drops this semester by really brilliant students. It would be hard to single out any one moment. As a sentiment, I have really loved getting to steward Black joy in my students and for the non-Black students, they have also participated in the space with such brilliance and generosity.
Why would you encourage someone to major in WGSS?
To me, majoring in WGSS is an opportunity to break away from a careerist and neoliberal approach to life in favor of who you want to be in the world as a holistic approach to living and learning that can only greatly benefit who you will be as a worker and as a person. There is a concerned and increasingly aggressive attempt to destroy the purpose of education as one that addresses the whole person and creates critical thinkers who will also transform themselves from the inside, out. WGSS is an opportunity to learn and unlearn, exist and re-exist, become and un/become in ways that will serve every area of your life for the rest of your life.
Where do you see WGSS outside the job? (media, daily life, etc)
WGSS is everywhere. Where I think it is important to signal the presence of WGSS today is in the media. We are simultaneously experiencing the broadest representation of queer people and women in the mainstream yet. However, this is being met with reactionary backlashes meant to squash or at least quell this proliferation of representation of what already is. WGSS is one of the key disciplines for understanding the “culture wars” at present. I am particularly interested in how WGSS as a discipline can help us to challenge the colonial and imperial impulse towards a monoculture – something that is the very antithesis of human life.
What are your goals and plans for the future?
My first book will be published at some point in late 2023/early 2024. It represents the culmination of the last decade of my life. It will be a major milestone that I’m very proud of. I have every intention of meeting my academic promotion requirements to associate and full professor over the next several years. But bigger than this, I am excited for my creative and scholarly work to really get out in the world and for people to be able to see themselves in it and find use value in it and to get to cite and mobilize it for their needs as well.
Tell us about what you’re teaching in the spring.
In the spring, I’m teaching a trans studies course as part of our New Directions in Feminism graduate seminar. The course is titled “Trans Study and the Question of the Human.” I am also teaching an honors section of Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
What other interests and hobbies do you have outside of work?
Since I have spent my first chunk of time at GSU dressed in white from head to toe, it is worth sharing that a lot of my life outside of work is devoted to my spiritual practice and community. I am a recently ordained priest of Obatala in the Lukumí religion. We spend the first year and seven days of our initiation process in white to transition into our life as vessels for the divine energy of our tutelary Orisha. My practice requires a lot of service to my community and great responsibility. It is a hefty time and energy investment; one that brings me a tremendous amount of fulfillment. Aside from this, I am a dancer and love every opportunity I get to express myself in this way. I also really enjoy cooking and learning new dishes, loving up on my sweet early-senior pups, and spending time with my partner and in beloved community. Always, I am committed to a life that gets me and my people more free every day.