Watch this incredibly interesting video of Dr. Jalondra Davis, an assistant professor of English at UC Riverside, discussing her latest research project, which is all about mermaids. On her website, she describes herself as: "Black Feminist, Merwomanist, & Intellectual with a Fierce Pen."
The UC Riverside YouTube page describes the video:
Jalondra Davis, an assistant professor of English at UC Riverside, is a scholar and a real-life mermaid. Throughout her life, Davis has researched the intersections of Black studies, women and gender and sexuality studies, and contemporary fiction and popular culture. With the upcoming release of Disney's live-action "The Little Mermaid" – which features Disney's first Black Ariel protagonist — Davis' research is more relevant than ever.
In the video, Dr. Davis describes her path to studying mermaids, and provides an overview of her research:
"My passion for this research came about because I have always loved mermaids. It's always been something I've really identified with, that I've always kind of paid attention to, and looked out for mermaid texts. But for some reason I never really considered it as an object of scholarly analysis. And now mermaids are my life's work. Even though my project is about Black mermaids more broadly, one of the things I'm really zeroing in on is this idea of the Middle Passage as the birth of mermaid species—and I call this idea the "crossing merfolk."
"A lot of people feel within Afro-Futurism studies and within Black popular culture studies that there's too much trauma, that there's too much pain. So that's one of the main things that I am interested in—how Black artists can take this idea that's so full of trauma and pain and violence and brutality, as the experience of the Middle Passage, and they can conceptualize it in a way where there's also this connection to rebirth into something magical and something beautiful.
"So there have bene a lot of scholars that have been writing in mermaid studies, however they've mostly been ignoring Black mermaid lore."
"It's important, because one of the thing I'm thinking about in this project is that Black people also need access to whimsy, we also need access to fantasy, we also need access to magic. And I just don't think that there's any more awe-inspiring image or idea that that of the mermaid."
In the rest of the video she focuses on the importance of representation (it "isn't everything, but representation does matter, because it helps you determine the limist of your possibilities"), and talks about one of the courses she teaches at UC Riverside—a History of Fantasy and Horror, focused on mermaids. You can also see her transform into a mermaid.
I absolutely love everything about this project, and can't wait to read some of her scholarship! To learn more about her work, and to listen to her podcast—The Merwomanist Podcast—check out her website.