Terrefe believes that deep learning is a continuous relational process achieved through the participatory politics of social movements and the classroom, as well as periods of independent inquiry. She is firmly dedicated to bridging the cultural and economic divide between theory and praxis, and between the university and its surrounding communities.
Her teaching practice emphasizes motivating students to develop what guides her own scholarship: how to formulate a question in pursuit of its lines of flight, its provocations both within and beyond established disciplinary boundaries. Allowing students to learn individually and also invest in thinking about communities inside and outside of the university’s parameters teaches them to question and evaluate: which communities have the institutional access to posit what is constituted as truth, how truth is manufactured and disseminated, and why certain communities’ truths are of less or more value than others.
In the course of teaching a range of classes such as “From Ratchet to Revolution: Race, Gender, and Violence in African American Literature,” “Black Queer Literature and Film,” “Black Women Writers in the US,” and “From Black Power to Black Lives Matter: Black Political and Protest Literature in the US,” she has mobilized students to question and understand existing paradigms of thought as truth constructions forged by historic relations of power that continue within the present. Engaging in close readings of historical, literary, visual, and contemporary social media texts, students begin to question the authenticity of their own experiences of themselves and how their realities have been constructed from the social and political paradigms reflected in the assigned texts.
Her pedagogy fosters enthusiasm for cultural artifacts along with a deepening respect for treating the communities that produce those artifacts as agents rather than the subjects of research. Terrefe’s scholarship posits the ethical, political, and mimetic implications of (and upon) the Black body—bodies of thought, culture, and flesh—to be inseparable from contemporary political events that affect student bodies across the globe.
Translating the knowledge production of the university to the broader community while acknowledging Black diasporic communities’ integral theoretical and cultural contributions to the academy encapsulates her method of public engagement. Currently, Terrefe sits on the Board of Project Peaceful Warriors (PPW), a New Orleans based non-profit that provides trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness programming to K-12 schools. Terrefe designs and teaches the training curriculum in strategies designed to combat antiblackness and structural racism in the classroom. Moreover, in August 2017 she led a workshop titled “Blackness and Captivity” for the Thick/er Black Lines Collective at the Tate Modern, London. Black organizers from antiracist organizations based in Europe and South America were in attendance as they thought through gender in relation to Blackness, captivity, and current global political and intellectual movements.
Terrefe has served as graduate advisor to the Black Student Union at UC Irvine and during her tenure at the University of Bremen similarly advised Black students as they founded the university’s first Black Student Union—and one of Germany’s few to date. Her praxis bridges the concerns of students’ respective communities with the academic labor required of them within the university and she is committed to continuing this ethical work.