University of Rochester
Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies

Past Fellows at the FDI

Pre-doctoral Fellow 2013-2014

Lynne Ellsworth Larsen is a PhD candidate of African Art History from the University of Iowa.   She has a B.A. in Humanities with an English Literature emphasis and Art History minor from Brigham Young University and an M.A. in Art History from the University of Iowa.  Her dissertation research deals with issues of post-colonial identity as manifest through architecture. Specifically, she is examining The Royal Palace of Dahomey, in Abomey, Benin, its evolving purpose and its influence on the local architecture and religious practices.  She spent nine months in Abomey as a Fulbright Fellow from 2012-2013.  She has worked as a Teaching and Research Assistant, and has designed and taught a course on African Architecture. 

Post-doctoral Fellow 2013-2014

Elliott H. Powell, Ph.D, University of Minnesota

Bio: Elliott H. Powell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at thUniversity of Minnesota. he has been the recepient of several national fellowships and awards from the Ford Foundation, Andrew W.Mellon Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. His current book project, "Music Between the Margins: Afro-South Asian Musical Exchanges in Jazz and Hip Hop," brings together race, feminist and queer theory to examine the political implications of musical collaborations between African-American and South-Asian diasporic musicians in postwar jazz and post 9/11 hip hop.

Post-doctoral Fellow 2012-2013

Sarah Seidman's research revolves around race, movements for political change, the radical imagination, and transnationalism in the United States and the world. She has a B.A. in American Studies from Wesleyan University and an M.A. in Public Humanities from Brown University. As a doctoral student in Brown's Department of American Studies, Sarah completed a dissertation, "Venceremos Means We Shall Overcome: The African American Freedom Struggle and the Cuban Revolution, 1959-1979," exploring transnational convergences between the African American liberation movement and the Cuban Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. This project examined African American activists and the intellectuals who participated in the civil rights and black power movements in the United States including Robert F. Williams, Amiri Baraka, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, Huey Newton, Alice Walker, and many lesser-known figures that visited Cuba as individuals or with groups, lived there in exile as political refugees, and envisioned the island and its citizens in written and visual texts. The Cuban state, in turn welcomed African Americans to its shores and denounced U.S. racism in its public discourse.

Post-doctoral Fellow 2012-2013

Alison M. Montgomery's dissertation is based on research conducted from 2009-2011 in South Africa's Western Cape Province. Fairtrade is an international economic initiative that aims to empower marginalized producers across the global South through the promotion of equitable production, distribution and consumption practices. Based on a trade-not-aid approach to sustainable development, Fairtrade is now a widespread template for agrarian reform, encompassing over 50 producer states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Predoctoral Fellow 2011-2012

Edward Puchner is a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington. His dissertation is entitled "'speaking His mind in my mind': African American Art, the Evangelical Church, and the Art of Theodicy." It discusses five artists – William Edmondson, Horace Pippin, Bill Traylor, Elijah Pierce and Minnie Evans – who lived, worshipped and created art within small evangelical church communities throughout the United States and used their artistry to engage early efforts to fight for the civil rights of African Americans. His thesis asks questions about their faith, their divine inspiration and the religious imagery within their work. In addition, it illustrates how their faith and imagery align with ideas within the African American evangelical church concerning race, divine justice, and human suffering. His project examines these vital aspects of the church's theological discourse to understand how evangelicalism refigured racial violence and fashioned a "religioracial identity" for African Americans in the early twentieth century. His research interests include African American art, American modernism, contemporary art, folk/self-taught/outsider art, and the material culture of American religions.

Edward received his MA in Art History from Indiana University, Bloomington, and his BA in Art History from Carleton College. He is the recipient of a Dissertation Fellowship in American Art from the Luce Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies and a Barra Foundation Fellowship from the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Edward has also worked at the Indiana University Art Museum, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and curated an exhibition on Indiana folk art for a non-profit organization in Bloomington, Indiana. He has contributed articles and reviews to Raw Vision magazine and other publications and presented papers for the Association of Historians of American Art, the American Studies Association, and the Southeastern College Art Conference.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2011-12

Takkara Brunson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African & African-American Studies at the University of Rochester. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Ph.D. in History in 2011. She specializes in modern Latin American history with a particular focus on race and gender, citizenship, and national identity. Her dissertation examines Cuban nation formation from the standpoint of Afro-Cuban women during the Republican Era (1902-1958). During the fellowship year, she will revise her dissertation into a book manuscript and complete articles on Afro-Cubans' use of photography and Afro-Cuban feminism. Her research interests include: Latin American history, feminist theory and gender studies, critical race theory, African Diaspora studies, and visual culture studies.

