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

Ashley Ngozi Agbasoga

Pre-Doctoral (Anthropology)
Northwestern University
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Ashley Ngozi Agbasoga

Pre-Doctoral (Anthropology)
Northwestern University

Ashley Ngozi Agbasoga’s research includes social movements, racialization, blackness, indigeneity, nation-state formation and geography. Her dissertation, titled We Dance With Existence: Black-Indigenous Placemaking in the Land Known as México and Beyond, illuminates how Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous women engage in placemaking practices that reveal and unsettle notions of race, place, and (nation-) statehood in México. Merging ethnographic and archival research conducted from 2016-2020 in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Mexico City with theories and methodologies from Anthropology, History, Black Studies, and Native/Indigenous Studies, Agbasoga argues that Black-Indigenous placemaking practices create two critical ruptures: first, in the (re)produced bifurcation of blackness and indigeneity, and second, in the Mexican state’s racialization of its territory as mestizo. These ruptures generate space to think about alternative possibilities for Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous communities throughout what is known as “The Americas”/Abya Yala.

Shaun Armstead

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
Rutgers University
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Shaun Armstead

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
Rutgers University
Imagined Solidarities: Black Liberal Internationalism and the National Council of Negro Women’s Journey from Afro-Asian to Pan-African Unity, 1935 to 1975

Shaun Armstead is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Her dissertation, “Imagined Solidarities: Black Liberal Internationalism and the National Council of Negro Women’s Journey from Afro-Asian to Pan-African Unity, 1935 to 1975,” charts the understudied international activities of one of the largest African American women’s organizations in U.S. history.

João Batista Nascimento Gregoire

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Kansas
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João Batista Nascimento Gregoire

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Kansas
Fighting the Myth of Racial Democracy from Within – Black Political Action in Brazil (mid-1970s - early 2000s)

João Batista N. Gregoire is a PhD candidate in the department of History at University of Kansas. João was born in Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil. His dissertation “Fighting the Myth of Racial Democracy from Within –Black Political Action in Brazil (mid 1970s - early 2000s),” unearths the lives of historically ignored Afro-Brazilians to demonstrate their role in the attainment of groundbreaking corrective measures towards the fight against racial discrimination. It shifts the conventional focus from the federal government and places the origins of such revolutionary race-based reform within the realm of Black politics.

Matthew Greer

Pre-Doctoral (Anthropology)
Syracuse University
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Matthew Greer

Pre-Doctoral (Anthropology)
Syracuse University

Matthew Greer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology at Syracuse University, where his studies focus on the archaeology of enslaved life.  His dissertation project, Assembling Enslaved Lives: Labor, Consumption, and Landscapes in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, uses historical archaeology, Black studies, and assemblage theory to write the stories of enslaved people in back into the history of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. By analyzing some of the objects, practices, and institutions that affected, and were affected by enslaved people as they labored, bought and used commodities, and inhabited local landscapes, the project assesses what life was like for those enslaved in the Valley and how enslaved Shenandoahans shaped the region’s political economies. The latter point is especially important because to demonstrate that enslaved people mattered in the Valley is to demonstrate that any history that ignores them is incomplete.

Zalika Ibaorimi

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
University of Texas at Austin
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Zalika Ibaorimi

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (African and African Diaspora Studies)
University of Texas at Austin
Haunted Femmes, Haunting Spectators: Modalities of Black Desire, Pleasure & Sexual Shame

Zalika U. Ibaorimi is a multidisciplinary artist and doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation, "Haunted Femmes, Haunting Spectators: Modalities of Black Desire, Pleasure & Sexual Shame," engages Black material and digital publics as the landscape to trace the human sexual geographies between the relation of the Black femme and spectator.

Mahaliah Little

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Ohio State University
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Mahaliah Little

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Ohio State University
Hushed Articulations: Theorizing Representations of Black Women’s Post-Violence Sexuality

Mahaliah Ayana Little is an American Association of University Women (AAUW) Dissertation Fellow at Ohio State University. After graduating from Spelman College in 2013 as an English major, she attended Rutgers University, New Brunswick, for her master's in Women's and Gender Studies. As an alumna of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Mahaliah is committed to diversifying the professoriate and serving underrepresented students. Her dissertation project, "Hushed Articulations: Theorizing Representations of Black Women’s Post-Violence Sexuality," analyzes representations of Black women's sexuality in the aftermath of sexual violence in literature, memoir, and documentaries.

