Jessica Birch

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless
means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." - Paulo Freire


My current research project, engages in an analysis of the literary vampire in popular fiction, arguing that the increasing popularity of the "sympathetic" vampire is indicative of an ideological cultural shift toward acceptance and promotion of neoliberal individualistic discourse. The less jargon-laden version of that is that I'm arguing that presenting vampires as objects of romantic interest means we're going from fearing exploitation to seeing ourselves as potential exploiters. If you'd like, you could take a look at the abbreviated version of my prospectus, since this project is based on my dissertation.


My research interests include theory and cultural studies, composition and new literacy studies, critical race theory, critical media studies and popular culture, gender studies, social justice, contemporary popular literature, "American literature" past and present, critical feminist pedagogy, minority rhetorics, speculative fiction, and comparative mythology. This is not an exhaustive list. It might be easier to tell you what I am not interested in: Academic theory that does not and does not seek to analyze real-world phenomena or that does not strive for real-world social change.


What that means is that I believe that academic theory should translate and transfer into transformative action toward social justice. I see race, gender, and ethnicity as socially constructed and co-constitutive axes of identity that intersect with each other and with other axes of identity--including class, sexuality, religion, and ability--to form interlocking matrices of privilege and oppression. This system of inequality is supported by cultural narratives that further hegemonic domination. Education is always already political, and it often both reinforces and contests those hegemonic ideals. As someone privileged to be an instructor, I actively attempt to contest them by helping my students become better able to critically examine the society in which they live.


Theorists whose work has made me have the kind of moment that my grandmother would have called "an Amen moment," the kind of moment that makes me stop reading for a moment to holler "Preach it," the kind of moment that makes me remember that this is never a solitary battle:

bell hooks. James Paul Gee. Patricia Hill Collins. Andrea Smith. Gloria Anzaldúa. Paulo Freire. Anita Allen. Louis Althusser. Judith Butler. Kimberle Crenshaw. Philip Deloria. Joan Tronto. Linda Alcoff. Lani Guinier. Sandra Lee Bartky. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. Michel Foucault. Marilyn Frye. Stuart Hall. Ruth Lister. Angela McRobbie. Peggy McIntosh. T.H. Marshall. Margaret McLaren. Antonio Gramsci. Angela McRobbie. Cheryl Harris. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Fernando J. Garcia Selgas. Toni Morrison. Audre Lorde. Michael Warner. Iris Marion Young. Stephanie Wildman. Gloria Anzaldúa. Angela Davis.


Want to tell me who your inspirations are?


A non-exhaustive list of my recent and upcoming publications:

  • “The Appropriation of the Gothic in Charlaine Harris’ Dead Until Dark.” Gothic and Racism. Ed. Cristina Artenie. Montreal: Universitas Press, 2015.
  • “Love, Labor, and Lorde: The Tools My Grandmother Gave Me.” Introductory Women’s and Gender Studies Reader. Ed. L. Ayu Saraswati, Barbara Shaw, and Heather Rellihan (forthcoming)
  • “From Vampires to Zombies: The Revisionist Recreation of I Am Legend.” The Supernatural Re-vamped: From Timeworn Legends to 21st Century Chic. Ed. Barbara Brodman and James E. Doan. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (forthcoming)
  • Co-Authored with Maria I. Velazquez and Tamyka Morant. “Critically Engaged Praxis: Tools to Create Transformative Dialogue.” Black Women’s Pedagogies. Ed. Olivia Perlow, Sharon Bethea, and Durene Wheeler. New York: Palgrave MacMillan (forthcoming)
  • “Exploitation by Invitation.” Race and the Vampire Narrative: Darker than Night. Ed. U. Melissa Anyiwo. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers (forthcoming)
  • “Gender as Institution.” The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies. Ed. John Michael Ryan. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
  • “Review.” Rev. of Debt to Society: Accounting for Life Under Capitalism, by Miranda Joseph. American Studies Journal 54.2 (forthcoming)
  • “Review.” Rev. of The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World: Southern Civil Rights and Antico-lonialism, 1937-1955, by Lindsey R. Swindall. Journal for the Study of Radicalism (forthcoming)