Department News

Professor Abdur-Rahman publishes in American Literary History 

Adducing women of color feminism’s theories of the flesh and Mikhail Bakhtin’s conception of the grotesque, this essay advances a theory of black grotesquerie as an aesthetic mode in the project of textualizing African American life in the catastrophic present. Rather than merely signifying excess, dread, or decay, black grotesquerie delineates an expressive practice of contortion, substitution, inversion, corruption. Reading together works by visual artist Wangechi Mutu and author Marci Blackman, this essay illustrates the ways in which black grotesquerie reconfigures the terms of contemporary black struggle by rendering the boundary between (black) living and dying porous and negotiable. 

Professor Chad Williams article "100 years ago African-Americans marched down 5th Avenue to declare that Black Lives Matter" 

The “Silent Protest Parade,” as it came to be known, was the first mass African-American demonstration of its kind and marked a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement. As I have written in my book “Torchbearers of Democracy,” African-Americans during the World War I era challenged racism both abroad and at home. In taking to the streets to dramatize the brutal treatment of black people, the participants of the “Silent Protest Parade” indicted the United States as an unjust nation.

Anita Hill receives Mary McGarvah Award in recognition of her contribution to health law, nursing and policy 

Anita Hill, University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, was recently honored at The American Association of Nurse Attorneys Foundation's 35th Annual Meeting and Educational Conference in Boston. On August 5th, Hill received this year's Mary Eleanor McGarvah Award, which is granted to an individual or group that has made a significant contribution to the development of health law, nursing and policy. 

Professor Wangui Muigai receives Fellowship in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology 

Wangui Muigai, our Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Race, Science and Society, will serve as a fellow in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology for The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The recipient of the fellowship spends the equivalent of one month (140 hours) during the award year in the Washington DC area working to complete their specific historical research project. 

Professor Chad Williams receives Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University 

Chad Williams, an associate professor and chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, will be part of the Institute's research initiative on citizenship. His focus will be on an uncompleted work by W.E.B. Du Bois about black participation in World War I. He will be the 2017–2018 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow.

Professor Wangui Muigai awarded Shyrock Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine

Professor Wangui Muigai, our Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Race, Science and Society, has been awarded the Shyrock Medal for her research, All My Babies: Black Midwifery and Health Training Films in the 1950s. She is a historian of science and medicine. Her research broadly concerns the social and cultural history of health in the U.S., with particular interests in the role of race, gender, and age in medical professional and lay health practices

Professor Janet McIntosh awarded Honorable Mention for Victor Turner Prize 

Professor Janet McIntosh was awarded Honorable Mention for the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. Her ethnography, Unsettled: Denial and Belonging Among White Kenyans looks at the lives and dilemmas of settler descendants living in post-independence Kenya. From clinging to a lost colonial identity to pronouncing a new Kenyan nationality, the public face of white Kenyans has undergone changes fraught with ambiguity. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews, McIntosh focuses on their discourse and narratives to ask: What stories do settler descendants tell about their claim to belong in Kenya? How do they situate themselves vis-a-vis the colonial past and anti-colonial sentiment, phrasing and re-phrasing their memories and judgments as they seek a position they feel is ethically acceptable? 

Professor Derron Wallace wins Michael L. Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching

Congratulations for Professor Derron Wallace for winning the Michael L. Walzer '56 Award in Teaching. A sociologist of race, ethnicity and education, who specializes in cross-national studies of inequalities and identities in urban schools and neighborhoods across the globe, Wallace's current research examines the educational outcomes of working class and middle class Black immigrants in London and New York City. This award is given every year to a tenure track faculty member who combines superlative scholarship with inspired teaching. Read more about Professor Wallace, the award and other faculty award recipients here.

Professor Chad Williams on "The Great War"

Professor Chad Williams was a featured guest and expert advisor on The Great War” part of PBS’s history series The American Experience. Parts 1, II, & III can be streamed through WGBH Passport or found on iTunes. Read his Storify as he followed along here.

Crossing the Color Line wins AHA 2016 Wesley-Logan Prize

Congratulations to Professor Carina Ray for being awarded the 2016 Wesley-Logan Prize by the American Historical Association for Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana. The prize is awarded annually for an outstanding book in African diaspora history. For more details, see the prize announcement here.

