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Laura-Zoë Humphreys Assistant Professor Department of Communication Tulane University

Laura-Zoë Humphreys

219 Newcomb Hall, Office D


University of Chicago, PhD


Laura-Zoë Humphreys is a media ethnographer and cinema and media scholar who examines power, publics, and censorship in Cuba, socialism, and the Global South. She is pursuing three related research projects centering, respectively, allegory and the public sphere, gender and media piracy, and the transnational bureaucrat comedy. She also writes and publishes on digital activism and disinformation and race, neoliberal solidarity, and Hallyu fandom.

Her first book, Fidel between the Lines: Paranoia and Ambivalence in Late Socialist Cuban Cinema (Duke UP, 2019) demonstrates how struggles over allegory and textual interpretation shape the public sphere. Scholars have argued against paranoid readings as a method, contending that such allegorical interpretation merely discovers meanings predetermined by analysts. Fidel between the Lines instead tracks how artists and audiences are themselves engaged in such interpretations with consequences for artists' reputations and public debate. Drawing on archival research, textual analysis, and over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork, this work shows how Cuban filmmakers turned to allegory in a context shaped by censorship in order to articulate an ambivalent relationship to socialism, and how such efforts came up against new forms of suspicion in the 1990s and twenty-first century. Fidel between the Lines was named a 2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Her second book project, tentatively entitled Waiting for the Copy: Gender and Digital Media Piracy in Cuba, explores how gender shapes informal media economies. Media piracy has long been the dominant means through which much of the world accesses global media, yet the essential role that gender plays in these dynamics has been overlooked. Waiting for the Copy addresses this gap through an ethnographic study of Cuban media piracy. Drawing on ethnographic research from 2014-ongoing, the project shows how women's search for entertainment and their affective labor are central to the daily operations and infrastructure of media piracy and how media piracy provides women with the means to endure crisis and imagine a future that might be otherwise. Waiting for the Copy was awarded a Wenner-Gren Post-PhD Research Grant. She has also begun work on a third book project, which provides the first analysis and theorization of a previously unidentified transnational film genre—the bureaucrat comedy—as it has developed in state socialist and liberal capitalist contexts from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries. Her article on socialist bureaucrat comedies, "Death to Bureaucrats! The Socialist Bureaucrat Comedy from the Soviet Union to Cuba (1928-1966)," is forthcoming in Discourse.

Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds de recherche du Québec, and numerous grants from Tulane University. She held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and completed a Joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her writing has also appeared in Social Text, boundary 2, the International Journal of Cultural Studies, Mediapolis, and Cultural Anthropology’s Fieldsites.

At Tulane, she teaches Cross-Cultural Analysis, Ethnography of Digital Media, Women's Media Cultures, Media and the City, Media and the Public Sphere, and Cuban Cinema. Her courses typically center one of three central methodologies (media ethnography, textual analysis, critical social theory) and are designed to expand students' understanding of how media intersects with power and difference in contexts around the world while also training them in concrete research methods and writing skills. She enjoys working with undergraduate and graduate students and has supervised Honors, M.A., and Ph.D. theses related to media ethnography; Cuban, Latin American, and Latine cinema and digital media; and LGBTQ+ digital media.

Selected Publications

“Death to Bureaucrats! The Bureaucrat Comedy from the Soviet Union to Cuba (1928-1966), Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 44, no. 2 (2022): 123-157.

“Loving Idols: K-pop and the Limits of Neoliberal Solidarity in Cuba,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 24, no. 6 (2021): 1009-1026.

Fidel between the Lines: Paranoia and Ambivalence in Late Socialist Cuban Cinema. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019.