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Justin Wright Anthropology (PhD)

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M.A. Theatre and Performance Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

B.A. Anthropology, Theatre, Transylvania University

Justin D. Wright is a sociocultural anthropologist, performance studies scholar, theater artist, and performance poet. In both their scholarly and artistic pursuits, Justin is concerned with notions of national and cultural memories, transgenerational traumas, Black grief and joy, and Black and Black-queer identity-making. Their work seeks to understand how Black people might craft from that pain, grief, and trauma practices of celebration, beauty, and joy—and from those practices, freedom and liberation.

Wright situates poetry and performance as foundational methodologies in how they go about their research as a Black-queer interdisciplinary scholar. They cite their background as a performance poet and as a theatre practitioner as major influences of their research process and important components in the praxis of what they call “necrographic divination”. In their research and work, Wright attempts to construct freedom dreams in the forms of Black worlding, speculative narration, and (auto)ethnography as a means of engaging in the intimacies of Black sensation, grief, celebration, trauma, play, being-ness, and aliveness. In all of their work, Wright purposefully engages in interdisciplinary explorations among theorists in the fields of Anthropology, Performance Studies, Black Studies, Afrofuturism, Afropessimism, Poetry, Fiction, and Dance to discuss their necrographic divination as a creative poetics and integral method for tending to the intricacies of Black life.

Drawing from a bevy of scholars—including Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, Fred Moten, Christina Sharpe, Aimee Meredith Cox, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Ntozake Shange—Wright explores the entanglements of Black historical traumas with contemporary representations and metaphorizations of Black life. To this end, Wright examines the traumas of social and slow death as they affect identity construction in Black and Black-queer youth.

Wright’s dissertation research project reconstructs the theatrical and activistic methods of Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” model and merges it with anthropological theory, as a means to move beyond sole notions of Black “survival” and craft new models for identity (re)construction and foundational practices of joy and “aliveness” in Black and Black-queer youth.

Wright is currently the Poet-in-Residence at SAPIENS Anthropology Magazine.