Humanities Center Announces Recipients of Ethnic Studies Fellowship

February 07, 2022
Submitted By: Nicholas Ealy

The Humanities Center is happy to announce that eight University of Hartford professors have been awarded a fellowship in Ethnic Studies for the 2022-23 academic year. The fellowship was created to promote the work of scholars in the humanities whose research and teaching focus on the study of racialized ethnic groups in the United States.

The fellowship is primarily supported thanks to a grant from the Cardin Fund, awarded through the A&S dean’s office, with additional support from the Humanities Center. Fellows receive a course release and funds to support their research and will participate in a Fall 2022 lecture series on Ethnic Studies where they will speak on their proposed research topic. The fellowship also contributes to the Humanities Center’s dedication to at least two years of programming on Ethnic Studies (2022-24). 

The goal is that the fellowship brings together like-minded scholars who can participate in a future Ethnic Studies program at the University of Hartford.

The Ethnic Studies fellows are as follows: 

Markeysha Davis, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Literature, will work on a manuscript titled “‘Who Will Survive America?’: Examining American Iconographies in Contemporary African-American Music.” Here, she will explore the ways in which Black musicians (such as Janelle Monáe, Joey Bada$$, Jay Z and Kanye West) have used American patriotic iconography (the flag, monuments, etc.) as a means of building their stories about Black life and struggle all the while staking a claim in their belonging to American society. This research, part of which already informs her course on Black Urban Poetry, will be expanded in future curriculum to allow for discussions of diversity and citizenship through Black artistic production with students.

Deepa Fadnis, Assistant Professor of Communication, will work on an article examining how women from the South Asian diaspora in the United States use social media as a platform for activism, to bolster a community, and to alter traditional cultural narratives that have led to their oppression. As such, she will look specifically at how these women use Instagram as a platform for “informal justice” and feminist activism, as well as how their voices and narratives, which have been historically marginalized, are received on social media platforms. This research, she states, could contribute toward the development of a course that outlines the various ways in which minoritized communities in the U.S. use social media as a tool to facilitate the process of acculturation, social activism and community building.

Dakota Nanton, Assistant Professor of Cinema, will work on a project related to introducing Ethnic Studies into the creative process, with a focus on the cinema classroom. It is his goal to look at the steps needed to reconceptualize the film history cannon (away from an emphasis upon white, male directors toward a more expansive cannon that includes directors of color, female directors and queer filmmakers) and, from there, the ways in which creators and consumers of media can become more aware of the stories with which they interact. This research will go toward the creation of two courses, “Decolonizing Film History” and “Making Conscious Media,” both of which will be engineered to look at Ethnic Studies in cinema from different perspectives.

Ines Rivera Prosdocimi, Assistant Professor of English, will work on an article that aims to help shift the conversation surrounding Dominican-American literary studies away from an emphasis on novels (currently the dominant focus of scholars) toward Dominican-American poetry. Specifically, she will explore the writings of Ayendy Bonifacio, a Dominican-American poet whose work underscores a relationship to language (both Spanish and English) and its role in identity formation. For Dr. Rivera Prosdocimi, this notion of identity relates to broader questions of what it means to be American, who is included and represented in the American nation, and the ways we might expand the concept of “America” to better reflect a diverse majority. This research will lead to the formation of courses on Dominican poetry, Dominican visual arts and Dominican-Haitian relations.

Bryan Sinche, Professor of English, will begin work on a digital humanities project entitled “Mapping Black Autobiography” where he will develop a prototype version of the MapBlack website. In his research, Dr. Sinche has noticed how frequently the autobiographies of nineteenth-century African American authors, especially by Connecticut authors such as William Grimes, James Pennington and Ann Plato, overlap in certain geographic spaces, something that reflects how often the circulation of their books depended on the mobility offered to them through their authorial entrepreneurship. This digital project will allow for the creation of a map of Connecticut, with extensive linked text, thereby giving a picture of African American communities and actions over time that has been obscured by scholars who tend to focus on only a few key texts or moments from this period. This research will lead to the creation of an honors class that will enable students to join him in his ongoing work. 

Rashmi Viswanathan, Assistant Professor of Art History, will continue work on her book project, Receiving the South Asian Modern: Private Politics of Cultural Ambassadorship, that looks at the movement and patronage of Modern art between and within South Asia and the United States, along with efforts to cultivate its receptive publics in the third-quarter of the twentieth century. Here, she will seek to historicize the arrival of United States’ canons of Modern South Asian art as well as theorize articulations of the Modern in art across the Global South and North. This project speaks to larger notions of colonization, decolonization and postcoloniality that will continue to inform her teaching of gender, sex, class and race and their intersection with visual culture.

Rachel Walker, Assistant Professor of History, will embark on a book project examining the historical connections between politics and the human sciences in the nineteenth-century United States by focusing on the case studies of five Black Americans: Sojourner Truth, Sarah Mapps Douglass, James McCune Smith, Martin Delany and Paschal Beverly Randolph. Here, Dr. Walker will explore how these individuals approached science in ways that embraced, rejected or reconceptualized the dominant scientific narratives of white male thinkers who used the power, prestige and alleged objectivity of science to create, rationalize and justify racial hierarchies. This research could form a unit on “Race, Gender and Science” in her current classes and could lead to the creation of new classes on the history of scientific racism, the history of medicine and the history of reproductive justice.

Amy Weiss, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies, will continue work on an article that examines the growing number of Jews of color in the United States. Recent findings suggest that race, national origin and geographic links all play a role in shaping the identities of Jews of color, who have been excluded in traditional examinations of American Jewish life. Her research explores, therefore, how questions regarding race and religion are often intertwined. It will inform her course “American Jewish Encounters with Diversity,” where she teaches about the racial, religious, ethnic, cultural and gender diversity among American Jews.

The Humanities Center at the University of Hartford supports interdisciplinary scholarship focusing on the humanities through arts, sciences, technology, media, music, psychology, history, film, philosophy and literature. For more information, contact Nicholas Ealy, Director, at, visit our web page, or follow us on Facebook.