The Carter G. Woodson Institute, U.Va.

The Carter G. Woodson Institute

for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia

Woodson Fellows

Bailey

T. Dionne Bailey

Post-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Mississippi
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T. Dionne Bailey

Post-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Mississippi
“PLEASE DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME”: AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN, MISSISSIPPI, AND THE HISTORY OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN PARCHMAN PRISON, 1890-1980

Dionne received her doctorate in History from the University of Mississippi. Her work centers on African American women and the southern carceral state.  More specifically, Dionne specializes in the study of black women and incarceration in the American South.  Dionne’s dissertation placed particular emphasis on the lived experiences of African American women incarcerated at Parchman penitentiary, one of the South’s and Mississippi’s most notorious prison. Her manuscript will further expand on her dissertation entitled, “PLEASE DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME”:  AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN, MISSISSIPPI, AND THE HISTORY OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN PARCHMAN PRISON, 1890-1980, which won the 2016 Franklin Riley Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society for the best dissertation on a topic of Mississippi history or biography. Dionne’s research places women at the center of the United States political economy and illustrates how southern states, including Mississippi, shaped their public policies and laws to exploit black women’s labor and sexuality. The manuscript will trace the proliferation of the American penal system from the late nineteenth throughout the twentieth century while adding a nuanced perspective of the carceral state and the history of crime and punishment from a bottom-up perspective. More specifically, the work points out that, beginning in the 1880s, the South developed a unique system of domestic parole.  The Mississippi justice system effectively adopted this system and used its racist ideologies of gender, labor, and space to criminalize African American women. The book spans different historical periods and centers incarcerated black women’s experiences while also recovering their voices. The manuscript broadens scholarly understanding of slavery, imprisonment, the Jim Crow era, convict leasing, racism, space, and economics.  As importantly, the manuscript investigates labor and sexual exploitation within the prison system and shatters the so-called state-imposed notions of sexual deviance of African American women both outside and within the prison walls.  The manuscript also contextualizes federal and state judicial systems that criminalize women who were raped, unwed mothers, and those in same-sex relationships.

Nzingha Kendall

Post-Doctoral (American Studies)
Indiana University Bloomington
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Nzingha Kendall

Post-Doctoral (American Studies)
Indiana University Bloomington

In a world that constrains black women's expression and their ability to live, how does experimental filmmaking allow for moments and spaces of liberation? "Imperfect Independence: Black Women & Experimental Filmmaking," looks to black women across the diaspora, from the late 20th century to the present, who use experimental techniques and practices in their films to answer this question. I argue that experimental filmmaking practices offer black women fleeting, yet profound sources of freedom; these moments of freedom constitute instances of imperfect independence.

F. Delali Kumavie

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (English)
Northwestern University
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F. Delali Kumavie

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (English)
Northwestern University
“Dreams of Flight: Air, Airplanes and Airports in Black Literature”

My dissertation extends the vital loci of black critical and artistic work from the sea, ocean, water, and ship, to the air, airplanes and airports to reveal how slavery and its technologies intersects with modernity and its technology of travel. I argue that the contemporary literary works of African and diasporic writers at the center of this dissertation, Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, Toni Morrison, Ama Ata Aidoo, Nnedi Okorafor, complicate the entanglement of flight with possibility, fantasy, lightness, or escape, by showing how the structure and grammar of the slave dungeon and ship haunts the spaces of the air, airplane, and airport. In other words, I utilize an interdisciplinary framework to center blackness in my study to posit that black literary engagements with these sites uncover genealogies and temporalities of flight that undermine the progression-centeredness of travel and mobility. “Dreams of flight” examines this illusive coupling of freedom with flight by focusing on the specific technology and sites of flight (air, airplanes and airports).

Chinwe Ezinna Oriji

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
The University of Texas at Austin
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Chinwe Ezinna Oriji

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
The University of Texas at Austin
"Race in Africa, Africa as Diaspora: The Transatlantic Racialization of Post-Independence Nigerians"

My dissertation, Race in Africa, Africa as Diaspora, posits racial structures as transnationally positioned in Nigeria and the U.S. for Black Africans, focusing specifically on the relationship between race, ethnicity, Blackness, Africanness, indigeneity and immigration. Using an ethnography of Nigerians in Houston, Texas, Race in Africa argues that Nigerians’ acts of resisting, perpetuating, and transforming normative forms of racialization is a call to redefine the parameters of race in order to assert its global orientation, as squarely positioned in Post-Independence Africa. I use twentieth century African immigrant historiography, racialized ethnic making, black rhetorical solidarity, and social memories of the Nigeria-Biafra war as four sites of analyses. Ultimately, this dissertation contends that notions of race and blackness are limited to the U.S. as a nation-state, based on what is termed a Middle Passage epistemology. This present definition of race and blackness cannot accommodate the experiences of Post-Independence Africans, who operate in global spheres of racialization produced by western empire-making. This formation includes but extends beyond the Middle Passage. In short, I argue that colonization, imperialism, global capitalism, indigeneity and immigration are fully compatible with notions of race and Blackness for Post-Independence Black Africans.

