Hutchins Center for African and African American Research Announces Class of W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellows

Cambridge, MA (January 27 2014) — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the newly launched Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, has welcomed sixteen Fellows for the 2013-2014 academic year.

“We are delighted to welcome one of our most prestigious, exciting, and diverse classes of Fellows of the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute, housed in the Hutchins Center,” said Gates. “A Nobel Prize-winning writer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a scholar of science education and hiphop, an expert in both African American Studies and twitter,  an eminent scholar of the history of photography who is also an artist, and a distinguished philosopher of African politics and society are only a few of the sixteen fellows are in residence this year. Mining in Ghana, democracy in the age of animism, academic law in South Africa, the Indian Ocean and postcolonial Africa, and feminism in West Africa are some of the topics which are being pursued,” added Gates. The Hutchins Center remains at the forefront of the discovery and expansion of scholarship in African, African American, and African diasporic cultures. Our incoming fellows—from the U.S., Europe, and Africa—reflect our commitment to exploring the vast reach of research in the field.

Originally created in 1975 as the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, the Du Bois Research Institute has annually appointed scholars who conduct individual research for a period of up to one academic year in a variety of fields within African and African American Studies. The Institute accepts established and emerging scholars from both the humanities and social sciences and occasionally from fields such as engineering and the medical sciences. Fellows conduct their research by using resources from Harvard’s extensive library system as well as from the Institute’s research projects, including the Image of the Black in Western Art Research and Photo Archive, Black Potomac Valley Project, the Black Patriots Project, the Dictionary of African Biography, AfricaMap, the African Art Database, the Timbuktu Library Project, the African AIDS Initiative International, and the Working Group on Environmental Justice. Du Bois Research Fellows are participants in a range of activities of the Institute including colloquia, public conferences, lectures, readings, and workshops.


The 2013-2014 Colloquium Series is the venue for fellows to deliver talks on their works-in-progress. It began in September with a lecture by guest speaker Alejandro de la Fuente who has recently joined the Harvard faculty as the Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, as Professor of African and African American Studies; and as the Director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute. Other guest speakers in Fall 2013 included Caroline Elkins, Professor of History and Chair of the Committee for African Studies at Harvard; William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor and the Director of the Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program at Harvard; and Fox Harrell, Associate Professor of Digital Media at MIT.


The Colloquium Series recommences on January 29 with Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. The Du Bois Research Institute’s Inaugural Cohen Fellow for the spring term, Dr. Willis will speak on The Performative Image:  Life of Imitation. Dr. George Church, Professor of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT, will be a guest speaker and deliver DNA Is Not Destiny. But What Happens When It Is? as the second talk of the series.

The 2013-2014 Du Bois Research Institute Fellows and their research projects are as follows:

• David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at University College London.  He is a scholar of eighteenth-century British art, and the author of books on Blake and Hogarth as well as the editor of The History of British Art (Yale University Press, 2008). Over the course of his eminent career, Professor Bindman’s interest turned to the representation of non-Europeans in Western art, culminating in the book Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the Eighteenth Century (Cornell University Press, 2002). In residence as a McMillan-Stewart Fellow for Spring 2013, he is preparing for publication of the last two books of the series Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University Press).

Lauren Coyle is a doctoral student in Anthropology and African Studies, at the University of Chicago. She also received a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Her research interests include legal and political anthropology, historical ethnography, critical theory, and ritual and symbolic power. In residence as a Dorothy Porter & Charles Harris Wesley Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, she is completing her dissertation, “Dual Sovereigns in the Golden Twilight: Law, Land, and Sacrificial Labor in Ghana,” which focuses on mining and environmental politics, moral economies of labor, spiritual and earthly sovereign formations and shadow rule, and “customary” law, constitutional democracy, and authoritarian echoes. She is also currently a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency graduate research fellow.

John Drabinski is Professor of Black Studies at Amherst College. He specializes in francophone and anglophone Caribbean cultural theory and the history of African-American thought, with special emphasis on the philosophical strands in those traditions. Dr. Drabinski is the recipient of the 2014 Fanon Award for Outstanding Book in Caribbean Thought for his Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other. In residence as a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Drabiniski is at work on his book-length project entitled Fragment Home: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic which offers a philosophical reading of James Baldwin's non-fiction work in relation to a range of black Atlantic thinkers, from early African-American thought to contemporary Caribbean critical theory.

Holly Ellis is a doctoral student in African Studies at the University of Birmingham, U.K. She is currently the General Editor of the Journal of History and Cultures. In residence as a Dorothy Porter & Charles Harris Wesley Fellow for Spring 2014, she will be working on her dissertation entitled Breaking the Binaries of Empire: West African Feminist Activists and African-American Women 1918-1960.

Christopher Emdin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. Dr. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality, and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals including the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. In residence as both a Caperton and a Hiphop Archive Fellow for Fall 2013, he will work on his project S.T.E.M. with no root bears no fruit: Colloquial appropriations of canonical science in contemporary hip-hop.

• Shose Kessi is Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Her specializations are in social psychological research into identity and difference, particularly in relation to race and gender in African contexts; community psychology, consciousness, empowerment and resistance; and multimedia methods for social psychological research. In residence as a Mellon Mandela Fellow for Spring 2014, she will be working on her project Student’s experiences of transformation in higher education: A social psychological perspective.

