Shifting the conversation on Caribbean history

Dannie BricePhoto/Heratch Ekmekjian

Dannie Brice '20.

While taking professor Faith Smith’s course Literature of the Caribbean in the spring of 2019, Dannie Brice ’20 had a moment of enlightenment.

“I saw how westernized archival material on slavery in the Caribbean is. I asked myself, ‘How can we work to undo that?’” Brice said. “After taking that course, I was motivated to do more research. I wanted to shift the conversation on Caribbean history.”

Brice, who is triple majoring in African and African American Studies, history and women’s and gender studies, started doing some research on her own and then secured a fellowship at the Early Caribbean Digital Archive at Northeastern University.

Since last February, she has been working with scholars and graduate students to develop a new exhibition that focuses on François Mackandal, an 18th-century Haitian slave known among slaves for inspiring revolts as “the Lord of Poison.” Brice, who is Haitian, is translating French archival materials that involve Mackandal into English for the exhibit, and will also translate them to Haitian Creole.

It is not the only research opportunity Brice has pursued while at Brandeis. With support from the office of academic fellowships, she has been awarded a Provost Research Award, a Rapaporte Women’s and Gender Studies Grant, a Brandeis Women’s Research Center Scholar-Student Partnership Grant, and an Early Caribbean Digital Archive Fellowship.

She is also the author of a chapter in an anthology, “Teaching and Learning Eco-Feminism in the Caribbean,” that is expected to go to print in 2021.

“As an undergrad, I can say I am a published author,” she said. “That sounds very impressive, but as a AAAS student at Brandeis, it is not. It is the expectation. Being a student of professor Smith’s has pushed me to be the best researcher I can be.”

Brice’s work for the anthology is an example of how her three majors come together to focus on her main area of academic interest — the history of women in the Caribbean.

“By bounding myself to one discipline, it would not do justice to the multiplicity of the Caribbean,” she said. “It is so vast.”

After graduation, she plans to continue to follow her scholarly curiosity. She has already been accepted into one doctoral program in history and is waiting to hear from other programs.

“I would encourage every student to find a way to research a topic that you are passionate about,” Brice said. “At first, it is hard and you won’t get answers right away, but you’ll be surprised by what you can find.”

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