Alysia Mann Carey

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Political Science)
The University of Chicago
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Alysia Mann Carey

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (Political Science)
The University of Chicago
‘I felt the hand of the government in my womb’: Black women, state violence, and the transnational struggle for life in Brazil and Colombia

My dissertation is an ethnographic and community-engaged study investigating the impacts of state violence on black women and communities in Brazil and Colombia. Centering the grassroots leadership of Black women, I examine how they organize and resist the myriad forms of state oppression that intersect and interact in their everyday lives. I use a framework of intimacy as a way to understand Black women’s political thinking and action by articulating how intimacy and activism intersect, through emotions, grief, homes as organizing sites, and the politicization of motherhood and care. In centering the leadership of Black women in Brazil and Colombia, my dissertation will contribute to literature on race and politics, feminist theory and African diaspora studies by examining how Black women are creating networks of support and autonomous organizing by leading movements that resist systems responsible for the violence against themselves, their families, and their communities. Drawing on 18 months of qualitative, ethnographic, participatory, and Black feminist research, I not only explore these movements’ use of a framework of intimacy to understand state violence, but also examine the extent to which their collective repertoires of contention are also rooted in (re)claiming and (re)creating autonomous Black intimate spheres and practices.

Jillean McCommons

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Kentucky
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Jillean McCommons

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Kentucky
The Black Appalachian Commission: Regional Black Power Politics and the War on Poverty, 1969-1975

Jillean McCommons is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Kentucky. My dissertation project, “The Black Appalachian Commission: Regional Black Power Politics and the War on Poverty, 1969-1975,” is a social history of the Black Appalachian Commission (BAC), the first Black-led grassroots organization created to address the specific needs of Black people in the thirteen states that comprise the Appalachian region. My dissertation highlights the intersections of Black Power Studies and Appalachian Studies by examining Black Appalachian demands for structural change during Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty through Richard Nixon’s subsequent dismantling of liberal policies after 1972. To understand Black conceptualizations of regional identity, my dissertation also draws on theories from the field of Geography, including Black Geographies and Black Ecologies, to uncover Black Appalachian epistemologies of land, identity, and place.

Janée A. Moses

Post-Doctoral (American Culture)
University of Michigan
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Janée A. Moses

Post-Doctoral (American Culture)
University of Michigan
A House to Sing In: Extra/Ordinary Black Women’s Narratives about Black Power

Under the direction of Michael Awkward, “A House to Sing In” considers the lives, times, and cultural expressions of Amina Baraka, Nina Simone, and Elaine Brown. By studying these three black revolutionary women together, I consider the extent to which they simultaneously complied with and resisted gendered formulations of revolutionary identities. I challenge African American Studies’ dichotomous misrecognition of black women as either extraordinary because they are, as Joy James states, “not bound to a male persona,” or ordinary because they are publicly bound to a male persona. I deploy the term “Extra/Ordinary” to argue that the reality of black women’s experiences comprises both the extraordinary and the ordinary. My scholarship differs from case studies of black revolutionary women as solely exceptional warriors on the front lines of the black freedom struggle in that I highlight considerations of their day-to-day experiences as wives, mothers, and lovers.

James Parker

Post-Doctoral Fellow (World History)
Northeastern University
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James Parker

Post-Doctoral Fellow (World History)
Northeastern University
The Fluidity of Late Colonial Development: Water Management, State Building, and Rural Resistance in Kenya 1938-63