Paul Joseph López Oro

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
The University of Texas at Austin
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Paul Joseph López Oro

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
The University of Texas at Austin
"Queering Garifuna: The Diasporic Politics of Black Indigeneity in New York City"

Gender and sexuality are central to the ways in which Garífuna New Yorkers negotiate migrations, build cultural movements, and transnational networks beyond multiple borders of nation-states and racial subjectivities. Garífuna are descendants of shipwrecked enslaved West Africans and Carib-Arawak indigenous peoples on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, their exile by British colonial forces in 1797 led them to the Bay Islands of Honduras, then subsequent migrations to Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and mainland Honduras. Their first Great Migration to the United States begins in the late 1950s due to the economic collapse of the United Fruit Company. New York City is home to the largest Garífuna community outside of Central America's Caribbean Coast. My dissertation, Queering Garifuna: The Diasporic Politics of Black Indigeneity in New York City, is an ethnographic and archival study on how gender and sexuality shapes the ways in which Garifuna New Yorkers negotiate and perform their multiple subjectivities as Black, Indigenous, and Latinx. Building upon Black Queer Diaspora theories to closely examine the processes of self-making, performance, ancestral memory, visual cultures, and hemispheric articulations of Blackness, Indigeneity, and Latinidad. Situating Garifuna New Yorkers as a political project of self-making Garifunaness vis-a-vis cultural and sociolinguistic preservation and restoration. I argue that Garifuna New Yorkers engage in a diasporic politics of Black Indigeneity that disrupt U.S. Blackness, Latin American mestizaje, and U.S. Latinidad. Queering Garífuna is a study of political movements, transgenerational migrations, and racial & ethnic negotiations. 

Seth Palmer

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Anthropology/ Women and Gender Studies)
University of Toronto
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Seth Palmer

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Anthropology/ Women and Gender Studies)
University of Toronto
“In the Image of a Woman: Sarimbavy Subject-Formation and Embodied Interpellation in the Betsiboka Valley"

Seth Palmer is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and the collaborative programs in Women’s and Gender Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. Seth’s dissertation, provisionally titled “In the Image of a Woman: Sarimbavy Subject-Formation and Embodied Interpellation in the Betsiboka Valley,” is an ethnographic account of the lives of sarimbavy – same-sex desiring and/or gender non-conforming male-bodied persons – in northwestern Madagascar. The project is based upon sustained, multi-sited fieldwork in three sites: a rural, riverine town and nearby villages in the Upper Betsiboka Valley, a small, regional port city on the Mozambique Channel, and the nation’s capital Antananarivo, and traces the peregrinations of sarimbavy-as-figure and representation, as a linguistic category and cultural logic impregnated with sex/gender theories, and, centrally, as human lives identified and interpellated under its sign. The dissertation project centers around the perplexing and compelling convergence between burgeoning, “modern” MSM (Men Who Have Sex with Men) and HIV-prevention activism and the “traditional” practice of tromba spirit possession. An experiment in historical ethnography, In the Image of a Woman draws upon queer theories of temporality to reconsider the import of mediumship and its idioms in the social worldings of sarimbavy subjects and the spirits that possess them.

Claire Antone Payton

Post-Doctoral (History)
Duke University
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Claire Antone Payton

Post-Doctoral (History)
Duke University
“‘And We Will Be Devoured’: Construction and the Politics of Dictatorship in Haiti (1957-1986).”

I earned my doctorate in History from Duke University in 2018. My research draws from environmental studies, urban studies, material culture, geographic theory, and political history to build a new history of urbanization and state-building in the modern Caribbean. Historical literature on the Caribbean remains framed by scholarship that reveals how the transition from slavery to freedom in the nineteenth century formed unique peasantries. But like the rest of the world, the region has since been altered by structural transformations that privilege explosive urban growth. For example, today, more than a third of Haiti’s population lives in the metropolitan area of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. My intellectual agenda takes as a point of departure that new questions and methods are needed to fully grapple with the implications of this immense change.

