Communication Faculty Profile: Dr. Omotayo Banjo
Lillian Trimble, Communications Class of 2023
College of Arts and Sciences Ambassador
Dr. Omotayo Banjo was recently named the Graduate Director for the Department of Communication. Since Receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Social Psychology and her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Penn State University, she has focused her research on representation and audience response to racial and cultural media.
Dr. Banjo has published several works in peer-reviewed journals that can be found here: https://www.omotayobanjo.com/. Within her work, Dr. Banjo looks at social identity, social perception and cultural differences. “Growing up as a child of immigrants, I learned firsthand that identity is fluid and contextual. There are times I felt very Nigerian, and there are times where I felt American” she said. Social identity theory and self-categorization theory embodies these feelings and ideas. Dr. Banjo was fascinated with how people interact with their realities. She became convinced that our perceptions of ourselves play a role in that and our experiences in the world are affected. When considering culture, this becomes even more evident. Our experiences become agreed upon and validated by members of our cultures.
Dr. Banjo is a child of Nigerian immigrants, which influenced her perspective and lens of her research a great deal. She says, “It really made it hard for me to see people as a color. I didn't understand what it means to be Black or White. You were either American or non-American”. As she continued her education and discovered critical race theory, she began to understand how constructed social constructs are - they are meant to maintain a status quo. This led to her fascination with personal identification of oneself within these constructs. Her personal standpoint motivates her to push others to love one another. Her goal is to use her creative and academic work to focus people’s attention on our sameness and making room for voices and stories that are outside of the constructs that have been created. That helps her see outside of the boundaries which is why she is looking at interdisciplinary and mix-method areas of work.
Recent publishings of Dr. Banjo look at race and religion. “My faith is rooted in a deeper, higher Love...one that unites, one that affirms others and hopes the best, and in this way, it motivates the goal of my work”, which is evident in her previous statements. In one of her books, Contemporary Christian Culture: Messages, Missions and Dilemmas looks at Christian music, however, is more centered in the intersections of faith and race. Its main message is that Christian faith is a unifier across cultures and races, but social constructs and attachments to these constructs led to expressed needs and perceived differences.
In her podcast, “Unapologetically the U.S.” ( whose name was inspired by Langston Hughes “I, too Sing America”) Dr. Banjo gained her inspiration from the Trump administration’s rhetoric about immigrants. She wanted to create a space for people who are immigrants or in between, who are outside of those limiting racial boxes, allowing for people to share their experiences. The main talking points of her podcast are about the assimilation process and exploring how their positionality impacted how they engage with the world and America in general.
Dr. Banjo has two upcoming books, an edited volume Immigrant Generation and Audiences and the anthology Dreams for Our Children. The inspiration for these books began in 2016 following Donald Trump’s election when she learned she was pregnant with a child of Nigerian heritage and began to think of her child’s identity. After watching Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming” stand-up she said “I felt like my experience of being an immigrants' kid was seen.” She began to think about others' experiences about hearing stories of immigrants and seeing those in between. These thoughts and experiences have led Dr. Omotayo Banjo to study and research the topics she does. Her experiences growing up as a child of Nigerian immigrants shaped her view of that world and how she experiences life. These experiences have helped her create a space for everyone, from all different backgrounds.