Dr Zélie Asava

Academic. Speaker. Author.

Popular speaker and award winning writer Dr Zélie Asava is the author of two books and the driving force behind a series of projects focused on questions of race and gender in media representations from Ireland, France, Senegal, Scandinavia, Burkina Faso, Britain and the US. Originally published in 2013, The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities in Irish Film and Television, was the first major study of black and mixed-race themes in Irish Screen Studies. Mixed-Race Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France, published in 2017 and re-released in paperback in 2019, charts race relations from the birth of cinema to the present day on both sides of the Atlantic through a series of key film texts. In 2022, Zélie co-edited a pioneering special issue of the Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, and gave an agenda-setting keynote on black Irish media representation at July’s conference for the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures. She is currently writing chapters for the books Innovations in Black European Studies and Mixed Marriage in Modern Ireland.

In 2004, Zélie designed the first Irish university module to explore race and film through an intersectional lens. Zélie has devised and delivered modules on Film, Theatre, Television, Literature and Digital Cultures for University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, the Institute of Art, Design and Technology Dun Laoghaire, and Dundalk Institute of Technology, where she was Programme Director of Video and Film Production and Communications in Creative Multimedia. She is a member of the EC’s ‘European Capital of Culture’ panel of experts. In addition to appointments as a film classifier, consultant, writer and editorial advisor, Zélie sits on the Boards of Screen Ireland, the Irish Film Institute, the Catalyst International Film Festival and the digital magazine Unapologetic.

As a former actress, MP’s casework manager and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Zélie enjoys addressing sociological and cultural intersections on public platforms just as much as in the lecture hall. Zélie holds an MA in Gender and Media Studies from the University of Sussex, a 1st class BA in English and Philosophy from University College Dublin and a PhD, also from UCD.


Zélie has appeared as a contributor on RTE TV News, Al Araby TV, RTE Radio One, Newstalk and RTE Lyric FM.

In March 2021, she chaired a talk and panel with Dr Sara Ahmed for the Irish Museum of Modern Art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmwZdHy23IY

Check out her interview on ‘Race and the Irish Screen’ for RTE here: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/culture-file-race-and-the

And as part of an RTE panel debating ‘cancel culture’ here: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/the-culture-file-debate-sept?fbclid=IwAR0vOryCW035sBzmuV8PcI_W_tZ5WdGKuKIC3u_hgELhxhqDz30wjemBSGo

On her cultural highlights of 2020: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/culture-file-likes-zelie-asava

Zélie’s keynote, ‘Diverse Narratives’, for the Irish Film Institute’s 2020 Spotlight on Irish Film and Television is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGj7PwWAgVs

Check out her 2018 discussion with director Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor at the Irish Museum of Modern Art here: https://soundcloud.com/imma-ireland/post-screening-discussion-muttererde

Zélie gave a keynote address at the 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference in Chicago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtOVr6gYMTA

Access clips of the media discussed here: https://mixedrootsstories.com/cmrs-mixed-race-irish-film-keynote-links/

Aged 8, Zélie started writing for her 11 year old cousin’s home-made satirical newspaper The Dalkey Times as a ‘London correspondent’ (!), moving on to entertainment news for student papers at 16 and finally gaining a diploma from the London School of Journalism. While at University College Dublin she wrote and edited the Arts section for The College Tribune, as well as commentary on race and politics, and wrote features for The UCD Observer, The Belfield Entertainment Review and The Film Society Magazine. After college, she worked for The Guardian and Time Out among others. Here are a few recent pieces:

The Visceral Afterlives of Trauma in Our Father, The Devil — Akoroko https://akoroko.com/our-father-the-devil-ellie-foumbi/

A Reflection on Dr Sara Ahmed’s lecture, ‘Complaint, Diversity and Other Hostile Environments’ — IMMA Magazine https://imma.ie/magazine/a-reflection-complaint-diversity-and-other-hostile-environments/

100 Voices #AllAgainstRacism — Hot Press Magazine https://www.hotpress.com/culture/100-voices-allagainstracism-dr-zelie-asava-we-need-to-reimagine-our-cultural-landscape-and-tell-stories-that-represent-people-from-every-walk-of-life-22884991

The Truth about Dublin — The Herald Newspaper https://www.herald.ie/lifestyle/the-truth-about-dublin-an-unfair-city-27963389.html

Introducing The Black Irish Onscreen — Film Ireland Magazine http://filmireland.net/2014/01/13/the-black-irish-onscreen-representing-black-and-mixed-race-identities-on-irish-film-and-television/

Cinema and Critical Mixed Race Studies — African Women in Cinema https://africanwomenincinema.blogspot.com/2015/02/zelie-asava-mixed-raced-identities-and.html

Zélie was a founder member of Trinity College Dublin’s and University College Dublin’s Anti-Racism societies, and was responsible for the latter’s PR.


Zélie was awarded UCD’s Patrick Semple medal for academic excellence, following three successive years of achieving the highest 1.1 in her undergraduate studies.

As a postgraduate, she was awarded UCD scholarships, a fellowship, and Peter Lang’s Young Irish Scholar award.

In 2020, Zélie was the recipient of an Arts Council award.

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