She will teach a course, titled "The History of the African Diaspora in Latin America" in Spring 2012.

Predoctoral Fellow 2010-11

Habtamu Tegegne is a doctoral student in African history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Currently, he is working on a dissertation entitled "Lord, Zéga and Peasant: Revisiting Land and Society in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Ethiopia." His dissertation offers a social history of premodern Ethiopia by focusing on how the interactions between property rights, power, exploitation, and labor defined political culture and lived experiences of Ethiopia's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century peasantry and elite. His research interests include agricultural regimes, political economy, land tenure, slavery, serfdom and food. Habtamu has taught Ethiopian history in Addis Ababa University and African history and global history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Habtamu received his MA in history at Addis Ababa University in 2003, where he also held faculty position.  The paper he presented at the 2006 African Studies Association's conference won the prize for best graduate paper and was subsequently published in the December 2009 issue of the African Studies Review. This publication also won the Joseph Ward Swain prizes given for the most outstanding published paper in 2010 by the History Department at the University of Illinois.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2009-10

GerShun Avilez is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African & African-American Studies at the University of Rochester.  He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009.  While at Penn, he also earned an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Africana Studies.  He specializes in African-American and Black Diasporic literary and critical cultures with a particular focus on conceptions of Black gender expression and sexual identity.  His dissertation provides a critical frame for reading contemporary African-American literature and other cultural productions.  His research interests include: critical race theory, the Black body, African-American film, spatial theory, and hip-hop culture.

During the fall semester, he is teaching a new course: "Private Acts/Public Bodies: Sex in African-American Literature & Popular Culture."  In the spring, he will teach AAS 110: Introduction to African American Studies.


  • "Cartographies of Desire: Mapping Queer Space in the Fiction of Samuel Delaney and Darieck Scott."  Callaloo 34.1 (Winter 2011): 126-42.
  • "Housing the Black Body: Value, Domestic Space, and African-American Segregation Narratives."  African American Review 42.1 (Spring 2008): 135-47.

Predoctoral Fellow 2009-10

Johanna Almiron is a doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaiií at Manoa in American Studies specializing in the fields of Visual Culture and Black Cultural Studies. Her dissertation currently titled, "COSMICONCEPT: How the Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat Signifies," focuses on reading the social and cultural politics of the iconic visual and performance artist of eighties fame, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Research interests include the inter-sectionality between art, performance, popular culture, music (jazz), and satire with the process of social and political transformation. Almiron has a background in teaching Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, Asian Pacific American studies, Filipino American studies, Queer and Feminist studies, poetry and social movements.

Almiron received her MA in Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University and BA in African American Studies, Fine Arts-Dance from Oberlin College. Almiron is also an award-winning performance artist, director and radio deejay. Her popular KTUH-FM Honolulu show was titled "Prince, Makadangdang & The Revolution."

Postdoctoral Fellow 2008-09

Julia Rabig is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African & African-American Studies at the University of Rochester.  She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Ph.D. in History in 2007. In 2007-08, she held a postdoctoral fellowship the Center for the Study of African American Politics at the University of Rochester. During the fellowship year she revised her dissertation, "The Fixers: Devolution, Development, and Civil Society in Newark, New Jersey, 1960-1996," for publication and presented twice at the Frederick Douglass Institute's works-in-progress seminar. Her research explores the influence of local civil rights and black power organizations on federal urban policy in the late 20th century. This fall, she published an article on the relationship between Newark's established community development corporations and its new mayor, Cory Booker, inShelterforce, the Journal of the National Housing Institute. In 2009, a chapter of her dissertation will appear in a collection called Black Power at Work, edited by David Goldberg and Trevor Griffey and slated for publication by Cornell University Press. She is currently a teaching fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Rochester.

