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Woodson Fellows

2013 - 2015

Nicole Burrowes

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Nicole Burrowes
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center

Nicole Burrowes is writing a dissertation on “The 1935 Labor Rebellions and the Politics of African-Asian Solidarity in British Guiana.” The project focuses on an underexplored moment in Caribbean history and investigates the often antagonistic construction of African-ness and Indian-ness in British Guiana. Building on extensive archival research, she asks how cross-racial solidarity was imagined in the struggle of the 1930s and what light it sheds on Guyanese realities today. Prior to her graduate work at CUNY, Burrowes earned a certificate through the Institute for Historical Documentary Filmmaking at George Washington University. Her remarkable portfolio of community organizing and engagement includes six years as a summer mentor/advisor to prospective graduate students through the Schomburg-Mellon Humanities Institute at the Schomburg Center for the Research in Black Culture. Last year, Burrowes was a pre-doctoral fellow in African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

Jonathan F. Forney

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Jonathan F. Forney
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Politics)
University of Virginia

“Community Control over Civil Militias in Sierra Leone, 1991-2002"

My dissertation is about the management of wartime relationships between unarmed civilians and their newly militarized neighbors. The hallmark of everyday life within civil warfare is not violence; it is uncertainty. Civilians and combatants struggle to gain access to reliable information about who is a friend, who is a foe, and who can be trusted. Within these volatile contexts, civilians often have little choice but to entrust their safety to armed neighbors who fight as part of civil-counterinsurgency militias. In some situations, those armed use the power of their guns to abuse those who trusted them; in others, they faithfully protect their sponsors. Having empowered community members to monopolize violence, how does one then control them? To address this question, I use archival materials and newly gathered oral histories to understand civil-military relations during a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002.

Laura Helton

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Laura Helton
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
New York University

“Remaking the Past: Collecting, Collectivity, and the Emergence of Black Archival Publics, 1915-1950”

Laura Elizabeth Helton studies the material practices of history-making in the constitution of black identity in the first half of the 20th century.  Her project, “Remaking the Past: Collecting, Collectivity, and the Emergence of Black Archival Publics, 1915-1950,” examines the work of Arturo Schomburg, Alexander Gumby, Dorothy Porter, L.D. Reddick, and Vivian Harsh. She traces how these five individuals, whose backgrounds and locations capture the diversity of the post-emancipation generations, sought to rebut the contention that blackness had no history and construct a counter-history in the face of social scientists’ preoccupation with the “Negro Problem,” on the one hand, and ethnological efforts to preserve an “authentic,” pre-modern black folk culture, on the other. More than simply bequeathing a storehouse of research materials to the future, she argues, this collective search for the past suffused black social and intellectual movements and made historical recuperation an enduring idiom of black resistance. A professional archivist, Ms. Helton spent two years working for the Mississippi Digital Library Project, a statewide pilot project focusing on civil rights collections. The recipient of many grants and awards with an undergraduate degree in anthropology, Ms. Helton aims to show why archives are not only a source for historical research but also a crucial subject of cultural history.

Zakiyyah Jackson

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Zakiyyah Jackson
Post-Doctoral Fellow (African Diaspora Studies)
University of California-Berkeley

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s research examines Black Atlantic literary, visual, and performance interventions into the racialization of the human-inhuman distinction in Western science, philosophy, and law. In so doing, “race” and “species” are revealed as mutually imbricated and co-constitutive discourses, such that, perhaps surprisingly, exigencies of race have crucially anticipated and shaped discourses governing the inhuman (animal, machine, and plant). Professor Jackson’s book in progress, tentatively titled “Beyond the Limit: Science and Inhumanity in (Afro)Modernity,” generates a critical praxis of humanity, paradigms of relationality, and modes of embodiment that reject, alter, or expose the nexus of “race” and “species” in Western science and philosophy. Ultimately, “Beyond the Limit” reveals the pernicious peculiarity of both prevailing foundational conceptions of “the human” and their multiculturalist alternatives.

La TaSha Levy

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

La TaSha Levy
Post-Doctoral Fellow (African American Studies)
Northwestern University

La TaSha B. Levy is a member of the inaugural class of doctoral students in African American Studies at Northwestern University. She defended her dissertation, Getting a Piece of the Action: The Challenges of Black Republican Politics from Nixon to Reagan, in July 2013.   The project offers an original and timely account of the entanglements of civil rights, black power, and the Republican Party. Focusing on the period between 1968 and 1984, Dr. Levy traces the politics and rhetoric of liberal black Republicans, who advocated race-conscious remedies for discrimination, and the emergence of black political thinkers and leaders who broke away from this tradition and aligned themselves with the New Right’s political platform and against the “civil rights establishment.” Although African Americans have been affiliated with the Republican Party since Reconstruction, Dr. Levy’s project illuminates the tensions within black political cultures at a pivotal moment in U.S. history, including a shift in black Republicanism from liberal to conservative.  Her research also discloses the continuing significance of these ideological fissures in the era of “color-blindness.” A graduate of the University of Virginia and former Director of UVA’s Luther P. Jackson Black Cultural Center from 2001-04, Dr. Levy earned a Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell; she is the recipient of many fellowships and awards, including a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. 

