Skip to main content

Aymar Jean Christian
Associate Professor
Communication Studies; Performance Studies

Aymar Jean Christian

Aymar Jean “AJ” Christian is an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. His research focuses on the political economy of legacy and new media, cultural studies and community-based research. He published his first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television, on New York University Press in 2018, and is currently writing his second book, Open Systems, which explores how to repair systemic harm and discrimination in media, technology and research. His scholarship has been published in numerous academic journals, including the International Journal of Communication, Television & New MediaSocial Media & Society, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, among other journals and edited collections.

Dr. Christian engages industry and community-based organizations as part of his research. He has given lectures for and collaborated with the Sundance Institute, Vimeo, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Black Public Media, and more. He has juried television and video for the Peabody Awards, Gotham Awards, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others. His work has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation & Field Foundation (Leaders for a New Chicago, 2019), Variety (Top 50 Entertainment Instructor 2020 & 2021), Filmmaker (25 New Faces of Indie Film, 2018) NewCity (Film Leader 2017 & Film Hall of Fame 2020), Chicago magazine (New Power List, 2021) and Seed&Spark (Filmmaker to Watch 2018).

Dr. Christian co-founded OTV | Open Television, a platform for intersectional television. OTV programs have received recognition from the Television Academy (Emmy Awards), Webby Awards, Streamy Awards, Gotham Awards, among others. Its programming partners have included the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Sundance Institute, and the city of Chicago, along with numerous galleries, community organizations, and universities. Artists supported by OTV have received offers from leading studios and distributors, including HBO, CBS and Hulu. From 2015-2020 while leading OTV’s transition from experiment to independent non-profit, Dr. Christian and Executive Director Elijah McKinnon raised over $1 million in multi-year support to sustain its operations.

Building on the success of OTV, he co-founded OTV Studio with Stephanie Jeter and Lilly Wachowski. OTV Studio is an incubator for intersectional film & television, developing artists and producing their short-form content to accelerate discovery and long-form development with an array of mission-aligned studios, production companies, and institutional partners.

He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.


PhDCommunication, University of Pennsylvania
MACommunication, University of Pennsylvania
BAAmerican Culture, University of Michigan

Awards and Fellowships

  • Faculty Fellow, Peabody Media Center, 2017-2019
  • Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship, Northwestern University, 2015-2016
  • Searle Fellowship in Teaching & Learning, Northwestern University, 2014-2015
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, honorable mention, 2012
  • Mellon Graduate Research Fellowship, 2009-2010
  • Research Fellowship, The Annenberg School for Communication, 2010-2011
  • Fontaine Society Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 2007-2012