J. Rabig taught AAS 150/HIS 109 "Reading and Writing African-American History' in Fall 2008 and AAS 265/PSC 227 "The Black Arts Movement" in Spring 2009.

Predoctoral Fellow 2008-09

Lily Mabura is the 2008-09 Pre-Doctoral Dissertation Fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. She is a Kenyan writer currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Fiction and Africana Literature at the Univ. of Missouri-Columbia, USA. Her research interests are in Africana Literature and Africana Feminisms. Her essay "Breaking Gods: An African Postcolonial Gothic Reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun" is featured in Research in African Literatures 39.1 (Spring 2008). Lily has received International Fellowships from AAUW and P.E.O International. In addition, she has been awarded the John D. Bies International Travel Scholarship (UMC Graduate School) and the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award for her work-in-progress novel titled Finding Anam Ka'alakol: A Jade Sea of Many Fish, an excerpt of which is forthcoming in Stand Magazine, UK.    

Her literary awards include the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and Kenya's National Book Week Literary Award. Lily's short stories have appeared in literary journals such as PRISM international, Wasafiri, Callaloo, and the 2007 Fish Anthology. Other publications include a novel, The Pretoria Conspiracy, and three children's books: Saleh Kanta and the Cavaliers, Seth the Silly Gorilla, and Ali the Little Sultan.

Selected Publications

  • Mabura, Lily. "A Conversation with Bret Lott." Forthcoming in Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Center for the Literary Arts - Univ. of Missouri-Columbia.
  • Mabura, Lily. Finding Anam Ka'alakol: A Jade Sea of Many Fish (novel excerpt). Forthcoming in Stand Magazine (School of English at University of Leeds, UK, and the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA)

Postdoctoral Fellow 2007-08

Joseph Hill currently the post-doctoral fellow in the University of Rochester's Frederick Douglass Institute, where this fall he is teaching AAS 263 "Religion and Power in Africa" and will be teaching AAS 267 "Sovereignty in the Post-Colonial African State" in Spring 2008. Joseph received his Ph. D. in Socio-cultural Anthropology from Yale University in 2007.

Recent Publications

  • "Terms of Engagement: Mediating Multiple Knowledge Regimes through 'Taalibe Baay' Sufi Oratory." Under review.
  • "'All Women are Guides': Sufi Leadership and Womanhood in Senegal." Under review.
  • "Sovereign Religion in a Secular State: Sufi Sovereignty and Hidden Knowledge among 'Taalibe Baay' in Senegal." In Mamadou Diouf, ed.,Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal. New York: Columbia University Press. Forthcoming.
  • Hiddenness and Feminine Authority: Sufi Women in Senegal. Book manuscript. In progress.
  • "The Cosmopolitan Sahara:  Building a Global Islamic Village in Mauritania." In progress.
  • Divine Knowledge and Islamic Authority: Religious Specialization among Disciples of Baay Ñas. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Yale University. 2007.
  • "Sufi Specialists and Globalizing Charisma: Religious Knowledge and Authority among Disciples of Baay Ñas." In Kamari Maxine Clarke, ed., Local Practices, Global Controversies: Islam in Sub-Saharan African Contexts. New Haven: MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale. 2006.

Predoctoral Fellow 2007-08

Ayana Weekly is a doctoral candidate in the Feminist Studies Program in the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri in May 2002.

Ayana's dissertation entitled "Now That's a Good Girl: Discourses of African American Women, HIV/AIDS, and Respectability" interrogates current politics of silence surrounding black female sexualities and HIV/AIDS. Drawing upon black feminist theory and cultural criticism about HIV/AIDS this research examines discursive representations of African Americans and the epidemic through both national and local black publications and popular fiction.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2006-07

Jeffrey Q.McCune, Jr., PhD, Washington University, St. Louis

Associate Professor of Women, Gender, Sexual Studies and Performance Studies at Washington University St. Louis. His work centers on Black Masculinity, popular culture and performance, and race/gender/sexuality theory.

