Jess Dickson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of African and African American Studies with a primary field in Social Anthropology and a secondary in Film and Visual Studies. Her dissertation research focuses on the ‘film-service’ sector of South Africa’s film industry, which facilitates principal photography for media projects initiated by production companies based primarily in North America and Europe.
Jess’ work follows South Africa’s changing position within 'global Hollywood,’ paying particular attention to big-budget science fiction films and TV-series that film in South Africa, but feature stories set in the US or UK. In doing so, she explores the role of South African-based labor, and the visual extraction of South African landscapes and imagery, in co-producing popular imaginaries of US-European futures. Her related areas of research and writing include media anthropology, South African cinema, postcolonial science fiction, Afrofuturism, cyborg subjectivity, new visual technologies, virtual production, and visual effects industries.
These interests first emerged in 2010 while conducting research on ‘township tourism’ in South Africa, for which Jess received a master’s of social science with distinction from the University of Cape Town. She completed her B.A. in anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 with minors of study in sociology and African Studies. Her current research is funded by the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship and The Frank Knox Memorial Traveling Fellowship.