• Erika Kitzmiller is Qualitative Researcher, Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania A historian of race, social inequality, and education. In 2012-2013, she served as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Education at Drexel University. Dr. Kitzmiller is engaged in educational activism and is the co-founder of Experiencing Schools (, a multimedia website that highlights the experiences of urban educators.  In residence as a Caperton Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Kitzmiller is at work on her project The Roots of Educational Inequality: Germantown High School, 1907-2012.

• Christopher Lee is Lecturer in International Relations at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the author of Unreasonable Histories:  Race and the Genealogical Imagination in Colonial Africa, forthcoming from Duke University Press. He is also the editor of Making a World After Empire:  The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives, which was the recipient of the 2010 Ali Sastroamidjojo Prize, Asia-Africa Academy, Jakarta, Indonesia.  In residence as a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow for Spring 2014, Dr. Lee will work on his project The Indian Ocean as a “Zone of Peace”: Postcolonial Africa in the Nuclear Age, 1955-1979.

• Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Romance Studies Department and at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University as well as a Convenor of The Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC). He is editor of the online cultural magazine The Johannesburg Salon and the author of numerous books in French including La Naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris, Karthala, 1996) and Sortir de la grande nuit. Essai sur l'Afrique decolonisee (Paris, La Decouverte, 2010). His book Critique de la raison negre has just been published to critical acclaim, and Africa South of Theory are scheduled to soon appear with La Decouverte in Paris and Wits University Press in Johannesburg. Dr. Mbembe’s now-classic On the Postcolony (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001) has been translated in many languages. In residence as an Oppenheimer Fellow during Fall 2013, he was at work on the project Democracy in the Age of Animism.

Diane McWhorter, a journalist based in New York City, is the author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights  (Simon & Schuster, 2001), a history of the civil rights revolution in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. It won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction among other awards. McWhorter has been a longtime contributor to The New York Times and is on the U.S.A Today Board of Contributors, writing for its op-ed page. Her articles on race, politics, and culture have also appeared in The Nation, Slate, The American Scholar, Smithsonian, Harper’s, among other publications In residence as a Du Bois Institute Fellow for Fall 2013, at work on her project Moon of Alabama: From Nazi Germany to Tranquility Base, via the Segregated American South.

Mark Anthony Neal is Professor of African & African American Studies at Duke University where he was the 2010 Winner of the Robert B. Cox Teaching Award. The author of several books including the recently published Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (NYU Press, 2013), he is also the co-editor of the acclaimed That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, now in its second edition. Neal is the host of the weekly webcast Left of Black, which is produced in conjunction with the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies at Duke. You can follow Neal on Twitter at @NewBlackMan. In residence as a Hiphop Archive Fellow for Fall 2013, Dr. Neal was at work on his project What if the Greensboro Four Had Twitter? Social Justice in the Age of Social Media and Hip-Hop.

Bryan Sinche is the Belle K. Ribicoff Endowed Professor and Associate Professor of English at the University of Hartford. He has published journal articles and book chapters on nineteenth-century American and African American literature and is editing the third edition of the teachers' guide for The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. In residence as a Du Bois Fellow for the 2013-2014 academic year, Dr. Sinche is at work on his project "Shining Like New Money": Nineteenth-Century African American Literature in the Marketplace.

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian activist and author who in 1986 became the first African writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is currently the President’s Marymount Institute Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. One of the world’s most important voices, he is the author of numerous significant essay and poetry collections, plays, novels, and memoirs. His work is rooted in Africa; his creativity and vision are universal in scope. He is residence in at the Du Bois Institute for the 2013-2014 academic year as the Inaugural Hutchins Fellow.

Deborah Willis is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has pursued a dual professional career as an art photographer and is one of leading historians of African American photography and curator of African American culture. Exhibitions of her work include: A Sense of Place, Frick, University of Pittsburgh, 2005; Regarding Beauty, University of Wisconsin, 2003; and Embracing Eatonville, Light Works, Syracuse, NY, 2003-4. Her curated exhibitions include: Posing Beauty which opened at Tisch in the fall of 2009 and is touring the country with the sponsorship of JP Morgan Chase and organized by Curatorial Assistance and 1968: Then and Now at Tisch and at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which opened in Fall 2008. Her recent volumes include Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present (WW Norton, 2009), Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (WW Norton, 2009 and NAACP Image Award Literature Winner), and Black Venus 2010: They Called Her "Hottentot" (Temple University Press, 2010). She is in residence as the Inaugural Cohen Fellow for Spring 2014.

George Wilson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Miami. He is co-editor with Ryan Smith of Social Stratification: Key Readings (Oxford University Press, 2013) and author of numerous influential articles and book chapters. As a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow for Spring 2014, he is at work on his project Evolving Patterns of Racial Stratification in the Public Sector.

The oldest research center of its kind, the Du Bois Institute has supported the scholarly development of over 250 alumni, including such leading figures in the field as Carla Kaplan (Northeastern), 9th Wonder (Hiphop artist), Darlene Clark-Hine (Northwestern), Louis Wilson (Smith College), Stephen Tuck (Oxford), Omar Wasow (Princeton) Thomas Cripps (Morgan State), George Frederickson (Stanford), the late Nellie McKay (Wisconsin), Nell Irvin Painter (Princeton), Arnold Rampersad (Stanford), Cornel West (Princeton), and the late Dorothy Porter Wesley (Howard). Numerous scholars who came to the Institute as junior faculty members are now tenured members of African American Studies and other departments in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Latin America, and several African countries.

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