Jordache Ellapen

Assistant Professor

Undergraduate Appointment: Women and Gender Studies, Department of Historical Studies 

Graduate Appointment: Women and Gender Studies Institute

Cross-appointments and Affiliations: Bonham Center for Sexual Diversity Studies (St. George) and Department of Visual Studies, UTM

PhD, American Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington (minor in Visual Studies)
MA, Cinema Studies, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
MA, Film Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
BA, Dramatic Art, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

I am an assistant professor of Feminist Studies in Media and Culture in Women and Gender Studies. I am a South African scholar and artist interested in the relationship between politics and aesthetics, particularly the ways in which women and queer artists use the aesthetic realm both as a mode of critique and a site of reimagination. As an interdisciplinary scholar with a PhD in American Studies, I am interested in transnational theories and methods that draw on Black studies, African studies, Diaspora Studies, Gender Studies and Sexuality/Queer Studies to inform my approach to visual culture in South Africa as well as the African diaspora. My work on visual cultures encompasses South African and African cinemas; race, representation and masculinity; black queer performance and aesthetic practices; Indian cultural production in South Africa; Afro-queer-diasporic film and photography; aesthetics, archives and affect; and race, pleasure and pornography. I am interested in how artists mobilize aesthetics to challenge the ways in which the visual regimes of colonial modernity continue to organize the world. My research is invested in thinking through the relationship between aesthetics, visuality and the project of decolonization.

I have co-edited a book titled we remember differentlyRace, Memory, Imagination (UNISA Press, 2012) and a special issue of the journal Black CameraAn International Film Journal titled, “Cinema in Post-apartheid South Africa: New Perspectives” (2018).

Current Research Projects:
I am currently writing a book tentatively titled Against Afronormativity: Afro-Indian Intimacies and the Queer Aesthetics of Sticky Erotics. This book 
traces the ways in which Indian and black women and queer South African artists employ abjection and erotics, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to critique the formation of new normativities of race, class, gender and sexuality after 1994. I map the ways in which women, queer, femme and gender-nonconforming artists and social activists of color mobilize the aesthetic realm as a disruptive strategy against the neoliberal politics of the new nation-state whilst engaging in a critical praxis of imagining otherwise.

This book also traces the shifting nature of blackness in South Africa in order to understand how blackness has shifted from an anti-apartheid understanding of black consciousness to the formation of a new black normative subject. Thus, I trace the ways in which Indian South African artists negotiate their relationships to Indianness, Blackness and Africanness. Through the heuristic of “sticky erotics” I trace counterintuitive forms of Afro-Indian intimacies in a context where the new black normative subject has become the authentic national subject of the nation. Throughout this book, I am interested in how artists turn to aesthetics and form — film, digital photography, family photographs and archives, videoart and needle-lace art, for instance —to refigure the archive of race whilst reimagining and reimaging our sticky pasts, presents and futures. My research eschews disciplinary boundaries in a quest to produce new frameworks and methods to understand the production and intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality in the era of neoliberal capital. 

Apart from my book project, I am also researching and writing about FAKA, a black South African queer, femme and gender nonconforming duo who examine the precarity of black queer life in South Africa and on the continent through their use of performance art and aesthetic practices such as photography, fashion, sound art and video art. I am also currently writing about the affective and haptic nature of family photographs and family archives. I am interested in how queer diasporic artists of color re-figure family archives and family photographs in their aesthetic practices as a way to examine their positionality within normative formations of family, diaspora, community, race and nation.

Family photographs and archives are pivotal to my own practice-based research in which I use film and photography to explore the intersections of history, memory, sexuality, desire and pleasure. My practice incorporates various kinds of visual media like digital photography, family photography, photo albums and other family archival material, through which I examine the intimacies of the everyday. In my current practice, I am interested in 'queering' family narratives and histories by positioning the family archive as a counterintuitive, yet generative, archive in producing knowledge about marginalized subjects and experiences that have been 'forgotten' though normative and hegemonic scripts of nation, community and family. My short film cane/cain (2011) premiered at the Durban International Film Festival and the third i San Francisco South Asian International Film Festival in 2011. My current ongoing project, “Queering the Archive: Brown Bodies in Ecstasy” has been exhibited in Durban (Kwa Zulu Natal Society of the Arts), Johannesburg (The Point of Order, Wits University) and Cape Town (Michaelis Galleries).

Courses Taught:
WGS200         Theories in Women and Gender Studies
WGS336         Political Aesthetics and Feminist Representation

WGS430         Diasporic Sexualities
WGS434         African Queer Studies

WGS1010H    Race, Sex, Pleasure

Select Publications:
Edited Collections: 

  • “Cinema in Post-apartheid South Africa: New Perspectives,” edited by Jordache A. Ellapen and Haseenah Ebrahim. Black Camera: An International Film Journal (Spring 2018) 
  • we remember differently: Race, Memory, Imagination (UNISA Press, 2012) 

Recent publications include: 

·       Siyakaka Feminism: African Anality and the Politics of Deviance in FAKA’s Performance Art Praxis” (forthcoming, Feminist Studies)

·       Movement and the Making of Home: Family Photographs through a Transnational Lens,” in PIXAn Editorial and Display Practice in South Asian Photography (SI, “Personal Paradigms”) (co-authored with Deepali Dewan and Thy Phu): 4-9.

  • “Geographies of the Black African Masculine in Tsotsi and The Wooden Camera” (in Black Camera: An International Film Journal 9:2, 2018); 
  • “Queering the Archive: Brown Bodies in Ecstasy, Visual Assemblages and the Pleasures of Transgressive Erotics” (in Scholar and Feminist Online 14:3, 2018); 
  • When the Moon Waxes Red: Afro-Asian Feminist Intimacies and the Aesthetics of Indenture,” (in Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 21:2, 2017).