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Photograph of Justin Wright

Justin Wright Anthropology (PhD)

M.A. Theatre and Performance Studies, Washington University in St. Louis
B.A. Anthropology, Theatre, Transylvania University

Justin D. Wright (as of 2023, Día Joy Wright) is a sociocultural anthropologist, performance studies scholar, theater artist, and performance poet. In both their scholarly and artistic pursuits, Wright is concerned with notions of national and cultural memories, transgenerational traumas, Black grief, and Black and Black-queer identity-making. Their work seeks to understand how Black people might craft from that pain, grief, and trauma something breathtakingly beautiful—and from that beauty, freedom and liberation.

Wright situates poetry and performance as foundational methodologies in how they go about their research as a Black-queer interdisciplinary scholar. They cite their background as a performance poet and a theatre practitioner as major influences of their research process and important components in the praxis of what they call “necrographic divination”. In their research and work, Wright attempts to construct freedom dreams in the forms of Black worlding, speculative narration, and (auto)ethnography as a means of engaging in the intimacies of Black sensation, grief, celebration, trauma, play, being-ness, and aliveness. In all of their work, Wright purposefully engages in interdisciplinary explorations among theorists in the fields of Anthropology, Performance Studies, Black Studies, Afrofuturism, Afropessimism, Poetry, Fiction, and Dance to discuss their necrographic divination as a creative poetics and integral method for tending to the intricacies of Black life.

Drawing from a bevy of scholars—including Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, Fred Moten, Christina Sharpe, Aimee Meredith Cox, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Ntozake Shange—Wright explores the entanglements of Black historical traumas with contemporary representations and metaphorizations of Black life. To this end, Wright examines the traumas of social and slow death as they affect identity construction in Black and Black-queer individuals and communities..

Wright’s dissertation research project takes a multi-modal and autoethnographic approach to expanding their method of “necrographic divination,” applying it to formations of Black/Black-Queer identity, as those formations are (re)constructed/(re)imagined through physical sites of Black memory, social death, and Black joy. The intention of this project is to model how necrographic divination can be employed as a methodology of moving beyond sole notions of Black “survival” and crafting new models for identity (re)construction and foundational practices of joy and “aliveness” in Black and Black-queer communities.

Wright was previously the inaugural Poet-in-Residence at SAPIENS Anthropology Magazine from 2020 - 2022. They currently work as the Anti-Oppressive Pedagogies Specialist in Instructional Development in the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy at Loyola University Chicago. Their ethnographic poem “The Cookout (and All Other Manners of Heavenly Black Things)” was a finalist for the Best of the Net Anthology 2022.