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

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.

Tiffany Barber

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Art and Art History)
University of Rochester
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Tiffany Barber

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Art and Art History)
University of Rochester
"Undesirability and the Value of Blackness in Contemporary Art"

My dissertation, Undesirability and the Value of Blackness in Contemporary Art, reconstitutes the terms by which we historicize artworks that take blackness and the black body as their subjects, particularly at a moment when “post-racial” aspirations collide with anti-black animus. Produced in the post-civil rights era by contemporary artists Kara Walker, Wangechi Mutu, Xaviera Simmons, and Narcissister, the works I examine in my dissertation center on what I call undesirability, aesthetic strategies of repulsion (dismemberment, crudeness, and self-objectification among them), strategies that neither work to repair nor redeem the traumatic past of blackness. Black artists have long been expected to redress the collective trauma of slavery and its afterlife, an impetus that has historically circumscribed black artistic expression. However, key twenty-first century artworks by Walker, Mutu, Simmons, and Narcissister depart from this trend.  In figurations of grotesque female bodies, they defy long-held aesthetic philosophies and social norms about what constitutes “beauty,” “pleasure,” and the political value of blackness.

Lyndsey Beutin

Pre-Doctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania (Annenberg School for Communication)
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Lyndsey Beutin

Pre-Doctoral Fellow
University of Pennsylvania (Annenberg School for Communication)
"If Slavery's Not Black: The Stakes of the Anti-Trafficking Discourse"

My dissertation analyzes how the phrase “human trafficking is modern day slavery” moves through the mediascape. I am interested in why this particular application of the word ‘slavery’ has gained legitimacy within U.S. policy, philanthropic, museological, and humanitarian spheres. I use a media ethnographic approach to track the discourse across sectors, focusing on how the imagery and memory of 19th-century slavery and abolition are used in presidential speech, news reporting, NGO promotional materials, and museum exhibitions to lend urgency to the issue of trafficking. My work is concerned with the politics of historical comparison and is motivated by the question: What is at stake in how, and by whom, the “afterlife of slavery” is articulated (Hartman 2007)? I argue that by naming a new slavery—human trafficking—amid the persistent material and symbolic effects of historic racial slavery, state and non-state actors appropriate the memory of slavery to circumvent historical responsibility and advance transnational governance agendas that are congruent with, rather than disruptive to, the underlying structures of racial liberalism and racial capitalism

Julius Fleming Jr.

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Africana Studies)
University of Maryland, College Park
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Julius Fleming Jr.

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Africana Studies)
University of Maryland, College Park

Julius is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned a doctorate in English, and a graduate certificate in Africana studies, from the University of Pennsylvania. Specializing in African Diasporic literatures and cultures, he has particular interests in performance studies, visual culture, sound studies, philosophy, medicine, and southern studies— especially where they intersect with race, gender, and sexuality. During his time at the Woodson, Julius will complete his first book manuscript, entitled “Technologies of Liberation: Performance and the Art of Black Political Thought.” This project uncovers the centrality of theatrical performance to the cultural and political landscapes of the modern Civil Rights Movement. It argues that black theatre, like photography and television, was a vital mode of aesthetic innovation and black political thought. Whether staging performances in the cotton fields of Mississippi, on Broadway, or in Amsterdam, Holland, black artists and activists crafted radical theatrical performances that inflected the political character of U.S. modernity, and revised normative ideologies of race, gender, sexuality, and modernity itself. Julius will also begin work on his second book project, which traces the historical role of black performance in producing and dismantling the medical industrial complex. Whereas mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex have dominated scholarly and activist discourse, this project makes a case for more evenly attending to the medical industrial complex—both as a critical object of study and a key social justice issue that informs possibilities for being black and human.

Lindsey Jones

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Social Foundation of Education)
University of Virginia
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Lindsey Jones

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Social Foundation of Education)
University of Virginia
‘Not a Place of Punishment’: the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls, 1915-1940.”

My dissertation argues that the concept of girlhood as a life stage was critical to black women’s educational philosophy and practice in juvenile reformatories.  I highlight the pedagogies black women employed to mitigate the effects of a society determined to sexualize, criminalize, and exploit black girls.

