Courtney Desiree Morris is an assistant professor of African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University and a visual/conceptual artist. She teaches courses on critical race theory, feminist theory, black social movements in the Americas, women’s social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as race and environmental politics in the African Diaspora. She is a social anthropologist and is currently completing a book entitled To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua, which examines how black women activists have resisted historical and contemporary patterns of racialized state violence, economic exclusion, territorial dispossession, and political repression from the 19th century to the present. Her work has been published in American Anthropologist, the Bulletin of Latin American Research, the Journal of Women, Gender, and Families of Color, make/shift: feminisms in motion, and Asterix.
As an artist, her work examines the complexities of place, ecology, memory, and the constant search for “home.” Her work is concerned with understanding the ways that we inhabit place – through migration, ancestry, and shared social memory -- and how places inhabit us. This interplay between landscapes and human subjectivity is evident in the ways that she uses her own body as a staging ground for re-membering her families’ experiences of loss, dispossession and the persistent struggle to make a place for oneself in the world. She examines these questions through the experiences of female ancestors and elders whose stories are often disappeared in family histories and official historical narratives.
Morris works primarily in the fields of photography, experimental video, installation, and performance art. She is drawn to these mediums because of the ways that they allow her to engage and play with her family's history by performatively inhabiting the stories of her childhood and imaginatively filling in the gaps where "facts" are either unknown or in dispute. Photography and video are critical tools for providing viewers with a deep sense of place and history. Alternatively, performance functions as a kind of time-traveling technology where she can revisit and restage sites of ancestral memory, interrogate the present, and imagine new kinds of social and environmental futures.