Elena Guzman

Elena Guzman

Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology


  • Ph.D., Cornell, 2019


Elena Herminia Guzman  is an Afro-Boricua documentary filmmaker, educator, and anthropologist raised in the Bronx with deep roots in the LES. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and is now an Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her previous positions have included a postdoctoral fellowship at Haverford College and a Research Associate fellowship at Harvard University with the Women’s Studies and Religion Program in the Divinity School. She is currently writing her book manuscript tentatively titled, Chimera Geographies: Spiritual Borderlands of the Afro-Caribbean, which focuses on the way Black women and non-binary people throughout the African diaspora use ritual performance in African diaspora religions to forge geographies that counter landscapes of oppression. As an educator, she teaches Black feminism, performance, feminist filmmaking, Black cinema, autoethnography, border/land studies, and visual anthropology.

In addition to her work as a scholar, Elena is also a filmmaker whose work explores the transcendental and spiritual experiences of African diasporic religion and spirituality in addition to its intersections with race, gender, and mental health. Her work as a filmmaker has been supported by PBS, Black Public Media, the Independent Public Media Foundation, and the Scribe Foundation amongst others. She is the director and producer of the film Smile4Kime (2023), a short experimental hybrid documentary that uses animation and live-action footage to tell the stories of how two friends transcend, time, space, and even death to find that their friendship lives on. This film was shown at Indie Memphis, BronzeLens Film Festival, and Hayti Heritage Film Festival, amongst others. It also received an Honorable Mention for the Jean Rouch award at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival and was nominated for the LOLA Shorts Award at the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. Her new film project, Oríkì Oshun, is currently in development and is an experimental visual praise poem to the Orisha Oshun, the mother of the sweet waters. She is also producing a docuseries called Conjure that explores the traditions of African American Hoodoo in the United States. As a part of her work in film, she co-founded a feminist filmmaking collective called Ethnocine and is a producer of the podcast Bad Feminists Making Films.

Research interests

  • Black Borders and Borderlands
  • Black Ritual Performance
  • African Diaspora Spirituality and Religion
  • Feminist Filmmaking
  • Visual Anthropology
  • Sensory Ethnography
  • Documentary
  • Experimental Film
  • Critical Ethnography
  • Black Feminist Anthropology