Scamming Selfhood: Appropriation, Racial Adaptation, and the Black Limit of Trans Narrativity

When and Where

Thursday, February 15, 2024 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Deluxe Screening Room, IN-222E
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


æryka jourdaine hollis o’neil


This talk examines Black performance artist Branden Miller (a.k.a. Joanne the Scammer) alongside “transracial” former Africana Studies professor Rachel Dolezal (a.k.a. Nkechi Amare Diallo). Dolezal’s public ‘outing’ as white in summer 2015 coincided with the public spectacle of Caityln Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair just ten days prior, igniting numerous debates regarding race and gender mutability’s supposedly exceptional convergence. However, Joanne the Scammer’s emergence the following summer brings this equation into sharper relief. Close readings of Branden and Rachel’s respective cinematic configurations—one avowedly performative, and the other identifying with a so-called "essential essence" of blackness—demonstrate that trans narratives of authenticity always-already rely upon uneven race relations to self-possession and the real.

æryka jourdaine hollis o’neil (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and scholar. She is a concurrent Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Black Studies and MFA student in Documentary Media at Northwestern University, with graduate certifications in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Critical Theory. Additionally, hollis o’neil holds a Master of Arts in American Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Utilizing an assemblage of narrative, documentary, experimental, personal and performative modes of address, hollis o'neils produces work that convenes and questions related themes of racialized gender, sexuality, desire, kinship, embodied capital, personhood, violence and belonging.

Contact Information


Cinema Studies Institute, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies


2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5