The Black Studies Collaboratory Welcomes Inaugural Cohort of Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellows

The Black Studies Collaboratory is pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of Abolition Democracy Fellows. Three dissertation fellows, UC Berkeley PhD candidates Ra/Malika Imhotep, Michael J. Myers II, and Jared Robinson, and two postdoctoral fellows, Peace And Love El Henson and Victoria Grubbs, will each receive a stipend, research support and office space to pursue their research in residence at UC Berkeley’s Department of African American Studies for 2021-22. Additionally, postdoctoral fellows El Henson and Grubbs will teach their own seminars in Spring 2022. 

“We are excited to support and learn from this talented and innovative  group of interdisciplinary scholars each working at the leading edge of Black Studies,” says Leigh Raiford, Inaugural Director of the Black Studies Collaboratory. 

The Postdoctoral Fellows, chosen from an international roster of applicants, and Dissertation Fellows, UC Berkeley PhD candidates conducting research in Black Studies across campus, will join Elder-in-Residence Daphne Muse, Activist in Residence Zach Norris and Artist Fellows Sadie Barnette, Oli Prendes and Odaymar Cuesta (Krudxs Cubensi). As a cohort, the group will organize and attend weekly meetings focused on workshopping and experimentation, as well as present their work in a public forum one time during their tenure. “Our goal for the Fellows Program - and the Collaboratory as a whole - is to create a multi-sited interdisciplinary intergenerational community where participants can be supported in their scholarly, activist and artistic endeavors,” says Raiford. “In so doing, we believe that the Fellows Program  will allow us to make a meaningful imprint on the future of the field of Black Studies.”

Meet the 2021-22 Abolition Democracy Dissertation and Postdoctoral Fellows and Their Projects: 

Ra/Malika Imhotep is a Black feminist writer and cultural worker from Atlanta, GA currently pursuing a doctoral degree in African Diaspora Studies and New Media Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Imhotep’s creative and intellectual praxis tends to the relationships between queer expressions of Black femininity, Southern vernacular aesthetics and the performance of labor. Their interdisciplinary dissertation project explores the ways Black women (across all gender designations and presentations) and gender non-conforming Black femmes in "the Dirty South" utilize aesthetic practices to make sense of themselves and the histories their bodies carry as they establish, experiment with, and maintain alternative relationships to labor.

Photo: Ra Malika Imhotep by Sasha Kelley

Jared Robinson is a poet and critic from Indianapolis, Indiana. In his academic work, he engages the writing of the enslaved in America as a mode for the critique of Enlightenment. This engagement takes the form of a dual attending to the origins of African American literature and the developing philosophical propositions undergirding Black Studies as a discipline. In his poetry, he makes monuments to the fact that he is allowed to spend time thinking about something other than slavery and its metaphysical apologists. He does not care for this California weather. He is glad to greet you. 

Photo: Jared Robinson by Christopher Robinson

Michael J. Myers II is from Buffalo, New York. A Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Michael’s dissertation is a multifaceted and multilayered experimental storytelling project in black studies. Thinking with the writings of Sylvia Wynter, Michael examines the ways in which violent black rebellion intervenes – in the form of a question mark – to challenge our current epistemological socio-politico-juridical order and, simultaneously and concomitantly, to postulate different possibilities and potentialities of being. 

Photo: Michael J. Myers II

Peace And Love El Henson is a black feminist urban ethnographer and critical porn studies analyst whose research and teaching lies at the intersection of Black Studies and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. She primarily focuses on black queer femmes, state violence, pornography, and ethnography. Broadly, Peace And Love’s research projects aim to examine the erotic strategies black femmes use to rattle the racialized pornographic economy of antiblack genocide. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Fun fact: Amidst the fray, Peace And Love finds joy in mastering herself as an intergalactic thinker, writer, and creative.

Photo: Peace And Love El Henson

Victoria Netanus Grubbs is a black feminist abolitionist educator committed to developing radical leadership in underserved communities in the U.S. and abroad. She will complete her PhD in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University in May 2021. Her dissertation, Kumva Meze Neza: Sounding Blackness in Rwanda examines how popular Rwandan music works in the aftermath of genocide to produce a collective social body. Drawing on four years of participant observation amongst Rwandan music industry professionals and their audiences, her work demonstrates how shared investments in the sensory experience of blackness produce formations of togetherness that defy traditional organizing categories.

Photo: Victoria Grubbs by Yvan Planet Photography (Rwanda)

The Abolition Democracy Fellows Program was created as part of the Black Studies Collaboratory, a three year project made possible through a generous grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 
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