Photo of Afia Ofori-Mensa
  • Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Assistant Professor of Comparative American Studies and Africana Studies
  • Director, Office of Undergraduate Research


  • BA, University of Pennsylvania, 2002
  • MA, University of Michigan, 2005
  • PhD, University of Michigan 2010


Afia Ofori-Mensa is a specialist in narratives and cultures of communities of color in the 20th- and 21st-century U.S. Her primary research interests are in ethnic studies, American studies, women’s and gender studies, and popular culture studies. Her current book project examines relationships among femininity, race, and U.S. national identity using beauty pageantry and princess culture as case studies. She is also a photographer; her piece “The Winner” was exhibited at Oberlin College in 2012. 

She came to Oberlin as an Oberlin College-University of Michigan Partnership Postdoctoral Fellow and is now Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Brian Su-Jen Chung and Afia Ofori-Mensa. "The School and 'The Streets': Race, Class, Sound, and Space in Step Up and Step Up 2." In Movies, Moves, and Music: The Sonic World of Dance Films. Edited by Mark Evans and Pauline Manley. Equinox: London. 2016.

Courses Offered

  • CAST/AAST 117: Immigrant and Second-Generation American Narratives
  • CAST/AAST 240: How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U.S. National Identity
  • CAST/AAST 345: Narratives of Passing


  • Afia Ofori-Mensa Featured on New Hampshire Public Radio

    May 12, 2014

    Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative American Studies Afia Ofori-Mensa was featured on New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth" segment, speaking about a class she teaches at Oberlin entitled "How To Win a Beauty Pageant." She explained how the class explores representation and identity in pageants as a way of understanding changes in national culture.


Academic by Day, Actor by Night: Afia Ofori-Mensa in 'Simply Simone'

September 14, 2017
Afia Ofori-Mensa deactivated her personal Facebook account, hoping to recover time she spent on the site to writing a book manuscript. Instead, Ofori-Mensa found herself playing a young Nina Simone in a production of 'Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone' at Karamu House in Cleveland.

The Buzz on How to Win a Beauty Pageant

February 19, 2014
In recent months, the comparative American studies course How to Win a Beauty Pageant: Race, Gender, Culture, and U.S. National Identity has twice been featured on BuzzFeed and once on Mental Floss.