Award-Winning Author, Filmmaker, and Scholar Joins AAAS Department

A scholar, cultural critic, and award-winning author and documentary filmmaker, Trimiko Melancon joined MSU’s Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS) on September 13, 2021, as a Full Professor with tenure.  

She brings with her an expertise in critical race, gender, Black feminist and sexualities studies; African American and American literary and cultural studies; African American and Black German studies; and race, media, popular culture as well as digital, film, and cultural production. 

Professor Trimiko Melancon

“My wide-ranging, expansive work aligns, not in theoretical or abstract but in concrete ways, with Michigan State University’s ‘values-enacted’ ideas and particularly MSU’s Cultivating Pathways of Intellectual Leadership model, which prioritizes, underscores, and advances ‘creat[ing] a working environment in which faculty, students, and staff are empowered to do the work that is most meaningful to them,’” Melancon said. “And that MSU not only recruits and retains ‘the most innovative and engaged faculty’ but, equally consequential, ‘establishes a culture of equity…under which the most sophisticated and highest quality research and pedagogy can flourish’ is incredibly appealing, as it also allows me to bring the totality of who I am and what I do — as a professor and filmmaker, writer and scholar, creative and intellectual activist — to my work, my students, the university, and beyond.”

In her new position at MSU, Melancon will play a key role in collaboratively building the new AAAS Department by helping with the implementation of strategic plans, creating and implementing operating policies and procedures, contributing to and augmenting the curriculum by creating a queue of innovative courses in her areas of expertise, and sustaining humanities research agendas and excellence in outreach to foster and produce knowledge in the field and local communities to further realize Michigan State University’s mission. 

I am thrilled to join the ranks and play a vital role in dreaming, institutionalizing, and building an African American and African Studies department that, at its very core, situates and amplifies Black feminisms, race, gender, and sexualities studies as integral and constitutive.

“I am thrilled to join the ranks and play a vital role in dreaming, institutionalizing, and building an African American and African Studies department that, at its very core, situates and amplifies Black feminisms, race, gender, and sexualities studies as integral and constitutive — not as disparate or ancillary — to Black Studies as an intellectual enterprise committed to research, pedagogy, social justice, and the public good,” Melancon said. “I applaud Michigan State on the new build and am equally thrilled to have as my new intellectual home MSU whose very mission of cultivating and equipping its students to create, grow, and solve society’s complex challenges while making a positive difference intersects and is in tandem with my own commitments and expansive career-long work geared to transform both my students and the world. MSU cultivates and recognizes the very need for this revolutionary, transformative, visionary work.”

Professor Trimiko Melancon speaking at “The Future of Feminism” talk in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An award-winning author, Dr. Melancon’s book, Unbought and Unbossed: Transgressive Black Women, Sexuality, and Representation, which examines post-civil rights representations of Black women in American literary and cultural production, received the College Language Association Creative Scholarship Book Award. She also is the editor of Black Female Sexualities, consisting of 12 original essays that reveal the diverse ways Black women expand notions and challenge stereotypes of Black racialized sexuality and behavior. Her scholarly publications have appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, Reconstruction, The Black Scholar, College Language Association Journal, and the Journal of Popular Culture. As a cultural critic, she has written widely and provided expert commentaries in public venues ranging from Huffington Post, Ms., Elle, Wired, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Black Perspectives to NBC and BBC World News, among other news outlets.

As a documentarian, Dr. Melancon has directed, written, and produced documentary shorts, including “I See You,” a montage about race and difference during the age of Black Lives Matter, and 1955 on civil rights icon Claudette Colvin. Her first feature film, What Do You Have to Lose? received the Best Documentary Feature Award at the 2020 Indie Memphis Film Festival. The documentary explores the history of race in the United States and the current political and racial climate — from the rise of the alt-right, voter suppression, and racial injustices that people of color face to the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd — to account for how we got here and why it matters.

The image shows the cover of Unbought and Unbossed by Trimiko Melancon. The cover features a photo of a painting of orange flower buds.
Professor Trimiko Melancon’s book Unbought and Unbossed.

What Do You Have to Lose? really forces us to look at, contend with, and see what has happened and will continue to happen if we have no game plan, are indifferent, are immobilized, or are stymied or polarized by party affiliation, race, or other factors,” Melancon said. “I made this film in the hopes that it becomes the beginning of a conversation and discourse regarding the status of certain individuals in America, about our democracy, our need to shift and think about politics in a different way, and the radicalized aspects of this and our nation.”

Prior to coming to MSU, Melancon was an Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies, and faculty in Film and Media Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, at Rhodes College. Before that, she was an Associate Professor of English, African American Studies, and Women’s Studies at Loyola University New Orleans, where she also served as Director of African and African American Studies and Co-Director of Women’s Studies. She also was an Assistant Professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Africana Studies at Auburn University. 

The image shows a camera still of an African American woman in a blue blouse.
A camera still of Melancon’s documentary, What Do You Have to Lose?

Melancon has held a number of distinguished positions, both nationally and internationally, including the inaugural Visiting Scholar and Fellow at both the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics at Tulane University and at the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University; J. William Fulbright Scholar of American Literature and American Studies in Berlin, Germany; Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholar; and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Career Enhancement Fellow. 

She earned her B.A. in English from Xavier University of Louisiana, the only Black Catholic college in the United States, and a Ph.D. in African American Studies from the University of Massachusetts. 

“As one with a doctorate in African American Studies who has, throughout my career, been housed in English departments with affiliated appointments in interdisciplinary programs, [coming to MSU] is a particularly special career move that allows me to return to my intellectual home — African American Studies,” Melancon said, “and join a stellar cadre of dynamic scholars, practitioners, and visionaries in this revolutionary, pathbreaking, and paradigm as well as culture-shifting department.”