Department of Women's and Gender Studies University of Missouri Department of Women's and Gender Studies

Zakiya AdairZakiya Adair

Assistant Professor
education: PhD, University of Washington
phone: 573-884-9693

Dr. Zakiya Adair is an assistant professor of Women's and Gender Studies. She also has a graduate teaching appointment in the Department of History. Dr. Adair attended graduate school at the University of Washington where she earned her PhD in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies in 2010. Her areas of specialization are transnational women's cultural history, African American history and black expressive culture.

Research Interests

Currently Zakiya is working on a book length manuscript that will explore the relationship between race, gender and nation in trans-Atlantic and transnational vaudeville theatre in the early twentieth century. Grounded in historical research methodologies, the project remains interdisciplinary and offers a feminist reading of black women who were vaudeville entertainers and the expressive possibilities of performance.

Adair’s monograph, Negotiating Spectacle: Black Women Vaudeville Performers and Trans-Atlantic Theatre 1915-1940 offers a cultural history of trans-Atlantic black cultural production in the expressive arts during the early twentieth century through a specific investigation of African American women vaudeville performers in the United States, France and England. My study, although firmly grounded in archival historical research, is interdisciplinary in design. I link archival historical research with literary analysis and feminist theory to provide a cultural history and theoretical study of black women performers and the relationship between gender, race and nation in the early twentieth century. As whole, the book provides evidence of African American modernity and African American uses of commodity culture outside of the geographical boundaries of black experience in the United States. Using autobiographies, photographs, personal letters, newspapers, theatre playbills, business contracts, government documents and sheet music that create trans-Atlantic black vaudeville productions from 1915-1940, I map black women’s use of trans-Atlantic vaudeville theatre to expand their social and economic opportunities. I examine three iconic African American women performers and their trans-Atlantic performances to reveal the gender and racial dimensions of trans-Atlantic vaudeville theatre: Florence Mills’ performances in From Dixie to Dover Street and The Black Birds Revue of 1926, Josephine Baker’s 1926 performance of “Danse Sauvage” in La Revue Negre and Adelaide Hall’s 1928 performance of “Diga Diga Doo” in The Blackbirds Revue. Significantly, Baker, Mills and Hall were among a group of African American performers and entertainers who went abroad to search for greater economic and social opportunities post World War I.

Selected Publications

“Respectable Vamp: A Black Feminist Analysis of Florence Mills’ Career in Early Vaudeville Theatre,” Naming and Reclaiming: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Black Girls’ and Women’s Resistance Strategies, Journal of African American Studies, Spring 2013.

Recent Conference Presentations

  • “Promiscuous Expressivity and Modern Possibilities: A Black Feminist Approach to Transnational Black Women Vaudeville Performers 1920-1930” Panelist at Afro-modernisms 2: What’s Really New? Blackness and Atlantic Modernism, 1907-61. University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, July 2011
  • “Transgressive (Re)presentations: Race, Gender, Nation and the Politics of Performance in Interwar Europe” Panelist at Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) University of Paris 7-Diderot, Paris, France, April 2011
  • “Shake a Little Somethin: Transnational (Re)presentations and Spectacles of Performance in Early Twentieth Century Vaudeville” Panelist “Black Art and Internationalism,” American Studies Association, Puerto Rico, November 2012
  • “Transgressive Performance and the Theatrics of Black Women’s Sexuality in Early Trans-Atlantic Theatre” Panelist at The National Women Studies Association, Oakland, CA, November 2012
  • “Transnational Black Women Vaudeville Performers and Racial Uplift in the Early 20th Century” Panelist at 3rd Annual Recovering Black Women’s Voices and Lives, University of Alabama, October 2011
  • “Transformation and Institutionalization: Women’s and Gender Studies and the Ivory Tower” Panel Organizer and Presenter at The National Women’s Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, November 2011

Selected Awards, Grants and Fellowships

  • Schomburg Scholars in Residence Fellowship (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities NEH and the Andrew Mellon Foundation)
  • University of Missouri Summer Research Fellowship
  • University of Missouri Research Council Large Grant
  • National Women’s Studies Association Travel Grant

Courses Taught

  • Social Perspectives on Women, Race and Class
  • Gender, Race, Sexuality and Class in Mass Media
  • Transnational Approaches to the Modern Woman
  • Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Theatre: 1890-1940 (Fall 2012) *graduate level



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