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Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity


By Dina Shafey Scott & Diana Guelespe

Scholars from around the country whose research focuses on the lived experiences of historically underrepresented minority (URM) groups gathered this past summer for the 2nd Annual Intersectional Qualitative Research Methods Institute (IQRMI), held at the University of Maryland (UMD). Organized by UMD’s Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity (CRGE), the week-long institute brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars with one common interest— to research critical social problems using an intersectional approach. 

This year 20 scholars attended a series of daily interactions, seminars and post-institute activities focused on enhancing qualitative research and writing skills, developing critical intersectional perspectives for designing and interpreting research and developing navigational skills to successfully negotiate academic career paths. Scholars represented a variety of academic disciplines, and discussed the importance of integrating the arts and humanities into their research to address social justice issues.

“Understanding privilege requires that we see that all oppression has a starting point and is based in history,” said Nishaun T. Battle, assistant professor of sociology and criminal Justice at Virginia State University.

Battle has worked on understanding and promoting social justice for ‘at risk’ juveniles and spoke of her cross-disciplinary partnership with the humanities.

“I have worked and collaborated with women’s studies and history professors and draw from the work of Elsa Barkley Brown, history and women’s studies professor at Maryland,” said Battle.

Sponsored by the New Connections Program, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Maryland Population Research Center, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UMD, the institute offers training that uniquely focuses on qualitative research methods that incorporate discussions at the intersections of race, gender, class, ethnicity and other dimensions of inequality, especially cultivated through the lens of URM scholars.

The institute took place as the country was grappling with the controversial deaths of 37-year old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Louisiana and 32-year old Philando Castile in St. Paul Minnesota, both dying at the hands of law enforcement officers. It became a space to share thoughts and feelings, as often these faculty are the only people of color in their departments and for students to turn to in these times.

“Schools need to place more emphasis on humanities to help in healing,” said Laurie Nsiah Jefferson, senior lecturer at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

One attendee, Kunmi Sobowale, a resident at Yale School of Medicine at Yale University, reached out to the group after the institute to follow up and share how he was “helping patients to process emotions and fears”  surrounding the events, and “discussing the long lasting effects on their mental health.”

“I am trying to set up discussion(s) and make these topics a standard practice and part of medical training,” said Sobowale.

That act was one of many resulting from the work of the group. They continue to see the institute as a safe space where they were able to share their thoughts and feelings with the group and collaborate in publications.

“What an amazing group of brilliant and compassionate scholars,” said Ruth Enid Zambrana, director of CRGE, “struggling with social issues of grave concern, such as African American men and women in prisons, food insecurity among the poor and Latino immigrant groups, caregiving among other concerns. It was moving to observe them feel safe, secure in their belonging and trust to reach out for help.”

Together the attendees drafted a collective statement in response to the events to express their sadness in the loss of community and law enforcement officers, while noting historical and structural injustices still present in society. 

“We Lift Up Love and Reject the Burden of Hate: To build a more empathetic community, we must courageously listen and make an honest effort to face our fears and pain, and consciously commit to boldly take action for transformative change in this country. Without this change we will inevitably face continued violence and loss of the skills and talents of those we have lost.”

The next IQRMI will be held on June 4-9, 2017. For more information or to apply, please visit www.crge.umd.edu/IQRMI. The deadline for application is January 9, 2017. 

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Congratulations to ARHU professors La Mar Jurelle Bruce, Julius B. Fleming Jr. and Christopher J. Bonner, who received fellowships for their research projects related to African-American literature, history and culture.

Bruce, Fleming and Bonner were part of an African-Americanist cluster hire, joining a community of scholars at the University of Maryland (UMD) that are at the forefront of the discussion on race and produce scholarship at the intersections of history, literature, gender studies and artistic expression. 

La Mar Jurelle Bruce, Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies

La Marr Jurelle Bruce was awarded the 2016 Ford Foundation  Postdoctoral Fellowship, which is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. He is one of only 21 scholars to receive the postdoctoral fellowship in this year’s rigorous nationwide competition.

Bruce’s scholarship focuses on “blackness and feeling—that is, the phenomenological, affective, and erotic textures of black life across the diaspora,” Bruce said. “I am especially interested in how feeling informs, inspires, infuses, and sometimes inhibits black expressive cultures,” he added. At UMD, he teaches courses in Africana and American performance, literature, visual art and popular culture.

The fellowship will fund Bruce for the 2016-17 academic year while he completes his first book, “How to Go Mad without Losing Your Mind: Madness, Blackness, and Radical Creativity.” The book is a study of black artists who mobilize “madness” within radical performance and literature. Proposing a theory of madness that addresses its floating signification—and traverses its phenomenological, clinical, sociocultural, and political dimensions—Bruce confronts “the mad” in the work of Charles Mingus, Nina Simone, Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, Patricia J. Williams, Lauryn Hill and Dave Chappelle, among others.

