Dr. Kali-Ahset Amen is an interdisciplinary social scientist, exhibition curator, and organizational strategist. Her scholarship and intellectual activism focus on racism, black subjectivities, and urban inequalities in Central America and the U.S. South. She is an assistant research professor of Sociology and the associate director of the Billie Holiday Project for Liberation Arts at Johns Hopkins University. Previously, Kali-Ahset was associate director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and served on the faculty of Emory’s Master’s program in International Development Practice. She is the recipient of multiple fellowships in support of her research, including most recently, a 2018 Beinecke Library Postdoctoral Fellowship from Yale University. She has published journal articles and policy papers, and is an associate editor of City & Community, the urban section journal of the American Sociological Association. Other editorial projects include the Journal of Urban Affairs’ special issue “Black Meccas of the South,” forthcoming in Fall 2019.
Beyond the academy, Kali-Ahset coordinates grassroots educational initiatives designed to enhance people’s capacity to understand, analyze, and transform the systems of inequality that affect their lives. Related to this work, she serves as a program director for Humanity in Action, an international non-profit organization that provides political training to social justice activists from the U.S. and Europe. From 2008 to 2015, Kali-Ahset reached broadcast audiences as an award-winning public affairs journalist on Atlanta’s Pacifica network affiliate WRFG 89.3 FM. Her community radio programming, anchored in anti-oppression pedagogy, has been honored by the Atlanta Press Club, the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, the Broadcast Education Association, and the National Alliance for Women in Media.
The museum sector is another domain under Kali-Ahset’s purview. As an independent curator, she collaborates with cultural and educational institutions to produce public history programs and exhibitions exploring Africana experience. She holds a graduate certificate in Museum Studies from Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral curatorial associate of the David J. Sencer Museum at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, Kali-Ahset led a multi-country research expedition to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea on behalf of the CDC to build a physical collection of cultural and medical artifacts related to Ebola response efforts. Other projects include: Unearthing the Weeping Time: Georgia’s Hidden Landscapes of Slavery (2014); Afro-Panamanian Altars + Shrines (2014); Uprising! Radical Abolitionism in the Mid-Atlantic States, 1850-1859 (2015); Resettling in America: Georgia’s Refugee Communities (2015, co-curated with Louise Shaw); Ebola: People, Public Health, and Political Will (2017-18, as curatorial consultant); and Black Cosmopolitan: James Weldon Johnson in an Age of Empire (2019).
Early in her professional career, Kali-Ahset implemented community development programs in Masoala, Madagascar, and Langa Township of Cape Town, South Africa. As a reporter for the Cape Town-based Parliamentary Monitoring Group, she also worked to promote political transparency during the formative years of South Africa’s democratic transition. Following a year-long residency at the Southern African Political Economy Series Trust in Harare, Zimbabwe, she was named International Fellow of the Centre for African Research and Transformation, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. In addition to her years spent in Southern Africa, she has lived in Panama and France, and has performed fieldwork with African Diaspora communities in several countries.
She earned the BA from Columbia University (1997, African Studies) and the PhD from Emory University (2014, Sociology), upon completing the dissertation project: “Black Panama and Globalization in the Neoliberal Era”.