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, gender and visual culture in Ireland, France, Senegal, Scandinavia, Burkina Faso, Britain and the US.
The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities in Irish Film and Television, is the first major study of black and mixed-race themes in Irish Screen Studies. Her second book Mixed-Race Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France, published in 2017 and re-released on paperback in 2019, charts race relations onscreen from the birth of cinema to the present day on both sides of the Atlantic. Recent publications include: ‘Approaching Race and Ethnicity in Nordic Film Culture’, a 2022 special issue of the Journal of Scandinavian Cinema (co-edited with Dr Kate Moffat), which makes critical new contributions to the field, and the chapter ‘Intersectionality in Contemporary Melodrama: Normal People and Kissing Candice’ in Austerity and Irish Women’s Writing and Culture, 1980–2020. Also in 2022, Zélie gave a keynote address on critical questions of Black Irish screen representation, DEI policy and narrative content at the University of Limerick for the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.
2023 marks the tenth anniversary of The Black Irish Onscreen, and Zélie will give a series of talks and events, including keynotes at the University of Lille for the French Society for Irish Studies, and at Queen’s University Belfast for the European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies. She is currently writing chapters on Irish screen culture and social change for the books Innovations in Black European Studies and Mixed Marriage in Modern Ireland, and film criticism for online platform Akoroko.
In 2004, Zélie designed the first Irish university module to explore race and film through an intersectional lens. She has devised 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, French Screen Studies, the Irish Film Institute, Catalyst International Film Festival and the digital magazine Unapologetic. Over the past number of years, she has worked on several indigenous Irish film productions and with various arts agencies including Belfast Film Festival, Arts Council Ireland, Irish Museum of Modern Art, London Irish Film Festival and the industry development programme X-Pollinator.
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. She has made numerous media appearances in her capacity as an expert on racial representations onscreen. 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 April 2022, she chaired a panel at the Catalyst Internal Film Festival on the opportunities and challenges facing minoritised Irish creatives: https://wft.ie/catalyst-international-film-festival-panel-podcast-voices-from-the-edge/
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 RTE interview on racial representation in Irish screen culture here: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/culture-file-race-and-the
In this Culture File episode, she joins a panel debating cancel culture: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/the-culture-file-debate-sept?fbclid=IwAR0vOryCW035sBzmuV8PcI_W_tZ5WdGKuKIC3u_hgELhxhqDz30wjemBSGo
Listen back to her lockdown cultural highlights here: https://soundcloud.com/soundsdoable/culture-file-likes-zelie-asava
Zélie’s 2020 keynote for the Irish Film Institute is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGj7PwWAgVs
Listen to her discussion with film director Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 2018 here: https://soundcloud.com/imma-ireland/post-screening-discussion-muttererde
Watch Zélie’s 2014 keynote address to the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul University, 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 London correspondent (!), moving on to entertainment news for student papers at 16. She has 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, art and politics 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:
Drift: Cynthia Erivo Mindful Melodrama Tackles Divisive Discourse Around Refugee Crisis — Akoroko https://akoroko.com/drift-sundance-cynthia-erivo-chen/
Our Lady of the Chinese Shop: National, Personal and Neocolonial Dreamscapes Collide in Poetic Angolan Tale — Akoroko https://akoroko.com/our-lady-of-the-chinese-shop-review/
Casablanca Beats: Social Commentary and Magical Realism in Moroccan Hip Hop Musical — Akoroko https://akoroko.com/casablanca-beats-review/
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.