Crossing the Color Line shortlisted for Fage and Oliver Prize

Professor Carina Ray's new book, Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana has been shortlisted for the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom's inaugural Fage and Oliver Prize for an outstanding original scholarly work published on Africa. For more details see the prize announcement here.

Professors Chad Williams and Jasmine Johnson honored with teaching awards 

At the April faculty meeting, Professor Jasmine Johnson was named the 2016 recipient of Michael Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching and Professor Chad Williams received the Dean of Arts and Sciences Faculty Service Award. Read more about their awards and other faculty honorees here

Professor Carina Ray's scholarship was sparked by her personal experiences

Professor Carina Ray's current book project, tentatively titled "Somatic Blackness: A History of the Body and Race-Making in Ghana," will examine pre-colonial pasts, indigenous historical actors and somatic signifiers of blackness. “It is only through a deeper understanding of African self-perceptions that we can better understand how ideas about the body, blackness, and human difference have changed over time in response to encounters with the Sahel and North Africa on the one hand,” she said, “and the trans-Atlantic world and Europe on the other.” Read more about her work here and here.

Professors Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman and Jasmine Johnson: Writers @ Work

On Wednesday January 20th, professors Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman  Prof. Jasmine Johnson sat down for a discussion on the writing process. The event is part of the “Writers @ Work” series, an initiative led by the University Writing Program. Moderated by Gina Pugliese, a current Ph.D. in the Department of English, each professor offered an intimate glimpse into their individual writing processes and shared excerpts from her current writing projects to a packed audience. Read more about the AAAS "Writers @ Work" in the Justice and the Hoot

Professor Jasmine Johnson publishes in African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal

Professor Jasmine Johnson's article "Queens' Diaspora" examines Fela!, the Broadway show about Nigerian musical icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938–1997). Anchored by interviews conducted with its cast members, critical viewings of the musical, and a consideration of Kuti's performance repertoire, it reads Fela! through the terms of dance, diaspora, and sexuality. The Queens – Kuti's performance collaborators and wives – raise important questions about movement, nation-making, and authenticity.
Read more here (members of the Brandeis community with an on-campus connection can read the full article). 

2015 AAAS Newsletter - now available

Check out our latest newsletter featuring the latest updates and achievements from our incredible faculty, staff, and alumni!
Click here to view and download!

Professor Carina Ray publishes in LA Times on the history of interracial sex

"What did an enslaved woman feel when she acquiesced to her owner's sexual demands in the hope that the loss of her dignity might someday gain her a measure of comfort and her children's freedom, if not her own? What kind of trauma did famed abolitionist Harriet Jacobs experience as a young woman when she "gave" herself to an older white man of her choosing to stave off her owner's sexual predations? While the master-slave dynamic stands apart because of its gross inequality, we should take a similarly subtle approach to interracial relationships under Jim Crow in the United States, apartheid in South Africa and elsewhere." - excerpt from "The history of interracial sex: It's much more than just rape or romance." Click here to read the entire article by Professor Ray.

Human rights and social justice activist Roy DeBerry ’70, MA’78, PhD’79 named one of the 2015 winners of the Brandeis Alumni Achievement Award

Along with Susan Weidman Schneider ’65, Roy DeBerry will receive the 2015 Alumni Achievement Award on Saturday, Oct. 24 in Sherman Function Hall. The award recognizes alumni/ae who have made distinguished contributions to their professions or chosen fields of endeavor. It represents the highest form of university recognition bestowed exclusively on alumni. DeBerry was active in the civil rights movement in his native Mississippi, first as a Freedom School student (his teacher was Aviva Futorian ’59, who later encouraged him to attend Brandeis) and later as an organizer of the voter registration efforts of the mid-1960s. As president of the Brandeis Afro-American Society, he helped lead the 1969 takeover of the Ford Hall administration building by black students displeased with the racial climate on campus. 
Click here to read more about the award and awardees.

Professor Faith Smith publishes in Beyond Windrush: Rethinking Postwar Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Professor Faith Smith's article "Kingston Calling: Mais's Paris, 1954" has been published in Beyond Windrush. Beyond stands out as the first book to reexamine and redefine the writing of this crucial era. Its fourteen original essays make clear that in the 1950s there was already a wide spectrum of West Indian men and women—Afro-Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, and white-creole—who were writing, publishing, and even painting. Many lived in the Caribbean and North America, rather than London. 

