Victoria E. Thomas: Seek a research question that sparks your curiosity and challenges your personal ideologies

November 16, 2021
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Welcome Victoria E. Thomas, Assistant Professor of Media and Public Engagement in the School of Communication. As an interdisciplinary scholar of Black Popular Cultural Studies, she primarily analyzes popular media to articulate how visual culture represents Blackness and Black identities. Her research is committed to political and civic engagement, diversity, and inclusion in public institutions to transform societal conditions. Dr. Thomas’ current research examines the communication practices of Black cisgender and transgender women in our contemporary media moment of hypervisibility of Black transgender women and intersectional feminism.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your interest to join the School of Communication

I am originally from the state of Georgia in the United States but have lived on the West Coast for about 10 years while earning my graduate degrees in California and Washington State. Before joining the School of Communication, I was a Frederick Douglass Scholar at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.

I chose to join the faculty of the School of Communication due to its commitment to training students in the social and ethical implications of media and its commitment to community engagement. My research is committed to political and civic engagement, diversity, and inclusion in public institutions to transform societal conditions. The School of Communication provides me with a great opportunity to advance my research, connect with marginalized communities of Greater Vancouver, and contribute to a new curriculum in Black Cultural Studies, Queer Media Studies, and Community-Engaged Research Methods at Simon Fraser University.  

What is your area of research? What are you working on now?

I am an interdisciplinary scholar of Black Popular Culture. With a passion for popular culture, I began my undergradute studies and found there was an underpresentation of Black transgender women in popular media. Today, I primarily analyze popular media to articulate how visual culture represents Blackness and Black identities.

I am currently working on examining representations of Black transgender women in the television show Pose to examine kinship formations among Black cisgender and transgender women. This research project is twofold and will include interviews with Black transgender women about their media practices. At SFU, I plan to engage with the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement and connect with local Black Queer communities and organizations to further understand the obstacles they face in Vancouver compared to the United States.

What is a piece of advice you would tell undergraduate or graduate students interested in academia and research?

Seek out a topic and/or research question that sparks your intellectual curiosity and allows you to challenge your personal ideologies on that subject. It will be more enjoyable to complete research that you are passionate about!

Any recent book recommendations you’d like to share?

I recommend Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Ransby and Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall. Both of these books present an in-depth overview of contemporary social movements from an intersectional perspective that celebrates the diversity of identities and ideologies within movements. Taken together, these books provide a solid framework to understanding how to actively engage in critical conversations that are productive in generating social change. 

Other recommendations: Tangerine, a 2015 film starring Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, and Mya Taylor, and I recommend listening to Shea (She-ah) Diamond, a singer, songwriter, and transgender rights activist.