Office Number: 14N-412
Phone Number: (617) 253-3581


Jessica Ruffin

Assistant Professor

Jessica Ruffin is a critical philosopher, media historian, and moving-image enthusiast. Her research focuses on white supremacist aesthetics in post-Enlightenment German-language media and philosophy, as well as their legacies in popular culture, US film, and media theory. She has particular interest in how Arthur Schopenhauer’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s engagements with counter-Enlightenment methods share poetic and temporal resonance with Black and Indigenous thought.

She completed a PhD in Film and Media from the University of California-Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory in 2021. She also holds an MA in German Literature and Culture (UC Berkeley, 2018) and an MA in Humanities (University of Chicago, 2008). Before joining MIT, she was a fellow with the Michigan Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor of Film, Television and Media at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Her current book project, Becoming Amphibious: critical ethical encounters between land and sea, weaves personal narrative, phenomenology of race, Black studies, and media philosophy in search of ethical movements in white supremacist worlding. She has published essays in New German Critique, qui parle, and Millennium Film Journal. Ruffin was associate producer for the Aubin Picture’s documentary Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity (2014) and was pre-production coordinator for the films Chavela (2017) and Dispatches from Cleveland (2017) before returning to academia in 2015.

Her second manuscript reframes Frankfurt School critical theory and psychoanalysis in light of Schopenhauer’s aesthetics–exploring forms of the ethical and mystical in German avant-garde media through the conclusion of World War II.


Subjects taught the current academic year:

21L.011 Introduction to Film Studies (Fall 2024)

21L.012 Forms of Western Narrative: Time, Media, and Identity (Fall 2024)

Subjects taught in recent years:

21L.011 Introduction to Film Studies (Spring 2024)

21L.706 Studies in Film: Aesthetics, Ethics, and White Supremacy (Spring 2024)

Research Interests

Critical theory; aesthetics; ethics; philosophy of history; Black thought; psychoanalysis; diaspora; techniques of the self; cultural technique


“Preface to a Philosophy by Which No One Can Live,” New German Critique 150, Vol. 50, No. 3, November 2023

“Between Friends,” with Simone Stirner, qui parle 27, no. 2 (December 2018): 511-20. doi: 10.1215/10418385-7200298.

Book Review of In Permanent Crisis by İpek A. Çelik, TRANSIT 11, no. 2 (2018).

Ed. intro: “Friendship: Correspondences,” qui parle 27, no. 2 (December 2018): 431-2.

Ed. intro: with Grahame Weinbren, Millennium Film Journal 55 (Spring 2012) – Structures and Spaces: Cine-installation: 3.

Ed. intro: Millennium Film Journal 53 (Fall/Winter 2011) – Migration/Dislocations: 3.

Ed. intro: with Grahame Weinbren, Millennium Film Journal 52 (Winter 2010) – Presence: 3.

“VJ Diary,” Millennium Film Journal 45-46 (Fall 2006) – Hybrids: 103-107.


“Sublime Encounters and Amphibious Imaginings,” Film and Visual Studies Research Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (April 18, 2024)

“Swimming in Ressentiment,” Institute for German Cultural Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (March 1, 2024)

“Amphibious Critique,” German Section and DAAD Colloquium, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (November 17, 2022)

“Amphibious Critique, or Listening for the Sirens after the Catastrophe,” Department of German Studies Colloquium, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, US (April 1, 2022)

“Black Sirens’ Song, or Listening for the Sirens after the Catastrophe,” Black German Studies and Critical Race Theory Workshop Series, Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies, Duke University (December 17, 2020).