Stacy Patton interviews Professor Chad Williams on the creating of the #CharlestonSyllabus

Professor Chad Williams, Chair of Department of African and Afro-American Studies, was recently interviewed by Stacy Patton of the Chronicle of Higher Education, on his creation of the #CharlestonSyllabus amidst the aftermath of the shootings at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. "I was struck by calls to have a renewed conversation about race, and a lack of informed knowledge surrounding those calls," says Williams. Selections from the crowdsourced syllabus have been compiled in a list on the website for the African American Intellectual History Society. Click here to read more on the BrandeisNow feature and here for the Chronicle of Higher Education interview. 

Professor Jasmine Johnson Awarded Mandel Center for the Humanities Grant

Professor Jasmine Johnson was awarded the Mandel Center for the Humanities Grant this year for her project "Rhythm Nation: West African Dance and the Politics of Diaspora”. These are competitive grants sponsored by the Mandel Foundation that promote faculty research projects over the summer. Professor Johnson's project explores the relationship between dance, race, gender, and diasporic belonging. Standing at the intersection of critical dance theory, black performance theory, and African diaspora theory, the project considers dance as a means through which identities are negotiated and new racial and sexual logics of diaspora are rendered. In its attention to moving bodies, intersectionality, and performativity, “Rhythm Nation” mobilizes critical ethnography, archival methods, and practices of reading repertoires. Congratulations to Professor Johnson!

Professor Derron Wallace Awarded the Division G Distinguished Dissertation Award

Congratulations to Professor Derron Wallace, Kay Fellow in AAAS and Education, who was awarded the 2014-2015 Division G Distinguished Dissertation Award from the American Education Research Association.  Derron's dissertation, "Diaspora Dilemmas: An Educational Ethnography of Second-Generation West Indians in London and New York," was selected as the best amongst a highly competitive field of submissions.  As stated by the selection committee: "This award is given to honor a dissertation of exemplary conceptual, methodological and rhetorical quality on an important topic that addresses social contexts of education."

Influential Professor Illuminates the Life of Albert Luthuli

On Thursday, March 5, the African and Afro-American Studies Department hosted a lecture by Dr. Robert Vinson titled “Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela and the Genealogies of Armed Struggle in Apartheid South Africa.” Professor Chad Williams introduced Vinson and the lecture, which is part of the annual Ruth First Memorial Lecture, and the lecture was followed by a short question-and-answer session. The audience included undergraduates, graduate students and professors. During his lecture Vinson argued that Luthuli’s non-violent protest tactics paved the way for Nelson Mandela’s rise to primacy in the anti-apartheid movement and that “the Nelson Mandela we knew and loved ... was actually using a template based on the politics of Albert Luthuli in the 1950s and ’60s.” Read more about this event from The Hoot and The Justice

AAAS Department Has Vibrant Past, Important Future

Click here to read an article written by The Hoot entitled "AAAS Department Has Vibratnt Past, Important Future".

Joint session of World Music

On Thursday, March 5, 2015 Performing Tradition through Sound, taught by Judith Eissenberg, and Dancing the African Diaspora: Keyterms, Grammars, taught by Jasmine Johnson will be hosting a joint session in Slosberg Recital Hall, open to the campus community, with presentation by Fatu Gayflor and Toni Shapiro-Phim. This event is sponsored by the Minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST).

Project Brings Black Artists to the Forefront

A collaborative project is bringing premiere African-American artists and scholars to Brandeis to engage with students and the community. As part of the ART | BLACKNESS | DIASPORA project, Cairo-based multimedia artist Lara Baladi visited campus this past November to discuss art created before, during and after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. A month earlier, award-winning artist Mark Bradford met Brandeis students for an informal lunch, and later engaged in a conversation with Professor Anita Hill that filled the Rose Art Museum, where his “Sea Monsters” exhibition was on display. This spring’s events will include visits by artists Jennie C. Jones and Melvin Edwards, and by art historian and African American Studies specialist Dr. Christina Knight. Read more on these events here.