He has completed his new book, Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Sexual Passing. McCune is a member of the Black Sexual Economics Group and the Black Performance Theory Consortium, and serves on the editorial board of the Text and Performance Quarterly, Journal of Homosexuality, and Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men. He has made contributions to multiple anthologies and journals. McCune is also a playwright and director, and his play, dancin' the Down Low, has been recently selected for publication in an anthology. He is presently finishing a play, An Archive of Violence, which addresses the everydayness of violence within and around Black communities in America. 

Predoctoral Fellow 2006-07

Alexander Bortolot is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History and Archeology at Columbia University. He has previously received an MA and BA in Art History from Columbia and Harvard Universities, respectively.

Mr. Bortolot's dissertation, entitled "Appearance versus Reality: The Representational Turn in 20th Century Makonde Masks and Performance"  is based upon one year of field research in northern Mozambique, East Africa, and concerns the shifting aesthetics of an indigenous Mozambican masquerade genre in relation to Portuguese colonialism and the socialist ideology of the post-colonial Mozambican state.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2005-06

Dr. Millery Polyne received his doctorate in History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research, which examines the complexities of transnational racial uplift between African Americans and Haitians and the central forces and tensions of the 19th and 20th century Pan-Africanism and Pan-Americanism, makes significant contributions to the fields of African American and Haitian history. Dr. Polyne holds a Master's degree in History from the University of Michigan, Ann ARBOR. He is an Assistant Professor at CUNY College Staten Island.

He is currently writing a book "Let All Who Long for a New Birth of Freedom Follow": African Americans and Haitians, 1824-1964. This manuscript examines how Haitians and African Americans utilized the nature of Pan-Africanism,  in order to challenge U.S. hegemony in the region, modernize themselves and strengthen African American and Haitian relations.

Dr. Polyne is teaching AAS 263 "Exploring Black Intellectualism in the African Diaspora" in Fall 2005 and AAS 255 "History of the Caribbean" in Spring 2006.

Recent Publications

He has published articles in journals such as Small Axe, Caribbean Studies, Journal of Haitian Studies, Wadabagei, and The Black Scholar. His first book, "From Douglass to Duvalier: U.S. African Americans, Haiti and Pan Americanism, 1870-1964" (University Press of Florida, 2010), examines cross-cultural initiatives for Haitian development through the lens of Pan Americanism. He is currently working on two books, "The Idea of Haiti: History, Development and the Creation of New Narratives" and "Boston's Burden: Race and Urban Memory in the Twentieth Century." Professor Polyné's Gallatin courses include "Consuming the Caribbean"; "Black Intellectual Thought in the Atlantic World"; "Islands in the City: The Politics and Culture of Caribbean New York"; "Sports, Race, and Politics" and "Africa and the Politics of Aid."

Predoctoral Fellow 2005-06

Jennifer Lynn Stoever is a doctoral candidate in the Program in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her primary research areas include 20th century American literature and popular culture, African American and multiethnic literatures, cultural studies, and popular music (rock, hip hop, jazz).

Her dissertation is titled: Soundscapes of Blackness: Listening and  the African American Novel and it will present a critical cultural history of aurality in the United States by exploring how sound imagery converges and conflicts with visuality throughout key African American novels of the twentieth century. Her intellectual project represents an innovative and original contribution to an under-theorized aspect of American and African-American Studies; Soundscapes argues for both the pertinence of race to thinking about sound and the relevance of sound to constructions of raced identities.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2004-05

Dr. Cedric Johnson received his doctorate in Political Science from the University of Maryland, College Park. His principle teaching interests are racial politics, social movements, urban politics, American social policy and labor/class politics. Dr. Johnson also holds a Master's degree in government & Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Hobart & William Smith Colleges.

He is currently working on a book project, Rethinking Black Power: Race Leaders and Radicalism After Segregation (under contract, The University of Minnesota Press). This work reexamines the historical transition within black public life from radical protest to the politics of race management and a nuanced critique of the internal contradictions of black power radicalism.Rethinking Black power argues that the pacification of radical dissent resulted for the inter play of black power political maneuvers and the social management dynamics of the U.S. Corporate state.

