Tesla Cariani is a scholar and teacher of sexuality, gender, and contemporary visual culture. Encompassing questions of visibility, affect, and political activism, Tesla’s research seeks to connect aesthetic and textual legacies of violence to ongoing queer and trans issues such as the fight for gender affirmation and decolonization.
Tesla received a PhD in English as well as a graduate certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University. Prior to joining Rice, Tesla was a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Emory University. With a background in media production and public television, Tesla also served as the Media Lead in Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship. In 2022, Tesla co-curated a public exhibit on LGBTQ+ comics that is on view in Emory’s Woodruff Library.
Tesla’s current book project, Between Visibility and Violence: Framing Queer and Trans Embodiment, focuses on visual representations of gender and sexuality in contemporary literature, graphic narratives, photography, streaming media, and performance art. This project challenges the idea that increased visual representation generates greater empathy, understanding, and therefore safety. Instead, Tesla’s research highlights texts that play with representational conventions to offer more expansive politics and possibilities for queer and trans life.
At Rice, Tesla will continue to advance Between Visibility and Violence as well as begin work on a new project about early LGBTQ+ graphic narratives. Tesla’s work has been published in Parallax, PMLA, and is forthcoming in The LGBTQ Comics Studies Reader.