Chinwe Ezinna Oriji

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

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diasporic Studies)
University of Texas at Austin
“Race in Africa, Africa as Diaspora: Racialization of Post-Independence Nigerians in the U.S.”

In my dissertation, I argue that post-Independence Nigerians in Houston, Texas must be studied within a theoretical framework of global anti-black racialization that takes into consideration the way both local and global racial structures played in their position in society. I utilize critical race and African Diaspora theories to demonstrate the necessity in incorporating post-Independence Africans within the framework of diaspora theorization while simultaneously emphasizing the need for centering global racial structures as an analytical framework in African Studies and immigrant sociology. I convey how this population’s legal access to the U.S., negotiation of racialized ethnic identities, forms of mobilization, economic position, and memories and silences of their past are all embedded in and impacted by local and global structures of anti-black racialization. In turn, I present a political project that stresses that post- Independence Nigerians can not be understood outside of their blackness that determines their existence.

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.

Tony Perry

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (American Studies)
University of Maryland
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Tony Perry

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (American Studies)
University of Maryland
"To Go to Nature’s Manufactory’: The Material Ecology of Slavery in Antebellum Maryland"

My dissertation examines the environmental history of slavery in antebellum Maryland and is particularly attentive to the ways enslaved people’s relationship to their environment manifested itself in their everyday lives. In this project I advance an ecological analysis that privileges various networks of relation between slaves, slaveholders, soils, plants, animals, and (cold) weather. Grounding my analysis in the everyday world of slavery, my dissertation establishes and employs a framework I call material ecology, which draws from material culture studies in that it utilizes object-oriented analysis as a means of thinking through, unpacking, and rendering the ecologies of slavery in which I am interested. 

Utilizing this approach, I organize each of my chapters around a class of objects that materialize various ecological relations. As the points at which such relations converge, cast-iron plows, enslaved people’s shoes, slave-made charms, as well as stews and similar one-pot meals disclose distinctive interactions between the enslaved and their environment. From my analysis of the relationships that cohere around these objects, I argue that in antebellum Maryland both slaves and slaveholders mobilized elements of their environment against one another in their multiform contests over power. Examining the ecological networks involved in these contests illustrates the extent to which enslaved people’s relationship to the environment was simultaneously antagonistic and empowering.

Published "In Bondage When Cold was King: The Frigid Terrain of Slavery in Antebellum Maryland" in the Journal Slavery & Abolition 

 

Xavier Pickett

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Religion & Society)
Princeton Theological Seminary
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Xavier Pickett

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Religion & Society)
Princeton Theological Seminary
"Black (Ir)religious Fire: The Literary and Moral Imagination of James Baldwin and James Cone"

Black (Ir)religious Fire: The Literary and Moral Imagination of James Baldwin and James Cone shatters monochromatic understandings of religion in African American literature. Through analyses of Baldwin’s and Cone’s writings, the dissertation argues that there is an (ir)religious vision motivated and sustained by rage – an (ir)religious fire – at work in the literary and moral imagination of Baldwin that redresses Cone’s flattening of said (ir)religious vision in Black literature.

Petal Samuel

Post-Doctoral Fellow (English)
Vanderbilt University
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Petal Samuel

Post-Doctoral Fellow (English)
Vanderbilt University
"Polluting the Soundscape: Noise Control, The Colonial Ear, and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Writing"

Petal's book project examines the role of sound in tactics of colonial governance and strategies of anticolonial resistance in the twentieth-century anglophone Caribbean. The manuscript analyzes the uses of noise abatement laws as furtive mechanisms for surveilling, disrupting, and criminalizing Afro-Caribbean peoples and and marking them as contaminants to both the environment and the body politic. Rooted in early colonial fears of black assembly and insurrection that occasioned measures such as drumming bans, twentieth century colonial authorities and local periodicals instead attached the racially coded language of “noise” to Afro-Caribbean peoples and cultural production in order to cast them as inimical to the body politic. Conversely, her book examines Afro-Caribbean women’s writing that embraces such “noises”--conversation, laughter, sound systems, traffic, and even the voices of the dead--against the grain of these laws and public discourses, reclaiming them as subversive grammars that are integral to decolonization.

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