Profile Photo Omelsky

Matthew Omelsky

  • Assistant Professor of English
  • Assistant Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Black Studies

PhD, Duke University

Office Location
417 Morey Hall
(585) 275-2376

Research Overview

Matthew Omelsky is an assistant professor in the Department of English and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. He is also a core faculty member in the Frederick Douglass Institute and Department of Black Studies and a faculty affiliate in Film and Media Studies. His research is concentrated in the field of global black cultural studies, with an emphasis on how 20th and 21st century black artists from across the world express a desire for unfathomable freedoms.

Omelsky is the author of Fugitive Time: Global Aesthetics and the Black Beyond (Duke UP 2023), which theorizes the embodied experience of time in an archive of black music, visual culture, and literature from Zimbabwe, Martinique, Britain, Senegal, and the United States. The book examines the intersection of black fugitivity, time-consciousness, and utopian desire in a range of work, from Aimé Césaire and Wifredo Lam’s négritude aesthetics, to the Black Audio Film Collective's experimental essay films, to Sun Ra’s avant-garde music and poetry, to NoViolet Bulawayo’s contemporary fiction. Continuing his research on global black aesthetics, his current project, Black Speculative Experiments, looks at 21st century electronic music, film, fiction, poetry, and sculpture that expand the limits of the thinkable and the intelligible through a confluence of the speculative mode and formal experimentation. The project focuses on how Chino Amobi, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, the Otolith Group, and other artists reimagine the conditions of contemporary society, assembling distinct conceptions of global blackness in response to the layered crises of our time.

Omelsky currently serves on the executive committee of the Africa Since 1990 Forum of the Modern Language Association. In 2023, he was recognized with the University of Rochester’s G. Graydon and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence. Before coming to Rochester, he was the postdoctoral fellow for the 2018-2019 Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance” in Penn State’s Department of African American Studies. He received his BA in Africana Studies and Politics from New York University, his MPS in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his PhD in English from Duke University.

Research Interests

  • Global black cultural studies; African, African American, and Caribbean literatures; film and media studies; speculative aesthetics; time and phenomenology; critical theory.

Selected Publication Covers

Selected Publications


  • Fugitive Time: Global Aesthetics and the Black Beyond. Durham: Duke University Press, 2023.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Queer Césaire.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 28, no. 1 (forthcoming 2024).
  • “Speculative African Slaveries.” In The Cambridge Companion to Global Literature and Slavery, edited by Laura T. Murphy, 49-61. Cambridge University Press, 2023.
  • “Being and Becoming: The Grammar of Black Theory.” InVisible Culture 31 (2020). 
  • “African Fugitivities.” The Black Scholar 50, no. 1 (2020): 56-69.
  • “The Creaturely Modernism of Amos Tutuola.” Cultural Critique 99 (2018): 66-96.
  • With Ian Baucom, “Knowledge in the Age of Climate Change.” South Atlantic Quarterly 116, no. 1 (2017): 1-18.
  • “‘After the End Times’: Postcrisis African Science Fiction.” Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 1, no. 1 (2014): 33-49.
  • “Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s African Cyborgian Thought.” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 31 (2012): 6-21.
  • “Chris Abani and the Politics of Ambivalence.” Research in African Literatures 42, no. 4 (2011): 84-96.



  • Black Adaptations
  • Empire and its Afterlives: 20th and 21st Century British and Anglophone Literatures
  • Black Film Collectives
  • African Digital Cultures
  • Black Fugitive Aesthetics
  • Caribbean Gothic
  • African Literatures of Migration
  • Contemporary African Film and Fiction
  • Reimagining the Human: Global Black Speculative Fiction
  • Bright Lights, African Cities
  • Internet Aesthetics: Viral Forms from the Global South


  • G. Graydon and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence, 2023
  • Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, African American Studies, Penn State University, 2018-19
  • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2017-18
  • Graduate School Fellowship, English, Duke University, 2012-14
  • Graduate Student Best Essay Award, African Literature Association, 2011
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, African Studies, UC Berkeley, 2011
  • Sage Graduate Fellowship, Africana Studies, Cornell University, 2009-11