Naimah Pétigny is a Black feminist scholar, dancer and educator. She holds the Schiller Family Assistant Professorship in Race in Art and Design at RISD. As the granddaughter of Haitian and Jamaican immigrants, she grew up in western Massachusetts as a youth organizer, racial justice facilitator and dancer in professional ensembles. Pétigny holds a BA in Women’s Studies and Sociology from Vassar College and earned her PhD in Feminist Studies in the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2021.
Pétigny’s research and writing is multimodal and exists at the intersections of Black feminist theory, gender studies and performance studies. She writes from, and towards, expansive and experimental embodiments of Blackness. Her dissertation, The Hold is also an Embrace: Readings in Contemporary Black Feminist Performance, analyzes contemporary dance theater performance by Black women and Black gender queer artists to rethink the linkages between coloniality, performance, erotics and Black liberation. Through critical theory, ethnographic documentation and poetics, this scholarship identifies how Black artists elucidate distinct forms of Black expressivity that interrupt and respond to the ways in which anti-Blackness attempts to capture Black life. She marks queer, Black feminist dance theater as primary, not auxiliary, in contemporary movements for Black liberation.
Pétigny’s broader research continues to ground in the rich intimacies of Black life that exist beyond anti-Black violence. She wades in Black experimentalisms in art, design and social life that embody erotic, relational and transformational modes of being, long denied to Black peoples.
Pétigny’s work has been published in Commoning Ethnography, The Walker Art Center Magazine, Agitate! Unsettling Knowledges Journal and the Routledge International Handbook of Gender and Feminist Geographies. Her research has been generously supported by the College of Liberal Arts; Steven J. Schochet Endowment for Queer, Trans and Sexuality Studies; the Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Center; The Center on Women, Gender and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. During 2020–21, she was a University of Minnesota Leadership in Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Fellow and PEO International scholar.
As an educator, Pétigny is dedicated to building spaces of critical thinking, connection and unlearning within her classrooms. Her pedagogy supports students’ holistic growth as analytical thinkers, creative writers and changemakers.
- Naimah Petigny
Schiller Family Assistant Professorship in Race in Art and Design
Assistant Professor of Literary Arts and Studies