Panel Discusses Portrayal of Race and the Civil Rights Movement in 'Selma'

On Thursday January 22, 2015 Brandeis students and faculty members gathered in Rapaporte Treasure Hall to discuss and debate historical and thematical themes of the new film Selma and its portrayal of race relations and the Civil Rights Movement. The panel included Professor Thomas Doherty (AMST), Professor Jasmine Johnson (AAAS and WGS), Professor Daniel Kryder (POL) and Professor Chad Williams (AAAS). University President Frederick Lawrence moderated the event. See more from The Justice here

Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman at "Approaching Blackness" in Berlin

Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman took part in a conference in Berlin entitled “Approaching Blackness: 13th Annual Students and Graduated Conference” on Thursday, November 13, 2014. She was the Keynote Lecture/Du Bois Lecture and spoke on “Jim Bond’s Howl: Materializing Black Grief and Grivance in US Literature”.

Professor Faith Smith at MIT's Feminist Unbound Series

On Wednesday, November 12th Professor Faith Smith participated in a panel as a part of the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies initiative Feminist Unbound entitled "Sexualities, States and Governance". This interdisciplinary panel discussed the intimacies of sexuality and the complexitites of governance.

Blackness | Art | Diaspora Series: A Conversation with Mark Bradford and Anita Hill

Abstract artist Mark Bradford and Professor Anita Hill discussed his work in a societal context as a part of the Blackness | Art | Diaspora Series. This series is presented by the department of AAAS, the department of Fine Arts and the Rose Art Museum. Bradford and Hill discuss Bradford's life trajectory of growing up working in his mother's beauty shop to becoming an artist as well as his work with The RightWay Foundation. Click here to read more about the event. 

Professor Jasmine Johnson featured in State of the Arts Fall 2014 issue

Click here to view see the issue and turn to pages 14-15 to read Jasmine Johnson's full interview on dance, her research and practice, and on joining the Brandeis community.

Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman at MIT and Freie Universität of Berlin

On September 17th 2014, Professor Abdur-Rahman participated in the panel entitled “The Intellectual Lives of Feminisms” at MIT, as a part of the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies initiative, Feminisms Unbound. In 2014-2015, Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman will be a visiting professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute's Graduate School of North American Studies at the Freie Universität of Berlin, where she will undertake research on a new book, tentatively titled Millennial Style: The Politics of Experiment in Contemporary African Diasporic Culture.

Candlelight Vigil and Town Hall Meeting

Organized by student leaders in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown, numerous members of the Brandeis community, including students, faculty, staff, chaplains, and public safety, gathered by Chapels Pond on Thursday, Sept. 4 in memory of the lives lost to institutional racism in the United States. Click here to read more from BrandeisNOW.

AAAS Welcomes New Hires!

Brandeis University has recently hired two new professors as a part of the African Diaspora cluster initiative, Jasmine Johnson (AAAS and WGS) and Gregory Childs (HIST). We would also like to welcome Derron Wallace, Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Education and African and Afro-American Studies, to the Brandeis community as well. Congratulations and we look forward to working with each of you! Read more about our new hires in BrandeisNow.

Professor Chad Williams speaks at White House panel on African American veterans

From BrandeisNOW Chad Williams, chair of the African & Afro-American Studies Department, spoke at an event on Monday, Feb. 24 hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, featured a screening of the new documentary “Veterans of Color.” Williams participated in a post-film discussion about African American veterans. 

Professor Chad Williams to host 9th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin. Luther King Jr. Memorial

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word" - Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Professor Chad Williams, Chair of AAAS, will be hosting this year’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, entitled “For the Love of A Dream!”. The event will feature performances by Brandeis’ very own Erica Barnett ’17, Makalani Mack ‘16, Kaos Kids, and the return of the Emmy Award Winning Sean Fielder and the Boston Tap Company by popular demand. The keynote couplet for the evening will be the duo of freedom activists and musicians Mr. And Mrs. Hubert and Jane Sapp. Scholar-Motivator and Social Change Agent, Mr. Jermaine Hamilton, will his render his own delivery of Dr. King’s words to close out the event. Sponsored by MLK Scholars and Friends, Office of Dean of Students, and the AAAS Dept.

"Africans in America" article by Professor Chad Williams published in latest issue of Humanities 

Click here to read the article, entitled "Africans in America", that Professor Chad Williams wrote for the official magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities

New clutster hiring initiative in African diaspora studies featured in Brandeis NOW

“The field of African diaspora studies has allowed scholars to understand the connections as well as differences between dispersed peoples of African descent in exciting new ways — by grappling with issues related to race, ethnicity, culture, gender, language and religion in an interdisciplinary manner,” - Chad Williams, associate professor and chair of the department of African and Afro-American Studies. Read the full story on the new initiative here!