My current research positions rural East Africa within a broader global narrative of environmental management and social change by examining the role that access to water played in colonial Kenyan statecraft between 1938 and 1963. I study three development projects in the arid and semi-arid landscapes of Kenya, where the colonial government invested thousands of pounds expanding water access into the hinterland to spur agricultural production. Rather than benefiting rural groups, these centralized projects altered the ecological properties of the land with dire consequences, as the rerouting and redistribution of water left entire regions parched and barren, and communities fighting for access to dwindling resources. By comparing policy proposals and implementation with the protestations and resistance of community groups, I foreground communal attempts to push back against their exclusion from water resources while examining how development policy altered local production and modes of survival. Based on extensive English and Swahili archival sources in Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States, my project ultimately argues that the colonial Kenyan state’s obsession with profits over rural lives cut off communities from water, leading to drought, famine, and dispossession on an enormous scale. That the British government were frequently unaware of these outcomes further demonstrates the disconnect between global policy makers and localized experiences and demands the centering of rural voices. As such, my approach offers a new historical perspective on the implementation of development policies and provides a localized socioenvironmental perspective to a topic dominated by top-down political and economic analyses. Reinserting water, and the human relationship to it, is vital to understanding the role of economic policy in shaping environments in the global south. Centering the experiences of resistors and rural populations further draws attention to the inequitable distribution of resources and the role of capital and race in development ideologies.

 

Nicole Ramsey

Post-Doctoral Fellow (African American and African Diaspora Studies)
University of California Berkeley
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Nicole Ramsey

Post-Doctoral Fellow (African American and African Diaspora Studies)
University of California Berkeley
Sub Umbra Floreo (Under the Shade I Flourish): Performing the Belizean Nation

Nicole Ramsey completed her Ph.D. in the department of African American & African Diaspora Studies at the University of California Berkeley. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she holds an MA in African American Studies from UCLA and a BA in American Studies from UC Santa Cruz. Nicole’s interdisciplinary approaches to blackness, indigeneity, migration and popular culture are grounded in a diasporic and transnational framework. Her dissertation, "Sub Umbra Floreo (Under the Shade I Flourish): Performing the Belizean Nation," explores performances of nation, blackness, and cultural production in Belize and its diaspora.

Abraham Seda

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
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Abraham Seda

Pre-Doctoral Fellow (History)
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
A Contested Ring: African Boxing, Social Control and Subversive Culture in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1910 to 1985

Abraham Seda is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Abraham's research investigates African perspectives of boxing in a world in which the white settler colonial state in Zimbabwe was determined to dictate what constituted proper sporting etiquette befitting colonial subjects. His dissertation project, "A Contested Ring: African Boxing, Social Control and Subversive Culture in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1910 to 1985," interrogates how knowledge about Africa is produced, and the ways in which dominant narratives in colonial archives have the power to silence the past.

Alexandria Smith

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Rutgers University
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Alexandria Smith

Post-Doctoral Fellow (Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies)
Rutgers University
Afrekete’s Room: Mapping the Shape of Space and Narrative in Black Queer Women’s Writing

Alexandria Smith completed her Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University New Brunswick. Her research explores questions of sensation, embodiment, eroticism, and geography in literatures written by diasporic Black queer subjects. Her dissertation, Afrekete’s Room: Mapping the Shape of Space and Narrative in Black Queer Women’s Writing proposes sensual worldmaking as a literary strategy which employs lived and embodied experiences as a source of literary and theoretical knowledge about gender, Blackness, and queerness.

Brian Smithson

Post-Doctoral (Cultural Anthropology)
Duke University
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Brian Smithson

Post-Doctoral (Cultural Anthropology)
Duke University
"Piety in Production: Video Filmmaking as Religious Practice in Bénin"

Brian C. Smithson is a cultural anthropologist who studies the audiovisual cultures and religions of West Africa. As a Woodson Research Associate, Brian is completing a book titled Aesthetics of Praise: Making Movies Religious in Bénin—a story about cash-strapped movie producers, Christian–Muslim animosities, and professional rivalries in Yorùbá-speaking Bénin. The book shows how moviemakers overcome these hurdles by championing Yorùbá indigenous religion, its ethical principles, and its moral demands. The movies they make borrow from African art cinema and Nigeria's Nollywood alike. Yet it's in producing these movies—in those moments when Muslims and Christians work together on sets and in studios—that video filmmakers come up with a common language to appeal to potential patrons and honor shared religious attachments. In the process, they champion a religious field where Yorùbá indigenous religion provides an essential resource to shape political possibilities across religions, borders, and oceans in the face of global trends that lead to religious division and economic insecurity in Africa. 

 

Brian's work draws from his experience as an apprentice video filmmaker in Bénin, and his co-production of a full-length, Yorùbá-language movie under the guidance of several Yorùbá filmmakers. Brian earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and a master's degree in African Studies at UCLA. He has taught at Duke, Bowdoin College, and UVA.