Umayyah Cable is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Asian American studies and Middle East & North African studies programs at Northwestern University. They have a BA in American studies from Smith College and a PhD in American studies & ethnicity from the University of Southern California, as well as a certificate in visual studies from the USC Visual Studies Research Institute. Their research and teaching interests span the fields of ethnic studies, film and media studies, postcolonial studies, and queer theory, with a particular focus on the roles that art, film, and media play in the mobilization of Arab American political activism.
Umayyah is currently conducting new research for a book project based on their dissertation, Cinematic Activism: Film Festivals and the Queer Cultural Politics of Palestine in the United States, which examines how marginalized or underrepresented identity-based and cause-based groups leverage film culture in order to foment social, cultural, or political change. This project takes the emergence of film festival organizing as a case study through which to understand how film culture and festival organizing cohere as a methodology for the open expression of Palestinian cultural politics and Palestine-focused activism in the United States. The project traces the emergence of Palestinian cinematic activism to the 1980s and 1990s, wherein controversies over the exhibition of Palestinian cinema made the institutional and cultural censorship of Palestinian cultural politics highly visible while simultaneously identifying film exhibition as a tool by which to challenge institutional and ideological forms of power. At the same time, these controversies were frequently cast in relation to controversies over the expression of LGBT/Q cultural politics through art and cinema. This project therefore also historicizes the relationships between Palestinian cultural politics and LGBT/Q cultural politics, which continue to interact today within the realm of film festivals.
At Northwestern, Umayyah teaches courses in Arab American studies and film studies, including “Introduction to Arab American Studies,” “Arab American Arts and Cinema,” and “Film Festivals: Art and Activism in the Public Sphere.” Umayyah also serves on the Executive Board of the Arab American Studies Association.