Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

The University of Iowa Libraries’ Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio has appointed Deborah Elizabeth Whaley as the Studio’s senior scholar. Serving as the Studio’s faculty liaison to campus, Whaley will aid the UI Libraries’ efforts to foster collaborations with UI faculty, students, and staff who produce or engage with digital scholarship, research, and new media pedagogy. As the Studio’s senior scholar, Whaley brings skill in imagining new futures for the digital humanities.

Whaley, who is a professor of American studies and African American studies at the UI, focuses her teaching and research on the histories, theories, and methods of studying American cultures in a transnational framework, comparative ethnic studies, black cultural studies, popular culture, visual arts, and critical theory. An artist, curator, and writer, Whaley has published original art and poetry, as well as articles on social movements, popular culture, fine art, documentary photography, and film.

At the UI, Whaley collaborated with communication studies professor Kembrew McLeod to co-curate the University of Iowa Museum of Art exhibition, “Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hiphop Contexts Featuring Harry Allen’s Part of the Permanent Record; Photos From the Previous Century.” For her research on responses to 9/11 in Black expressive art in the public sphere, Whaley received a grant from the Monroe Trotter Institute for Black Culture.

Whaley is currently working on a digital and print project, “Polynoir Amour: Love Jones, Friday Foster, and the Struggle for Affective Citizenship,” a cultural criticism of the film Love Jones and the comic strip Friday Foster. In this multi-modal collage of film clips, comic strips, existing music, and her original digital art and poetry, Whaley shows how she reimagines the possibilities of scholarship by sculpting her analysis in visual and aural form. Once complete, her new work will challenge audience members to consider notions of citizenship through lenses of multiplicity, confinement, and struggle for and of the complexity of emotion, precognition, and attendant citizenship.

Whaley has published two books, including her most recent, Black Women in Sequence: Reinking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime. Her third monograph in progress examines dissociative identities (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) as a narrative trope in popular literature, film, television, and memoir, with a particular focus on Latinas, White, Asian/American, and Black women. More than an interpretive and critical analysis of popular cultural productions, it combines disability studies with the digital humanities and social sciences to explore bioethics and the racial, class, and gender disparities in medical practices.

She serves on the editorial board of the journal American Studies; she also serves on the American Studies Association’s (ASA) committee on American Studies departments, programs, and centers.  More information is available at her website:

Whaley follows Judith Pascoe, former UI professor of English, who served for two years as the Studio’s first senior scholar. Pascoe helped launch the Studio, playing an integral role in Studio projects and collaborations with UI faculty, students, and staff. Pascoe is now professor of English at Florida State University.