Zenzele Isoke

Zenzele Isoke is a black feminist theorist, urban ethnographer, and political storyteller. Drawing from the ideas of black decolonial thinkers, Isoke writes the contemporary history of cities through the political struggles of self-identified black/queer women of the African diaspora. Writing across the fields of geography, political science, and urban anthropology, her scholarship spans several cities in the U.S., Middle-East, and the Caribbean. Her book new project: Unheard Voices at the Bottom of Empire develops a set of “counterpoetic” writing practices to theorize and explore black feminist politics through the mediums of collaborative art-making, breath and meditation, and conventional grassroots organizing in racially segregated urban spaces. She is author of Urban Black Women and the Politics of Resistance (Palgrave 2013). Her writing has been featured in several peer-reviewed journals and anthologies including Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, Transforming Anthropology, Gender, Place and Culture, among others. She is also the mother of two teenaged black girls, a (slowly) rising poet, and organizer in her own right. She is currently writing a genre blending memoir/self-help book now titled, “Head Above Water: Black Womanhood and the Afterlife of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” Dr. Isoke is Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick.
  • M.A./Doctoral Candidate: Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  • B.A.: Political Science, Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Black Femme/Queer of Color Feminism
  • Black Feminist Thought
  • Urban Ethnography
  • Feminist Theory and Methods
  • Black/African Diaspora Studies
  • Black Cultural Theory
  • Black Geographies
Courses Taught
  • Contemporary Black Feminisms
  • Engaging Justice GWSS 1005
  • Black Feminist Geographies
  • Women of Color and Public Policy
  • Space, Identity, and Agency in the Black Diaspora
  • Sex, Politics, and Hip Hop
  • Gender, Race, Class and Nation in Women's Lives
  • Feminist Knowledge Production
  • Pleasure, Intimacy, Violence
  • The Poetry of Rap
  • Feminist Thought and Theory
  • Genealogies of Feminist Theory
  • Nations, Feminisms, Empire
Research & Professional Activities


  • Black Women in the City: Space Place and the New Politics of Resistance: Qualitative Study of Black Women's Political Activism in Newark. Currently working on producing a documentary featuring interviews by African American female activists involved in hip hop, black queer activism, and antipoverty/racial justice community organizing in Newark, New Jersey., September 2009 - Spring 2012
  • Unheard Voices at the Bottom of Empire: Black Feminist Sites of Translocal Resistance: This is a multi-site projects that seeks to identify and tells new histories of black women's resistance using a critical black diasporic framework. I'm currently seeking students, faculty and community members interested in building relationships between diverse U.S. Black people in the Twin Cities. This includes women of Afro-Carribean, Afro-Arab, Ethiopan, and African American descent., September 2011 - Ongoing


  • Associate Editor: National Women's Studies Association Journal, January 2009 - Current
  • Member: University Women of Color Council, June 2009
  • Advisory Board Member: Women's Student Activism Collective, August 2011
  • Faculty Advisor: SHE Women's Empowerment Group, October 2011
  • Urban Black Women and the Politics of Resistance. Isoke, Zenzele, Palgrave-MacMillan, Author, 2013.
  • Can't I Be Seen? Can't I Be Heard: Black Women Queering Politics in Newark, NJ: Isoke, Zenzele, Routledge Press, Gender, Place and Culture, August 2013. Download
  • Women, Hip Hop , and Cultural Resistance in Dubai: Isoke, Zenzele, Souls: Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, Vol. 15, Issue 4 . Download
  • 'Why Am I Black?' Gender Hip Hop and Translocal Solidarity in Dubai: Isoke, Zenzele, Springer Press, Intercultural Communications with Arabs, 2014. Download
  • The Politics of Homemaking: Isoke, Zenzele, Wiley Press, Transforming Anthropology, Volume 19, Issue 2 , 2011. Download
  • "Lighting the Fire: Hip Hop Feminism in a Midwestern Classroom": Isoke, Zenzele, Ruth Nicole Brown, Chamara Jewel Kwakye, Peter Lang, Wish to Live: The Hip Hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader, 20, 2012.
  • Race and Racialization: Isoke, Zenzele, Mary E. Hawkesworth and Lisa Disch, Oxford University Press, Oxford Journal of Feminist Theory, 32, 2016. Download
  • Black Intellectualism is More than Big (Male) Egoes: Isoke, Zenzele, Author. Link
  • Making Knowledge Without Master's Tools: Isoke, Zenzele, National Political Science Review, 17:2 , 2015. Download
  • Black Ethnography, Black Female Aesthetics: Thinking, : Isoke, Zenzele, Johns Hopkins University Press, Theory & Event, Volume 21, No. 1 20, 2018. Download
  • Future of Minorities Fellow, Melon Fellow, Spring/Summer 2007
  • Governor's Executive Fellow, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Fall 2004 - Spring 2005
  • Rutger's Graduate School Excellence Fellowship, Fall 2003 - Spring 2007
  • Rackham Merit Fellowship--University of Michigan, Fall of 1998 - Spring 2002
  • Graduate Merit Award, Executive Women of New Jersey, 2005
  • Imagine Funds Grants 2009 and 2010
  • President’s Faculty Multicultural Research Award, Office of Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota, 2011 - 2012