 

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Political Science)
University of Chicago

“‘The Development of Political Identity in Public Housing Spaces”

This study explores how policy design shapes the political identity of public housing residents. Specifically, it examines the extent to which the Chicago Plan for Transformation, a Chicago Housing Authority policy, has shaped the political identities of low-income black women living within Altgeld Gardens, the largest housing project within the City of Chicago. In this project I argue that the inhabitation of public housing spaces and the interactions with those present, shape the political identity of residents through policy feedback. As the Plan for Transformation conspicuously removes low-income people of color from the interiors of the City, into the inaccessible, undeveloped outskirts, I find that those affected are interpreting these actions as being assessments of the level of value they have not only to City officials, but also to government, broadly conceived. This assessment of value by individual citizenry is critical, as the extent to which individuals believe themselves to be valued by the government, plays a large part in how they understand and conceptualize their own political identities as citizens, as full members of society, with all of the associated rights and privileges.

 
 

Celeste Day Moore

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Celeste Day Moore
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Chicago

"Race in Translation: Producing, Performing, and Selling African-American Music in Greater France, 1944-1974"

This project examines the production, distribution, and performance of African-American music in greater France and Francophone Africa. It focuses on the thirty years following World War II, when the growth of American power and the decline of the French empire reconfigured the conditions for hearing and understanding jazz, blues, spirituals, and gospel. Audiences linked by expanding commercial, cold war, and colonial networks encountered a musical narrative of black American culture that in turn re-framed the possibilities of national and racial identity, the meaning of liberation, and the contours of black internationalism.

 
 

David Morton

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

David Morton
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Minnesota

David Morton’s dissertation, “The Construction of Home in Maputo, Mozambique, 1940s to the Present,” is a history of housing and land tenure in Mozambique’s capital city. Spanning a period two generations before independence and two generations afterward, it focuses on the construction of shantytown homes. It seeks to explore the connections between house construction and architecture, contestations over urban space, conceptions of citizenship, and the aspirations and expectations of African families.

 
 

Erin Nourse

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Erin Nourse
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Religious Studies)
University of Virginia

“Birth is our Spear Battle’: Pregnancy, Childbirth and Religion in a northern Malagasy Port Town"

This project examines the religious and medical strategies Malagasy use to promote healing in women post-childbirth and to assist infants in their transition from “water babies” (zaza rano) into “real human beings.” I examine childbirth as an opportunity for families to claim and reproduce various historical narratives and religious identities which are ritually articulated and communally constructed, and later imprinted upon children through hair-cutting ceremonies, baptisms and rites of circumcision. I examine the significance of food-related pregnancy taboos, hot and cold post-partum bathing rituals for women, and the use of “growth medicines” (aody be) for infants in Diego Suarez, Madagascar. Ultimately this project argues that mothers’ decisions in terms of what kinds of medical and religious specialists they consult during pregnancy and the post- partum period, rather than being rooted in ancient cultural traditions, are part of modern ways in which Malagasy women create networks of support to ensure the health and wellbeing of their growing families given global healthcare discrepancies, a depressed national economy, and political instabilities which threaten to disrupt the social networks women rely on to raise healthy children. Tendencies toward the observance of “traditional rituals” and/or increasing membership in Madagascar’s charismatic and Pentecostal Christian churches, which offer alternative methods for blessing and protecting infants from spiritual harm, represent some of the many creative paths Malagasy forge in their efforts to raise healthy, well adjusted and spiritually astute children. 

 
 

Ellen Yoshi Tani

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Ellen Yoshi Tani
Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Art History)
 Stanford University

Ellen Tani’s dissertation—“Black Conceptualism and the Atmospheric Turn, 1968-2008”—examines  the dynamic relationship between Conceptual art and African American art, showing how the politics of identity shaped and continue to shape the field of art history. Among the innovations of this project is its inquiry into the ways black conceptual artists have decoupled race from visuality. Ms. Tani weaves together an account of this “atmospheric turn” through interviews with artists and collectors (planned or completed studio interview subjects include Charles Gaines, Nadine Robinson, Lorna Simpson, and Glenn Ligon), archival research, and the study of exhibition materials and contemporary theories of race, sound, performance, and aesthetics. From 2008-11, Ms. Tani was a graduate fellow at the Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She is the author of several catalogue essays, and her curatorial experience includes a summer internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2010.

 
 

Katherine Wiley

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson

Katherine Wiley
Post-Doctoral Fellow (Anthropology)
Indiana University

My book manuscript, Being Ḥarāṭīn? Gendered Social Status in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, analyzes how Ḥarāṭīn women (ex-slaves or descendants of slaves) navigate their newly freed status. Although slavery was legally abolished in 1980, Ḥarāṭīn inhabit an in-between status; they are free, but they remain marked as former slaves by their black African descent. In a place where identity has long been tied to the kind of work that people did, I use the lens of women’s economic activities to examine their senses of self; my chapters analyze market work, economic exchange, public joking discourse, and production of veils as places where they fashion their social standing and assert valued personhood. I am interested in questions of value, considering how Ḥarāṭīn not only fashion personhood by drawing upon or rejecting dominant groups’ values, but also create new ways of being valued persons altogether. I am also planning to develop a second book project on the significance of the Mauritanian veil and dress practices.

The Carter G. Woodson Institute
University of Virginia
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Charlottesville, VA 22904-4162

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