Photo by: Olivia Mowry

Hector Amaya appointed director of School of Communication

USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay has appointed Hector Amaya, one of the country’s top scholars of transnational media, as director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication, effective July 1.

Amaya’s prolific and influential research examines the conceptual foundations of civic life — such as citizenship, publicity and openness — and how these are transformed by globalization, violence and new technologies. Having joined USC Annenberg in 2019, he served as associate dean prior to assuming the role of director. Amaya is the second Latinx scholar to lead the School of Communication since its founding in 1971.

“Professor Amaya is a prominent voice in global media studies whose work crosses borders — literally and figuratively — traversing issues of racial and ethnic justice, Latinx culture and media,” Bay said. “I look forward to working closely with him to expand the school’s reputation for excellence by creating new interdisciplinary and collaborative opportunities across the field of communication and its disciplines, especially those that strengthen our connections to Latinx communities locally and globally. Given his prior experience as scholar and academic administrator, we know his agenda for the school will be innovative, expansive and forward-looking.”

An expert on issues of Latin American media, comparative media studies, immigration, and Latinx media studies, Amaya is the author of three books. In his latest, Trafficking: Narcoculture in Mexico and the United States (Duke University Press, 2020), Amaya explores how drug violence in Mexico, where he was born and raised, has captured people’s imaginations, impacted media production and led to new forms of participation in public culture. In Citizenship Excess: Latinas/os, Media, and the Nation (New York University Press), he analyzes the rise of anti-Latino nativism after 9/11, and in Screening Cuba: Film Criticism as Political Performance During the Cold War (University of Illinois Press), he investigates how people in Cuba and the United States make sense of political film and media. 

“We live in a changing world, one deeply shaped by immigration, globalization and the demands for racial and ethnic justice,” Amaya said. “We face this reality at the same time that we are confronted by the powers and limitations of communication technologies. To find clarity and purpose in these turbulent times requires intellectual leadership composed of complex sets of expertise. I am honored to direct the School of Communication because it represents this type of intellectual leadership. At USC Annenberg, we preach and practice interdisciplinarity, nimbleness, collaboration and social responsibility, and our students are shaped by these important principles.”

As a leader in his intellectual community, Amaya has published dozens of articles in scholarly publications such as the International Journal of Communication, Communication, Culture, & Critique and Media, Culture, and Society. He has also served as chair of the Latina/o Communication Studies Division of the National Communication Association (NCA), the chair of NCA’s La Raza Caucus, and the chair of the Latino Caucus of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. 

Amaya began his education at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City. He continued on to earn a master’s in communication studies at the University of Calgary (Canada), and a PhD in radio, television and film at the University of Texas at Austin.  Prior to joining USC Annenberg, Amaya was a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. Amaya is a past member (2018–19) of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

Amaya succeeds Josh Kun, Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication, who completes his appointment as the school’s director on June 30. During his sabbatical over the 2020–21 academic year, Kun will be working on his forthcoming book, Beats Across Borders: A Migrant Songbook, for MCD Books.