Karma Frierson

​Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and Performing Arts (Affiliate)
(On sabbatical Fall/Spring '23-'24)
Ph.D., University of Chicago
research interests:
  • Afro-Mexico; Cultural Practice; Historical Narrative; Discourse; Recognition
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University in St. Louis
    • Campus Box 1109-0137-02
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130
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    Karma Frierson is an assistant professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research and teaching focus on the significance of blackness in identity formation, regionalism, and cultural practice in Mexico and Latin America more broadly. She is currently writing her book manuscript tentatively titled, Black Reckoning: Race, Place, and Recognition in Veracruz, Mexico, which is an ethnography of how local music and dance communities reckon with expectations of blackness in the wake of late 20th century multiculturalism. She has presented on topics ranging from blackness and citizenship; nostalgia and music; and the significance of Afro-Caribbean identity within the Mexican context. A book chapter, “Enumerating Blackness: The Shifting Politics of Recognition Mexico,” will appear in the forthcoming edited volume The Afro-Americas

    Frierson earned her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the Department of African and African American Studies at WashU, she was the postdoctoral associate with the Center for Latin American Studies at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  

    Select courses

    L90 211-01: Blackness and the Politics of Recognition in Latin America

    In 2015, for the first time in Mexico's history, there was an official count of its population of African descent, thus leaving Chile as the only nation in the hemisphere not have done this. A year prior, Brazil introduced a quota system for all federal jobs, leading to new questions about who qualifies for these positions. These examples and more highlight a new era in Latin America that questions who counts -- both literally as with censuses and figuratively as with affirmative action -- as Afro-descended in a region characterized by racial mixture. In this course, we will analyze the new turn toward racial governance as we grapple with the following questions: How does the racial governance of the 21st century upend or echo the racial governance of the colonial era? How does this new era affect our understanding of race and identity? What is lost and gained by counting people as black?