Dr. Johnson taught a seminar "the Black Power Movement and American Politics," cross listed with PSC 226, HIS 297 (Fall 2004)and a course on "Racial and Ethnic Politics" in the Spring 2005.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2003-04

Dr. David Lewis-Colman received his doctorate in Social History from the university of Iowa. He is currently working on a book project 'Black Autoworkers and the Politics of Racial Liberalism in Detroit, 1941-1972.  He plans to use the FDI postdoctoral fellowship to do additional research and writing to prepare his manuscript for publication. He intends to examine more closely the relationship between black autoworkers' plant-based and community activism, particularly around the issue of housing. He also intends to examine further the role of gender tensions in shaping black autoworker's activism. He taught AAS 298/HIS 260 "African-American and Twentieth Century World Affairs" in Spring 2004.

Recent Publications:

  • RACE AGAINST LIBERALISM: BLACK WORKERS AND THE UAW IN DETROIT, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

Predoctoral Fellow 2003-04

Dior Konate, Phd, South Carolina State University

Bio: Konate received a bachelor's degree and master's degree in african history from the University of Cheik Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. Later, she received her Ph.D in african history from the University of Wisconson-Maryland in Madison. Prior to working at SC State University, Konate began her teaching career as a teacher assistant in the Department of History at the University of Wisconson-maryland in fall 2005. She also worked as a project assistant in spring 2006 designing new African history surveys for undergraduates and seminars in popular culture in Africa.
In 2006, Konate began her teaching career at SC State University as the assistant professor of African Studies. She is responsible for educating students in the following fields: colonial justice,women's history and gender studies, social and cultural history, Sub-Saharan African History, African women and politics and world civilizations.

Konate is affiliated with various African associations such as the West African Research Association (WARA), African Studies Association (ASA), and the South Carolina Political Science Association (SCPSA). Konate is the author of "On Both Sides of the Atlantic: The Tradition of Basket Weaving Among the Gullah of South Carolina Sea Islands and Senegalese Peoples, July 2009." She is also authoring a second article, "When Words Mean a lot: The Experiences of Female Prisoners in Senegal and the Effects of their Incarceration on their families in Wagadu."

Postdoctoral Fellow 2002-03

Dr. Ramla Bandele received her doctorate in Political Science from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Her Doctorate studies concentrates on the reasons and ways in which African-Americans have linked with other Diaspora communities and Africa itself to ameliorate the political and economic problems they all faced. Her dissertation uncovers the creative strategies that enabled these efforts to be pursued, and provides insights into why and how African-Americans participate in political and economic movements in the African Diaspora. Dr. Bandele also holds a Master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois. She was awarded the Farrell teaching assistant award and has served as a fellow in the Northwestern's Searle Center for Teaching Excellence.

Dr. Bandele has already been engaged in cross-disciplinary teaching, she has taught Urban Politics as well as African-American politics in Northwestern University's summer school program. She also taught a freshman seminar in African-American Transnational politics at Northwestern University.

Dr. Bandele taught two courses "Africa and its Diaspora" AAS 352/PSC 267 in the Fall 2002 semester, and "Beyond Civil Rights: African American Politics in the International Arena" AAS 263 in the Spring 2003 semester.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2001-02

Dr. Cheryl Hendricks received a doctorate in Government and International Relations from the department of Government and International Relations, of the University of South Carolina. She also holds a Master's degree in Southern Africa Studies from the University of York, England and an Honor degree in Political Science from the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Her Doctorate studies concentrates on Comparative Politics, International Relations and Gender Studies. Her focus in Comparative Politics is on politics in Africa.

Dr. Hendricks was a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and the department of Sociology o the University of Western Cape. South Africa. She had an active role in building research networks that linked Black South African scholars and provided them with the opportunity to interact with their counterparts from other parts of the continent. Dr. Hendricks taught courses, "South Africa: From Apartheid to democrat" AAS 263-HIS 314W/414-PSC 264 (Fall 2001), and "Africa in Crisis/African in Transition" AAS 263-PSC 262-HIS 274 (Spring 2002)

Cheryl Hendricks is currently the Head of the Southern Africa Human Security Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. She was previously a political analyst at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.