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DuBois Institute Names New Fellows

By Andrew E. Lai, Contributing Writer

Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute announced yesterday the appointment of 19 fellows for the new academic year, recognizing scholars at academic institutions for achievement in the fields of African and African American Studies. The year-long fellowship allows them to pursue their own projects using Harvard’s resources.

“We look for fellowship candidates who are exemplary scholars in their field,” said Lisa Gregory, senior fellow and academic officer at the Du Bois Institute. “The field of African and African American Studies is very broad and interdisciplinary, and so we look for candidates reflective of that breadth.” She added that the Institute invites scholars at different stages of their academic careers.

This year’s fellows join a list of Institute alumni that includes 1986 Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to be honored in literature, and current Thomas Professor of African and African American Studies Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.

Phyllis S. Taoua, a scholar of Francophone literature at the University of Arizona who said she plans to write her second book while a Du Bois fellow, said she found the Institute appealing because of its multifaceted approach to African studies.

“The reason I applied to the Du Bois Institute was its emphasis on interdisciplinary study,” she said. “I think that the interdisciplinary [approach] is central for studying Africa, because when you just study Africa, if you just study literature, or just its economy, you’ve missed something really important.”

Taoua said she also looked forward to her future peers at the Institute.

“I was so impressed by Cambridge when I came [on a visit] in September, and pleased to be working with people who can talk about their work in compelling and succinct terms, getting straight to the point,” she said.

Many of the newly appointed fellows were equally enthusiastic.

Melina Pappademos, an assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut, said in an e-mail that she was honored to be one of the new fellows.

“This is as much due to the Institute’s reputation of excellence in recovering the intellectual traditions, cultural production, political activism, and global impact of Africans and their descendants as to Harvard’s breadth of research materials,” she wrote. “I also appreciate the fellowship program structure, which encourages engagement and intellectual support among fellow researchers.”

Pappademos said that, as a fellow, she plans to work on a book examining the history of race, culture, and politics in the Cuban republic, with particular emphasis on the role of black Cuban political activism in the formation of the republic state.

Other than having the opportunity to meet fellows from other Harvard programs, Du Bois Institute fellows are given office space, research assistance, and access to Harvard’s library system, including the Institute’s own Raines Library in African American Studies. One of the greatest benefits of a Fellowship, according to Gregory, is weekly colloquia in which fellows present their current projects—in conversation with community, faculty members, and students—and receive current feedback on their work. She emphasized that all members of the Harvard community are welcome to attend these discussions.

This year’s new fellows are Syl Cheney-Coker, previously a fellow of the Villa-Aurora Foundation for European-American Relations; Bobby Donaldson, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina; Stanley Engerman, a professor at the University of Rochester; Ronald Ferreira, assistant professor at the University of Virginia; Maria Frias, professor at the University of Coruna in Spain; Arlette Frund, associate professor at the Université François Rabelais,Tours; Harry Garuba, associate professor at the Centre for African Studies; Lesley J. F. Green, senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town; James Hefner, president emeritus at Tennessee State University; James McCann, professor at Boston University; Samuel Ngayihembako, recteur at the Université Libre; Benjamin Ogunfolakan, lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University; Melina Pappademos, assistant professor at University of Connecticut; Claudine Raynaud, professor at the Université François Rabelais at Tours; Ronald Kent Richardson, associate professor at Boston University; Barbara Rodriguez, assistant professor at Tufts University; Wole Soyinka, playwright and poet; Phyllis Taoua, associate professor at the University of Arizona; and Noel Twagiramungu, a fellow at the International Center for Transitional Justice.

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