Six Humanities Center Faculty Fellows Announced for 2022-23

April 12, 2022
Submitted By: Nicholas Ealy

The Humanities Center is happy to welcome six Faculty Fellows for the 2022-23 academic year. All will receive a stipend of $1500 to support their research and will present in the Spring 2023 lecture series “Decolonizing the University: Ethnic Studies through Time,” based on the topic proposed by Karen Tejada-Peña, Associate Professor of Sociology.

1. Noel Casiano (Assistant Professor of Psychology and Human Services, Hillyer College) will work on the project “Intergenerational Impacts of Urban Trauma” where he examines how marginalized communities of color have endured generations of poverty, a lack of resources, the destruction of the family system, and a history of traumatic experiences. He will highlight research that has recently argued that trauma not only has emotional and psychological negative effects, but also neurobiological implications. His talk will explore how we are currently faced with making academic, social, and scientific commitments to combat the adverse effects of these generational consequences.

2. Michael Gale (Assistant Professor of Psychology, A&S) will work on the project “Unpacking the Psychological and Academic Experiences of Race among BIPOC Students.” Here he will explore the vastly different and adverse experiences BIPOC college students bring with them when compared to their White peers, all of which result from a mutifacted system of racial oppression operating at multiple levels from macro (e.g., societal, institutional, and cultural) to micro with impersonal actions born out of prejudice, stereotypes, and stigma (e.g., microaggressions). In his talk, he will also address how the challenges of higher education presented to BIPOC students have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic along with what has been termed the co-occurring “pandemic of racism.”

3. Karen Gantt (Associate Professor of Business Law, Barney) will present “The Impact of Land Loss on the Racial Wealth Gap,” an examination of the historical causes (discriminatory housing policies and lending practices, land loss through legal and illegal means) that have created a gap where the average wealth of the African American community is ten times less than that of the White community. She will specifically explore the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as but one historical cause for this wealth gap. The descendants of those affected by the massacre, for instance, continue to question where they could have been financially had they been able to inherit family land or the once successful family business. This will lead to her discussion of other instances of land loss, including Bruce’s Beach in California, the Gullah-Geechee in South Carolina and Georgia, Seneca Village in New York, and Malaga Island in Maine.

4. Jonathan Gordils (Assistant Professor of Psychology, A&S) will expand his current research regarding the consequences and underlying processes of social group disparities (e.g., intergroup income inequality), as well as the consequences and antecedents of intergroup competition between Black and White individuals in the United States. Here, he will include other populations of color (e.g., non-White Hispanic/Latinx and East Asian groups) to examine whether income gaps between White and non-White groups have the potential to exacerbate negative psychological perceptions.

5. Edwin Grimsley (Assistant Professor of Sociology, A&S) will work on the project “Structural Racism: Theory, Empiricism and Future Implications for Eradicating Oppression.” Here, he will survey structural racism through two themes: (1) theoretical contributions that maintain white supremacy and the status quo; and (2) empirical analyses that help society understand the contemporary depths of structural racism. This work is part of a wider scholarly project where he examines structural racism in the opioid epidemic as a driver of disparities across institutional systems for Black opioid users in NYC in an epidemic largely known as a “White problem.”

6. Ju-Yong Ha (Assistant Professor of Music, Hillyer College) will present “From Marginalized to Mainstream: Situating Korean Cultural Studies in the 21st Century” where he develops his current research that focuses on transnationalism, interculturality, and models of how musicians interact with local communities in NYC. Here, he plans to present the image of Korea through its immigrant music and culture in New York as he introduces selected Korean immigrant artists who represent the transplanted “local” tradition alongside those who perform on the intercultural global stage. He will also address the challenge of what is global and what is local, and how traditional music affects K-pop and K-drama/movies.

The six Humanities Center Faculty Fellows will be joined next year by nine humanists who received a fellowship in Ethnic Studies through the Humanities Center, made possible by a generous grant from the A&S dean’s office. Those nine humanists, who will give a lecture on their research in Fall 2022, are:

1. Markeysha DavisAssistant Professor of Africana Studies and Literature (Hillyer College), 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.

2. Deepa FadnisAssistant Professor of Communication (A&S), 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.

3. Dakota NantonAssistant Professor of Cinema (A&S), 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.

4. Ines Rivera ProsdocimiAssistant Professor of English (A&S), 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.

5. Bryan SincheProfessor of English (A&S), 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. 

6. Rashmi ViswanathanAssistant Professor of Art History (Hartford Art School), 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.

7. Rachel WalkerAssistant Professor of History (A&S), 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.

8. Amy Weiss, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies (A&S), 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.

9. Goyland Williams, Assistant Professor of Communication (A&S), will work on his project “Ethnic Studies in the Communication Classroom: An Africana Approach.” Here, he will research the expansive breadth of academic scholarship and local knowledge/experiences that examine the historical and theoretical treatment of ethnic and (inter-)racial conflicts in the United States. More pointedly, this project seeks to explore the ways that violence, conflict, and histories of discrimination texture conversations about survival and possibility among various racial and ethnic groups. With this work, he will develop a course that focuses on ethnic/(inter-)racial conflicts and another that examines the performance and rhetoric(s) of survival.

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.