While at the Woodson Institute, I will be revising and expanding my manuscript, tentatively titled “‘And We Will Be Devoured’: Construction and the Politics of Dictatorship in Haiti (1957-1986).” This project uses extensive, multi-sited archival research to build a case study of the relationships between two defining themes of the twentieth century: rapid urbanization and authoritarianism. I show how the transformation of the urban landscape of the capital, Port-au-Prince, reflected a consolidation and expression of broader processes that also underpinned the Duvalier regime (1957-1986). The city’s built environment operated as an interface between material and political forms that transformed the dynamics of both. I trace this theme through a range of construction and urban planning practices, including demolition of low-income neighborhoods, construction of transportation infrastructure, state responses to environmental hazards, and the management of the cement economy. I show how the regime governed city space for the benefit of a small elite, making decisions that helped it gain and maintain its grip on power. But these decisions contributed to the formation a precarious landscape of inequality that would haunt the world when, in January 2010, Port-au-Prince collapsed in a deadly earthquake

Sean Reid

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Anthropology)
Syracuse University
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Sean Reid

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Anthropology)
Syracuse University
“Continuity, Transformations, and Rupture in the Forests of Gold”

Sean H. Reid is a doctoral candidate in the Anthropology Department at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. He specializes in African archaeology, maritime archaeology, and the archaeology of the Atlantic world. His dissertation, titled “Continuity, Transformations, and Rupture in the Forests of Gold,” examines broad transformations over the past 2,000 years in the lifeways of the people inhabiting the coast and hinterlands of Central and Western Region, Ghana. He specializes in the use of remotely sensed imagery to aid archaeological survey, particularly satellite imagery. Sean was a Fulbright Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year affiliated with the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. He is also a former Critical Language Scholar (Egypt '09) and has worked on archaeological projects in Sierra Leone, South Africa, The Gambia, Barbados, Maryland, Florida, and France. 

Halimat Somotan

Pre-Doctoral (African History)
Columbia University
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Halimat Somotan

Pre-Doctoral (African History)
Columbia University

'In the Wider Interests of Nigeria as a Whole’: Lagos and the Making of Federal Nigeria, 1949-76,” explores how the transformation of Lagos into the capital city shaped the processes of decolonization and post-independence politics in Nigeria. Before and after independence in 1960, the position of Lagos within the country’s regional structure remained a vehement issue until the capital was transferred to Abuja in Northern Nigeria in 1976.

This project examines the contestations over planning initiatives to remake Lagos and the consequences on how residents imagined themselves within the city and the nation. It highlights how tenants, landlords, indigenous associations, and taxpayers engaged the transmutation of the space and status of Lagos. By drawing on under-used photographs, novels, and musical recordings, this research emphasizes the quotidian interactions of urban dwellers with public and private sites to nuance the historicization of spatial change.

Tracey Stewart

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Music)
University of Virginia
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Tracey Stewart

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Music)
University of Virginia
"Being Maroon: Music, Memory and Power in Articulations of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Jamaican Maroonage"

My dissertation Being Maroon: Music, Memory and Power in Articulations of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Jamaican Maroonage examines the use of music as a marker of identity and an implement of power. Drawing from extensive field research with the Leeward and Windward Jamaican Maroon communities, I argue that cultural specialists possess varying degrees of authority. They use this authority to: authenticate performance practices, set the parameters for what constitutes acceptable cultural representation, passively and actively express approval of or dissatisfaction with community leadership, grant or deny access to cultural knowledge, and challenge persisting unequal power dynamics between themselves and the scholarly community. Additionally, I analyze the Jamaican Maroon cultural presence as firmly situated at the center of national public discourse, and how that presence is sometimes used in ways that are ideologically opposed to Maroons themselves. This dissertation offers fresh insights into Jamaican Maroon cultural traditions—specifically the music and its performance—by examining the social and political contexts in which they exist, and the human interactions that make them possible and complex.

Ashleigh Wade

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Women’s and Gender Studies)
Rutgers University
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Ashleigh Wade

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Women’s and Gender Studies)
Rutgers University
“To Be Girl, Digital, and Black: Black Girls’ Digital Media Production as Cultural Discourse”

My dissertation  investigates the cultural discourse of girlhood that Black girls produce through use of digital media. I combine Black feminist frameworks with media studies and spatial humanities to interrogate the productive possibilities of Black girls’ digital media practices. My project asks: How do Black girls use digital technologies to create photographs and videos that contribute to conversations about race, gender, and sexuality, and what might these images and conversations reveal about how Black girls both navigate and create spaces through cultural production?  I employ semiotic analysis and ethnographic methods to understand how Black girls come to engage with digital media, how these interactions shape girls’ sense of self, and how these practices position Black girls as theorists of Black girlhood. By approaching Black girlhood as a site of production rather than merely consumption, my research shifts the focus in the existing literature on Black girlhood from a deficit or delinquency model to a productivity model. The project refuses a simplistic consumer-producer binary and offers a more nuanced and accurate account of Black girls’ media practices.

Photo Credit: Keith Woodson