Olivia Polk

Olivia Polk's picture
Graduate Student

Olivia R. Polk (she/they) is a Black dyke living on territories of the Haliwa-Saponi, Sappony and Occaneechi Band of Saponi (Durham, NC). She is a PhD candidate in American Studies, African American Studies, and Womens Gender and Sexuality Studies (certificate) at Yale University, and a Pre-doctoral Fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia. Their dissertation, “‘We Can Dream the Dark:’ Black Lesbianism and the Ethic of Black Queerness” foregrounds Black lesbianism as a social ethic articulated through literary and visual experimentalism, and political organizing modeled by Black lesbians in the late 20th century and adopted by other Black queer subjects throughout the same period. In addition to their research and teaching Olivia is a member of the What Would an HIV Doula Do? collective (WWHIVDD), and serves as Student Councilor for the American Studies Association (2022-2025). Starting in Fall 2025 she will join the faculty in African American & African Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities as an assistant professor.

Olivia’s work in teaching and research has received support from the Center for the Study Race Indigeneity and Transnational Migration, and Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale, in addition to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Visuals AIDS, and the Ford Foundation. Her writing has appeared in The Black Scholar, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and the Visual AIDS blog.  

Black feminist theory, queer theory, 19th and 20th century African American literature, black visual culture, gender and sexuality studies, performance studies, affect and materiality, faggotry, femmes, sexual subcultures