Dawn-Elissa Fischer

Dawn-Elissa Fischer

Office hours are by appointment using Calendly link: https://calendly.com/defprofessor/
Phone: 1 415 338 7532
Email: def@sfsu.edu
Location: FA 541
  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Florida, 2007
  • AB, Washington University in St. Louis, 1999
  • Areas: political anthropology, educational ethnography [cultural and visual subdisciplines]


An overlying theme in Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer’s scholarship is Representing the Unseen. Critically examining 20+ years of ethnographic research on the frontlines of social movements and Black entertainment, her work reveals vicissitudes and victories untold, unseen and unknown. Representing the Unseen illuminates the vibrant artistic and political lives of youth in their digital worlds, weaving a tapestry from the stories of underground emcees, grassroots organizers, cosplay vloggers, gaming gurus and other digital media designers to demonstrate a unified history of sustained online revolution. 

Dr. Fischer also applies Representing the Unseen as a framework to identify, amplify, recognize and reward the intellectual and social justice contributions of historically excluded public educators to critical pedagogy and public engagement. As an ethnographer, Dr. Fischer has been evaluating racial equity and strategic planning in K-12 as well as postsecondary education since 1999.  

Teaching & Advising

An associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at San Francisco State University, Dr. Fischer teaches courses about racism, gender, globalization, hiphop and virtual ethnography. Her expertise and experience examining the intersections of Black and Japanese popular cultures provide exciting opportunities for students. Through coursework and internships, students have engaged the following through a cultural, linguistic and visual anthropological lens:

  • video games and role playing game life
  • anime, manga, comics and graphic novels
  • Hiphop and hiphop-influenced music + media
  • digital fanworlds and online speech communities
  • Black visual art, exhibitions and film


Anthropology majors and alumni have been awarded internships with the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, where Dr. Fischer has directed special programs and collections for two decades.  

Publications & Fellowships

Dr. Fischer writes and consults about popular culture, policy and political activism with a focus on antiracism, social media and education in a global context. Her four critical essays published in the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap became available August 2021, and she is co-editing a book titled Challenging the Unknown: Hip Hop, Comics and Critical Pedagogy (with Michael Dando). See publications

A short list of her honors include: NSF Advance Equitable Collaboration in STEM Fellowship (2021-22); Science, Technology and Society Hub Faculty Fellowship (2020-21); Educator of the Year Award from the National Council of Negro Women, Golden Gate Chapter (2017); Nasir Jones Fellowship (2016). 

Dr. Fischer is a recipient of mentoring + career pathways programs and awards, including the Career Enhancement Fellowship, the Mellon Mays Fellowship, and Social Science Research Council-Mellon Postgraduate Initiative grants and conferences. She’s recipient of research methods and language development fellowships, including the Japan Foundation-Japanese Language Institute and the NSF Cultural Anthropology Program’s SCRM for Ethnoecology and GIS/ Remote Sensing.

Affiliations & Professional Organizations

Dr. Fischer is an affiliate faculty member in San Francisco State’s Educational Leadership Doctoral Program and Sexuality Studies. She co-developed the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) PIE curriculum for faculty development regarding anitracist pedagogy for online teaching and learning through CEETL with Drs. Wei Ming Datiotis, Bridgitte Davila and Rama Kased (cite as Dariotis, Davila, Fischer and Kased, 2020). Dr. Fischer conceptualizad and co-wrote the Equity Research Fellowship for BIWOC associate professors with Drs. Juliette Hua and Laura Mamo (2021). In Spring 2022, she is Faculty Coordinator for our campus National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development, a resource for writing and career development for faculty and graduate students. Dr. Fischer has served 40+ graduate theses and dissertations during her time at San Francisco State University.

Dr. Fischer is a life member of the Association for the Study of African Life and History, the National Council of Black Studies, and has served as department chair in Africana Studies. She has been a member of the Association of Black Anthropologists (and the American Anthropological Association) since 1998. Dr. Fischer served an Awards Committee reviewer for the American Anthropological Association (2001-2005) and as a board member to the Association of Black Anthropologists (1999-2001; 2010-2014; 2019-present).

Community & Civic Life

Dr. Fischer is currently celebrating her Silver Anniversary, 25th year, as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated with fellow initiates of Beta Delta Chapter (St. Louis) and as a current member of Rho Delta Omega Chapter (Silicon Valley). She volunteers and serves a number of community-based organizations and initiatives. A co-founder of the National Hip Hop Political Convention, she maintains the importance of identifying and amplifying the work of organizations that teach tools for transformative justice, such as Freedom Lifted. Dr. Fischer lives in the Bay area with her fabulous teen and Zoom-famous cats.    


Ph.D.             Anthropology,  University of Florida, December 2007 (summa cum laude)

Dissertation: “Kobushi Ageroo!” ((=Pump Ya Fist!)): Blackness, ‘Race’ and Politics in Japanese Hiphop. Co-Chairs: Faye V. Harrison and Kesha Fikes; Readers: Irma McClaurin, Mark Reid, Michael Heckenberger.


M.A.               Anthropology, University of Florida, August 2002 (summa cum laude) 

Master’s Thesis: “Hiphop Means Teaching the Young”: Using Hiphop as Critical Pedagogy. Chair: Kesha Fikes; Readers: Alan Burns, Jane Townsend.


A.B.                Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, August 1999 (cum laude)

Minors: African and African-American Studies and Japanese Language and Literature. Honors Thesis: “Lifting as We Climb”: A Documentation of African-American Anthropologists' Experiences in the Academy. Chair: Richard Fox; Readers: Donald Matthews and Garrett Duncan.


Learn more at the following websites:

·           http://defprofessor.com/about/

·           https://faculty.sfsu.edu/~def/home

·           http://hiphoparchive.org/about/staff

·           https://transforms.sfsu.edu/science-technology-and-society-hub


Virtual Office/ Zoom Link

Zoom by Phone:

(669) 900-6833

Meeting ID: 848885141

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