“African American artists have deployed ‘madness’ as content, methodology, metaphor, form, aesthetic and existential posture in an enduring black radical tradition,” Bruce said. “By ‘going mad,’ these artists also expose and convey the violence, chaos, strangeness, wonder, paradox, and danger—in short, the phenomenological madness—that infuses modernity’s racial drama.”

Bruce will be hosted by the Center for Africana Studies and the Department of Music at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During his time there, he will be mentored by Guthrie Ramsey, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Ford Foundation Fellowship Program awards pre-doctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral scholarships to scholars who promote diversity in the academy.

Julius Fleming Jr., Assistant Professor in the Department of English

Julius Fleming Jr. was awarded a post-doctoral residential research and teaching fellowship at the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia, where he will be completing his first book manuscript, “Technologies of Liberation: Performance and the Art of Black Political Thought.” In addition, he will begin his second book project, which examines the intersections of race, medicine and capital in black performance and literature—19th century to the present.

Fleming specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century African diasporic literatures and cultures, with particular interests in performance, visual culture, sound studies, philosophy and medicine, particularly how they intersect with race, gender and sexuality. He was inspired to pursue his field of research when he was an undergraduate student at Tougaloo College, a private, historically black college in Central Mississippi that served as a bastion for civil rights activism. 

The Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia funds residencies for scholars who specialize in the study of Africa and the African diaspora. Fleming will be part of the post-doctoral program that offers a two-year research and teaching fellowship.

 Christopher Bonner, Assistant Professor in the Department of History

Christopher Bonner was a 2015-16 recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The fellowship has enabled him to work on his current book project, “The Price of Citizenship: Black Protest, American Law, and the Shaping of Society, 1827-1868,” which examines the lives of free Africans who were working to define citizenship and secure rights in the decades before the Civil War.

Bonner chose to pursue the NEH fellowship in Philadelphia, a city that is considered a center for African American politics before the American Civil War broke out in 1789.

In his book project, Bonner poses questions about how people can change their government and about what black freedom means in a slaveholding society. His ultimate goal, Bonner says, is to shed light on the contributions of black activists before the end of slavery and their role in the creation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is considered the foundation for citizenship and rights for the modern United States.

“I've been drawn to this work as a way of exploring the long history of struggles for civil rights in the United States,” Bonner said. “I'm also interested in understanding how black Americans have related to and worked to transform the structures of American law and government.”

The NEH Post-Doctoral Fellowship supports scholarship related to United States history and the Atlantic world from the 17th through the 19th centuries. It provides a monthly stipend and access to conduct research in residence at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

About the College of Arts and Humanities

The College of Arts and Humanities has made serious investments in African American culture and history, hiring faculty clusters in African American literature and history, adding to the strong community of African Americanist scholars already spread across the campus’s many colleges. The university is also home to important research centers such as the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity and the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora.

 Through interdisciplinary collaborations led by the College of Arts and Humanities, UMD is also expanding the breadth of research possibilities in the fields of African American history, literature and culture, and the digital humanities. A new project co-directed by the Arts and Humanities Center for Synergy and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH)—“Synergies among Digital Humanities and African American History and Culture”—will utilize digital humanities to develop tools, methods and archives to address African American themed research questions.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A $137,500 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to the University of Maryland’s Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity (CRGE) seeks to identify innovative practices to encourage academic environments to be more supportive and inclusive of underrepresented minority (URM) faculty. CRGE Director Ruth Enid Zambrana will draw on data from her prior study supported in part by the University of Maryland to help develop higher education policies to encourage the retention and promotion of URM faculty.

 “My work aims to capture a segment of the U.S. diversity work force that is vital to strengthening higher education’s role in addressing social and economic inequality and educating future cohorts of diverse students as citizens of the world,” Zambrana said.

African American, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Native American full-time professors together represented less than eight percent of tenured university faculty in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Such low numbers fail to provide an inclusive and diverse educational environment for students and can magnify feelings of stress, isolation and perceptions of prejudice and discrimination among faculty. Those feelings can lead to lower retention and promotion rates among URM faculty, whose absence in higher education institutions can dispossess students of innovative and diverse thinking and role models. 

CRGE will seek collaboration with national higher education organizations and the UMD Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), ADVANCE and Office of Faculty Affairs to translate research into action. Three activities are envisioned under the grant including a retreat for early-career URM faculty led by senior scholars to help them navigate the academic terrain for successful careers; three national sessions with key higher education administrators and stakeholders to disseminate and encourage use of and investment in inclusive practices and policies and the production of scholarship  to disseminate the findings and the policies to a broader audience.

"This work has great potential to change the national climate of diversity and inclusion in higher education as well as the creation of a better learning environment for all students, who will take lessons and diverse perspectives learned from URM faculty into their future lives," Zambrana said.

CRGE is an interdisciplinary research center in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. It promotes scholarship at the intersection of multiple fields through research, mentoring and collaboration. For more information about CRGE, see www.crge.umd.edu.

The grant was awarded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which aims to support initiatives that create innovative solutions to issues facing disadvantaged communities. For more information about the Annie E. Casey Foundation, see www.aecf.org.

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